The dramatic rise and fall of Viewble Media
At the height of Viewble Media's empire it claimed to have multinationals scrambling to capitalise on its advertising reach, but its swift downfall was punctuated by allegations of death threats, blackmail and commercial secret theft.
In August last year, the Sunshine-Coast based Viewble Media filed a claim in court against its former director Michael Maunder, two of its previous sales people and their respective companies.
Viewble Media alleged its former staff had stolen customer information and used it to poach clients after moving to Mr Maunder's new company, Rebl Corp.
These claims were rejected by all defendants.
The court action was discontinued in November that year, but documents and affidavits tendered in the case give a unique insight into the inner workings of the now-liquidated Viewble Media.
Liquidators were appointed to Viewble Media in January this year and its associated company Jasdav in November 2018 with initial creditor's reports stating the combined amount owed to unsecured creditors is almost $100m.
Mr Maunder claimed to have created Viewble Media's business model which laid its foundation when he started the company with co-director Jason Madden in mid-2015 who is now living a lavish life in the Philippines.
Viewble would provide small business owners with television screens in store to display advertising in a "cost neutral" package.
In return for displaying advertising for other companies, Viewble would pay its customers back the equivalent amount for leasing the television.
Customers leased the screens from third-party finance companies - many claiming unknowingly - and would be bound to pay out the remainder of the contract if Viewble collapsed.
The Australian Financial Complaints Authority and the Australian Small Business Family Enterprise Ombudsman are now investigating if the finance contracts valid as the small business owners worry for their financial futures.
For every contract signed, the finance companies would pay Viewble approximately $13,000 - a system it generated $51 million of income from.
After fears Viewble would soon be unable to continue making monthly payments to its customers, Mr Maunder and Mr Madden brought in David Reid as co-director and sales manager in July 2016.
Mr Reid told News Corp the "bulk" of the income made by Viewble from the contracts went back into the business.
"There was a lot of bills, it was expensive to run the business," he said.
"It never went on anything ridiculous or sensational."
Within months of his appointment, the trio incorporated Jasdav - under its previous name MadAds - to serve as an advertising partner and take over the advertising payments to customers.
With the business model finally firmed up, the next step was global domination.
Viewble Media UK was incorporated in April 2017 and in an undated power point presentation, the company boasted it had expanded from "zero sites to 460 plus" in the first five months.
In March 2018, Viewble Media US was registered in Florida and in August 2018, it was incorporated in New Zealand, but has since been removed from the country's business register.
The US arm remains active, and the company filed an annual report to the Florida Division of Corporations in August this year, however, Mr Reid told News Corp it was "in the process of deregistering".
He further stated Viewble Media UK paid media company Rhino Media to take over its customer base.
"We actually wanted to continue in the UK, because the UK was fine," Mr Reid said.
"But the directors made a decision just because of the negativity through what happened in Australia that it wasn't viable for us to keep our team happy and motivated."
By the time Viewble started to expand overseas, cracks had already started to form within the directorship team.
Mr Madden said in affidavit evidence filed in court proceedings it had become "increasingly difficult" to work with Mr Maunder by August 2016, and a little over a year later shareholders voted to remove him from the company.
Before Mr Maunder's $750,000 settlement deed was paid out, Mr Reid claimed in his affidavit that during a heated phone call, his former-co director threatened to put a hit out on Mr Madden.
He said Mr Maunder - who denied the allegations in a subsequent affidavit - told him: "I want $1 million, if I don't get the $1 million I will have Jason taken care of through my contacts in the Philippines and I will send a Filipino prostitute to your house whilst you are at work to tell you wife that you are having an affair".
Mr Reid said he rebutted by telling Mr Maunder, "we know you got work visas for a mistress and a second mistress that had arrived in Australia through the company".
Mr Maunder and Mr Madden have been contacted for comment.
By the end of the month Mr Maunder was gone from the company and went on to start Rebl Corp's group of businesses which operated using a similar "cost neutral" business model.
Two of Rebl Corp's subsidiaries - Digital Rebl and Media Rebl - were placed into liquidation in March this year.
From here on in everything seemed to be on the up and up, according to Mr Madden's affidavit.
The number of Viewble's customers had grown to approximately 3686 who were leasing more than 4000 screens, it had a 250-strong workforce and it had finally reached "critical mass", gaining the attention of multinational companies.
According to Mr Reid's affidavit, Viewble was in discussions with Optus in August 2018 to advertise on the thousands of screens the company now had in businesses across Australia.
In March, he had discussions with media-company Austero in its Sydney office to discuss national and regional advertising. And in early June he had been in discussions with Coca Cola Amatil after it had approached Viewble to take advantage of its advertising reach.
Even FIFA wanted a piece of the action, according to Mr Madden, who said he and Viewble's national sales manager had been in discussions with the football association.
Among the claims made during the court proceedings were that the alleged stealing of the client list could jeopardise these advertising deals.
Despite this, a Coca Cola Amatil spokesman said the company had no record of any discussions with Viewble Media or Jasdav about an advertising deal.
Optus was approached for comment, but a spokesman said the company does not comment on commercial negotiations.
However, Mr Reid sent News Corp a copy of Viewble's proposal to the company.
Austero and FIFA were approached for comment, but did not respond.
By October 8, 2018 everything had started to fall apart for Viewble.
Mr Maunder's lawyer wrote to the company's counsel stating they knew one of the finance companies had pulled its support for the Viewble and 19 staff had been fired.
"Our clients can only assume that those staff were terminated due to the plaintiff's diminished financial position," the letter read.
By the next month a discontinuation of proceedings had been filed.