Pay-TV operator Super 5 Media on Tuesday retrenched all of its remaining employees, more than 40 people in all, and is now facing the prospect of liquidation if it isn’t able to pay one of its biggest creditors by the end of the week.
TechCentral, which last week broke the news of the problems at the company, has now learnt Super 5 Media is facing a claim of as much as R25m from Rothschild, an international investment advisory company.
Rothschild will seek a liquidation order against Super 5 Media if the debt owed to it is not settled in full by Friday, two separate sources at the pay-TV operator have confirmed.
Super 5 Media, formerly known as Telkom Media, was once regarded as the strongest potential competitor to incumbent pay-TV broadcaster MultiChoice with its DStv service. Its prospects have since dwindled as it missed repeated deadlines to launch a product.
TechCentral has learnt that the company is liable for Rothschild’s advisory fees related to Telkom’s sale of the fixed-line operator’s controlling stake in the company to Shenzen Media SA, which is led by colourful and controversial Chinese businessman Philip Xiao.
The original bill from Rothschild was for R15m, but another R5m-R10m in interest has since accrued, according to a well-placed Telkom source. The source says the fixed-line operator sold its controlling stake in Super 5 Media — then still known as Telkom Media — to Shenzhen Media SA voetstoots (as it stands). Telkom is therefore not exposed in any way to the Rothschild claim.
The problems for Super 5 Media don’t end with Rothschild’s planned application. The landlord that owns the company’s plush offices in Centurion, north of Johannesburg, has also won an attachment order against its moveable assets.
According to one of Super 5 Media’s retrenched employees, Telkom signed a long-term lease — somewhere between 10 and 15 years — with the property owner. Super 5 hasn’t been keeping up with lease payments, the ex-employee says. The company’s Internet connection and telephone lines have also been cut off.
Meanwhile, retrenched employees are up in arms, describing Tuesday’s meeting at which termination letters were handed out as “ridiculous”.
The letters of retrenchment were not signed and were printed on plain white paper without Super 5 Media’s letterhead. This has raised suspicions among employees that they won’t be paid out.
The company has promised the retrenched employees only one month’s pay. They won’t receive retrenchment packages or be paid out for untaken leave.
Yunus Shaik, brother of convicted fraudster Schabir Shaik, has advised Shenzhen Media in the retrenchment process, separate sources say.
The latest problems at Super 5 Media appear to stem from a breakdown in relations and trust between Shenzhen’s Xiao and director and shareholder of Super 5 Media, Tian du Pisanie. The two men could not agree on a strategy for the business and are no longer on speaking terms, TechCentral’s sources say.
Du Pisanie has apparently since left Super 5 Media to focus his energies on launching an Internet service provider business.
“Tian has gone AWOL,” says an ex-employee. Repeated attempts by TechCentral to contact Du Pisanie have yielded nothing.
“Everyone is disappointed and disillusioned,” says the retrenched employee.
“We’ve been strung along and most of us hung in there hoping for the best. What’s most disappointing is the way they are treating the staff. They have no regard for SA’s labour laws.” — Duncan McLeod, TechCentral
- See also: DStv rival Super 5 Media falls apart