Slimmest hope for Advantage


Advantage Cellular founder Simon Earle (pictured left) is thought to be looking for ways to rescue troubled distributor Advantage, as it is poised to be placed into adminstration by majority shareholder Centernet.

Earle is engaged in a fierce legal dispute with Centernet, a polish MVNO led by billionaire Roman Karkosik (pictured right), about payment of shares and the balance of a service contract owed to him.

Earle left Advantage in August last year, but remains a director and shareholder in the business. He has a 20 per cent stake in Advantage holding company Xebra. The other 80 per cent share is held by Centernet.

Xebra owns a 61.25 per cent share in Advantage Cellular and Advantage Business Solutions. Earle has a 38.25 per cent stake in the two units, equivalent to 51 per cent when combined with his Xebra holding. Xebra has a 100 per cent share in Extreme Mobile, the nominal MVNO operation the business failed to get off the ground last year.

A delegation from Kasrkoskik, led by Centernet executive Piotr Sobis, has been at Advantage’s Didcot headquarters all week. Around 30 staff were instructed to stay home late last week by managing director John McFarnon and operations director David Whittaker, pending the Centernet investigation.

Staff remain away from work, and McFarnon and Whittaker are believed to have resigned their positions yesterday (March 18). Neither was available for comment.

It is believed Centernet’s intention to put the business into administration is being questioned by Earle’s legal team.

There is a slim possibility Earle will buy out Xebra and look to run the business seperately of the present admininstration, if a compromise cannot be reached with Centernet over his shares and the balance of his service contract.

However, if contracts with Advantage’s suppliers, chiefly it airtime supplier 3, are lost during the legal process, Earle is likely to ditch the plan.

Sobis told Mobile News: “We are taking professional advice with regards the financial and legal situation. No decision has yet been made on the future of Advantage. We will decide by Friday (March 20).”

Mobile News understands part of the dispute is that Karkoskik’s scheduled investment in the planned Extreme MVNO, which retains a licence with Vodafone, never materialised .

Karkosik is believed to have pulled back from the venture because of the market and the economic climates, which frustrated Earle and ultimately led to his departure.