‘I don’t like being the villain’: Booktopia founder defends company
Booktopia’s founder Tony Nash has defended the company amid investor disquiet about the online booksellers’ trajectory and relationship with its remaining institutional shareholders, saying he dislikes being a “villain in the investment community”.
Nash took to LinkedIn on Sunday to respond to an investigation by The Age and Sydney Morning Herald that delved into the company’s problems, including how it went from investment hero to villain in its short 18 months as a listed company, with its market capitalisation shrinking from close to $400 million to just $26 million this week.
The article revealed serious concerns about Booktopia’s communications with investors and the shareholder backlash over Nash’s sale of a portion of his holding in the group for $4.5 million less than three weeks before a significant downgrade to the group’s earnings.
Nash’s LinkedIn post comes after he announced he would step aside from the role of chief executive officer in May amid an investor backlash sparked by his share sale. The group’s shares hit an all-time low of 17¢ on Wednesday last week. Booktopia’s shares jumped 13 per cent to 21¢ on Monday amid heavier than usual trading.
In an at times eccentric and apparently light-hearted post – where he compared himself to Jack Reacher, the protagonist in a series of crime thriller books by author Lee Child – Nash declared he still expected big things for the polarising e-commerce group.
“I don’t like being the villain in the investment community. There’s nothing fabulous about that. But at the cost of being a leader in the book industry. Never!” Nash told his connections on the social media platform.
“You do realise that there is no country in the English speaking world with an alternative online bookstore to Amazon, don’t you? Booktopia is the only one.”
His post began with a nod to a popular album from 1975 by English rock band Supertramp. “Crisis? What crisis? - one of my favourite titles from an old Supertramp album,” Nash said in his post.
“And thank you to everyone who is reaching out to me for your love and support. I’m fine. Absolutely fine. I kind of feel like Jack Reacher in a Lee Child novel.
“But fundamentally everything points to Booktopia being a crusader for the Australian book industry, authors, literacy and taking on the might of Amazon.”
Nash concluded his post by declaring that being a listed company was not easy. “No one said being listed was easy... it isn’t, but it is the path we are on and I for one look forward to see how Booktopia continues to grow and succeed.”
Booktopia told this masthead last week that it would make an announcement regarding a new CEO in due course. “We expect to complete a selection process with our board over the next few months,” Nash said in a prepared statement responding to questions sent by this masthead.
The company has also experienced some board changes in the past three months with Marina Go leaving to focus on her chairman role at Adore Beauty and deputy CEO and director Wayne Baskin resigning to focus on his share trading app start-up Superhero.
Booktopia confirmed that it was in discussions with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to resolve Federal Court action brought against the group over its policy of only accepting returns on damaged products within 48 hours of receipt of the item. Several customers had complained to the ACCC that they had received books with missing pages or repeated chapters and jigsaws with absent pieces among other product problems.
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