SHRINKING PUBLISHER Reed Business Information (RBI) is getting sued for computer misuse by construction industry portal Bidclerk.com.
The construction networking site alleges that RBI's computers were performing denial of service attacks on Bidclerk.com and that it orchestrated a coordinated "click fraud" scheme aimed at the portal's paid advertisements.
To put it in legal terms the alleged misconduct by RBI includes violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, breach of contract, tortious interference with prospective economic advantage, fraudulent misrepresentation, negligent misrepresentation, and violation of the Uniform Deceptive Trade Practices Act. Bidclerk.com's case will be heard in the District Court of Minnesota.
No doubt employees of the shrinking publisher will spot the irony in a company that owns Computer Weekly and has had such a prominent Internet strategy being sued for computer misuse. One wonders what is going so awry with the company's computer usage policy. Is its management bending it to their own nefarious ends?
It might seem strange for a publishing company to attack a construction industry networking site but RBI in the US owned construction titles way back when. A couple of years ago RBI was a much bigger company and its US arm owned construction titles before it was asset stripped by it's heavily indebted owner Reed Elsevier.
Anglo-Dutch multinational Reed Elsevier is in debt to the tune of billions of US dollars and has been desperately trying to pay it off, even going as far as trying to sell RBI in 2008. Yes that is the year 2008 when the world financial markets were in the worst situation since the 1929 Wall Street crash.
So bad was it that Reed Elsevier had to arrange what is called "vendor financing" for RBI's sale. Meaning it had to get a group of banks to offer any buyer of RBI what money was needed to clinch the deal.
Now the Bidclerk.com lawsuit comes just as Reed Elsevier loses its third top executive in as many years with the retirement of RBI chief executive Keith Jones. And all because the 2008 sale was aborted in 2009 and RBI has been asset stripped since.
The failure to sell RBI saw Reed Elsevier's then chief executive Sir Crispin Davis step down and be replaced by Ian Smith. Smith was to set RBI on a new direction but he stepped down after only being in the job for eight months. He was replaced by one of Reed Elsevier's own, Erik Engstrom. Now Jones has gone and been replaced by RBI UK's Mark Kelsey who will probably have the job of turning out the lights.
The RBI of today is largely only the UK based rump of what was once a true multinational with operations in Asia, Germany and the USA. RBI US was essentially closed down by last April with only vestigal assets including Variety magazine left.
RBI UK sold off Travel Weekly last year and has closed down many more titles during the last few years including medical publications. The company is left with Computer Weekly, New Scientist and Flight International and not much else. µ