TAMPA (CN) – A corporate dispute is getting ugly. The CEO of an Internet ad company says his former partners posted fake online news stories suggesting he’s a pornographer and a pederast. He says the disgruntled managers even set up a fake Twitter account in his name and generated links to the North American Man-Boy Love Association. And the allegations don’t stop there.
Stan Antonuk, former CEO of Kowabunga! (AMEX:KOW), says two of the company’s former officers, Scott Mitchell and John Linden, have been on a relentless campaign to destroy his reputation.
In his federal complaint, Antonuk says the men bombarded the Web with bogus claims that he runs underage prostitution rings and porno sites. When Antonuk’s neighbors came across the countless postings, they turned against him in a “veritable neighborhood uprising,” Antonuk says.
According to Antonuk’s defamation complaint, which also names Mitchell and Linden’s wives as defendants, one of the disgruntled corporate officers created a phony newsletter that was distributed “to every house in Antonuk’s neighborhood.”
“A prominent article in the fake newsletter falsely reported that [Antonuk and his wife] were operating a sex business with underage children out of their own residence,” the complaint states.
Antonuk says either Mitchell or Linden went so far as to lure a strange man to his house with a Craig’sList ad soliciting participation in a sex party.
Antonuk says the relentless attacks forced him to move out of his Palm Harbour home and to resign from his CEO position. He says his wife and two young children have endured a “reversal of fortune so profound as to cause great financial loss and hardship.”
Most of the blog postings that are still available online make vague connections between Kowabunga and the sex industry, claiming Antonuk is a man “who thrives on pornography.” Though Kowabunga hosts the swinger’s Web site Swappernet, it derives only a small fraction of its revenue from the site. Company spokesmen have said that Antonuk played no role in the acquisition or management of Swappernet.
How Antonuk came to the conclusion that Mitchell and Linden were responsible for the defamatory postings remains to be seen. Antonuk’s attorney, Jason Stearns, declined to comment on the case, and the complaint does not cite any concrete proof that Mitchell and Linden are responsible for the cyber-attacks.
There is, however, a history of bad blood between Linden and Antonuk that dates back to the summer of 2008, when Linden was fired from his Chief Technology Officer position with Kowabunga.
Soon after his termination, Linden filed a federal complaint alleging that Antonuk had booted him under a pretext. According to Linden’s complaint, Antonuk was irate at Linden’s wife, who had been wrangling with the board of directors about a discrepancy between her salary and that of her male counterparts.
Tensions mounted, as Antonuk and Linden butted heads over management dominion, and Linden was fired in July 2008, purportedly for handling Kowabunga-owned domain names in a personal account that was inaccessible to other employees.
Linden countered that several other employees had been controlling company-owned domain names from personal accounts. His case went to mediation in 2009, but it has not been resolved.
Mitchell’s feelings about Antonuk are not so clear cut. The pair had worked together building the Home Shopping Network’s Web site, and Mitchell brought Antonuk to Kowabunga in 2006 to run the company’s day-to-day operations. Their business relationship seemed copasetic.
“It is hard to contain my enthusiasm for [Antonuk’s] capabilities and for the talents he brings to us,” Mitchell stated in a 2006 press release.
According to Antonuk’s complaint, Mitchell resigned in 2008, under pressure from the board of directors.