Brisbane Lions CEO Greg Swann at the GABBA. Picture: Annette Dew
Brisbane Lions CEO Greg Swann at the GABBA. Picture: Annette Dew

Lions set to sue former sponsor

THE Brisbane Lions are planning to sue a struggling tech start-up after cutting them loose last week for allegedly failing to pay monies owed as the club's co-major sponsor.

Lions boss Greg Swann told City Beat on Monday that Brisbane-based Data Fund Pty Ltd, trading as SOOW, was "behind on their payments''.

But it's understood they hadn't forked out even a cent over the past four months despite a personal guarantee provided by SOOW co-founder and boss Michael Twomey, whose company headquarters is across the street from the Gabba.

SOOW only teamed up with the Lions in November in a $2 million deal for the next two AFL seasons. In comments that seem grimly ironic now, Twomey said at the time that "good relationships are built on trust''.

Expect the Lions to announce a replacement in the next week or so as they unstitch the SOOW name from team jerseys.

Given their track record with sponsorship, let's hope they do a bit more due diligence this time. Two of the Lions' former backers, Camperdown Dairy International and apparel supplier BLK, both collapsed in the past three years.

SO WHAT

So what do we know about SOOW, which launched at last year's Myriad tech festival and flogs a "customer data platform'' to sort out information for businesses?

We know that there are some pretty unhappy creditors out there, including mischievous hackers who got hold of Twomey's personal website recently and redirected it to a Wikipedia page about convicted US fraudster Billy McFarland. There is no suggestion that the two men had anything to do with each other.

Twomey is a former head of "digital entrepreneurship'' at Coles who oversees Soow with tech player Craig Deveson and former Bubs Australia CEO Nick Simms.

Sources close to the company say Twomey claims to have raised nearly $10 million from investors and struck up a funding deal with Blue Ocean Equities in Sydney.

But it's understood that SOOW top guns met with a corporate restructuring outfit this month as staff allege they haven't been paid for weeks and even got fake remittances. Some have now lodged complaints with the Fair Work Commission and ASIC.

A New York-based marketing firm is also understood to be on the verge of launching legal action over about $290,000 in allegedly outstanding invoices.

We hear that same marketing outfit also did quite a bit of work for Twomey's missus, Danielle, who runs online homewares business Grovely Style Co from the same offices as SOOW.

In case all this wasn't enough, American Express sued Twomey in Brisbane District Court in December over allegedly unpaid debts. No defence has yet been lodged in the case.

Twomey, who resides in million-dollar spread at Mitchelton, could not be reached for comment on Monday. His wife, Danielle, who is also the majority owner of SOOW, did not return a call.

Neither Deveson nor Simms could be contacted. Blue Ocean declined to comment.