Businessman claims 'corporate terrorism'

TWO of Australia's leading businessmen are caught up in a furore over a vicious website. The head of major car-care company UltraTune, Sean Buckley, has been accused of being linked to a campaign that forced his competitor to sell his Midas chain. Philip Bonney, CEO and chairman of Midas, is now living in a secret place, fearing for his and his wife's wellbeing.

Herald Sun
June 15, 2007

Businessman claims 'corporate terrorism'
Russell Robinson

EXCLUSIVE: TWO of Australia's leading businessmen are caught up in a furore over a vicious website.

The head of major car-care company UltraTune, Sean Buckley, has been accused of being linked to a campaign that forced his competitor to sell his Midas chain.

Philip Bonney, CEO and chairman of Midas, is now living in a secret place, fearing for his and his wife's wellbeing.

Mr Buckley yesterday denied any involvement in the website.

"There is no truth at all," Mr Buckley told the Herald Sun.

An associate of drug smuggler Tony Mokbel, Mr Buckley is in London to watch his champion mare Miss Andretti race in front of the Queen at Royal Ascot next week.

The campaign against Mr Bonney is being investigated by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

The anonymous internet site attacked Midas Asia Pacific and described Mr Bonney as a thief, a liar and a dribbling wreck.

He was accused of cheating his clients, causing the suicide death of a franchisee and being taken into custody by police.

"It's corporate terrorism. You don't know who they are, but they just attack you and attack you," Mr Bonney said.

"And there was nothing I could do about it."

Fraudulent emails purporting to be from his executives were also sent out to Midas' suppliers and franchisees attacking the business.

For the past three years the ACCC has looked into the complaints against Midas but found insufficient evidence to support them.

Mr Bonney, speaking for the first time since he had changed address, said the campaign of lies and intimidation had taken a heavy toll on his business and personal life.

"It's been a nightmare. I'm on my knees," he said.

"They have forced me to sell my business."

After the Bonneys moved, a competition was conducted on the website to discover their new address.

The internet campaign managed to successfully choke off Midas's cashflows by urging franchisees not to pay their fees and rents.

His enemies also urged some franchisees to change allegiance to Midas's competitors, notably UltraTune.

Mr Buckley, executive chairman of UltraTune Australia, is widely known as the owner of Miss Andretti, now in England preparing for the Golden Jubilee Stakes, for which she is outright favourite.

He bought a farm from Tony Mokbel and, according to insiders, the major drug trafficker and alleged killer had used Mr Buckley's apartments in Southbank and on the Gold Coast.

Mr Buckley said yesterday that UltraTune had received anonymous information alleging the company's involvement in the website.

"We wrote to Midas denying it," he said.

Mr Buckley also denied any association during personal telephone calls he made to an anguished Mr Bonney.

The person at the centre of the campaign was allegedly Ray Borradale, UltraTune's Queensland franchise support manager, who is a former Midas franchisee.

Mr Borradale is under a Federal Court order preventing him from publicly attacking Mr Bonney.

"Ever since the website went up, UltraTune's business has grown while mine has gone down," Mr Bonney said.

Mr Buckley said he'd asked Mr Borradale if he was involved in the website.

"He had a history of setting up a website prior to joining me," Mr Buckley said. "My general manager asked him whether or not he was involved in this website, and he signed a stautory declaration.

"All I can do as a director of my company is to request that my employee signs such a document," Mr Buckley said.

Mr Bonney said he'd been friends with Mr Buckley's family for more than 20 years.

"I just can't work it out," he said. "I've had a gutful." Mr Bonney, 39, is a nephew of champion St Kilda wingman John Bonney.

His family companies in Tasmania are involved in transport and industrial services.

Mr Bonney said the smear campaign had succeeded in driving down his business, costing him millions of dollars.

"I'm meant to be walking away sometime in July," Mr Bonney said.

He said the new owner was fully informed of the campaign.

"He's aware of what he's taking on," he said. "I've had to bail out at a substantial cost."

Mr Bonney said that he had also been targeted by the website, along with claims that the Midas sale was not going ahead.

"We've spent more than $100,000 investigating the website and trying to bring it down," he said.

"We've also spent more than $600,000 on legal defences. The business just can't sustain it.

"It's cost us $3 million over the past 12 months."

Mr Bonney said the campaign had also affected his franchisees, who had watched as the value of businesses they'd built up diminished.

"They've put their houses and other assets on the line. They're the ones I feel for," he said.

"I feel like I've been in a boxing (ring) for 15 rounds with my hands tied behind my back, and with the lights out.

"I've been punched every day from all directions by an unseen enemy."

The Midas office had received phone threats, which were reported to South Melbourne police. One caller said there was a contract out on Mr Bonney.

http://www.news.com.au/heraldsun/story/0,21985,21907858-661,00.html


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