JSE-listed electronics, engineering and telecommunications group Reunert is upset over an apparent exodus of employees from its subsidiary, voice communications specialist Nashua ECN, to John Holdsworth’s new start-up AppChat and is now considering legal action.
TechCentral has learnt that Reunert is planning to put out a statement to shareholders in the next 24 hours explaining its position. It’s understood the company is actively consulting its lawyers about a course of action.
Reunert CEO David Rawlinson could not immediately be reached for comment on Monday. ECN MD Andy Openshaw says he is not in a position to comment until Reunert has formally communicated its position to the market and outlined how it intends dealing with the situation.
Holdsworth was CEO of ECN until last year, when the company was acquired by Reunert in a R172m deal and folded into its Nashua business. Reunert regarded ECN, which operates its own voice network, as a crucial acquisition to help offset the impact of reductions in wholesale call termination rates — the fees telecoms operators charge each other to carry calls onto their networks.
Holdsworth confirms that a number of ECN employees have applied to join AppChat, a mobile voice start-up. He won’t say how many ECN staffers are joining his new company, but denies market talk that 19 individuals are involved.
He says AppChat has signed employment agreements with several former ECN employees, but is not prepared to go into further detail about the number of people involved or who is joining him.
“I haven’t poached anyone and I haven’t actively approached anyone [at ECN],” Holdsworth tells TechCentral. “Rather, I have been approached [by ECN staff].”
He adds that AppChat plays in the mobile voice market, whereas ECN is focused on providing fixed-line voice services. “They’re two different markets. All of the excitement now is around mobile.”
Holdsworth says he “understands” and “respects” the position that Reunert is in. “But you can’t stop people pursuing their careers.” — Duncan McLeod, TechCentral
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