Julie Meyer, the American entrepreneur who once appeared on an online version of television show Dragon’s Den and allegedly frequently did not pay her employees, has blamed the failure of her Maltese venture capital firm on Malta being too “difficult” to work in.
“We have subsequently learned through our compliance director and other people in the know in Malta that investment firms are fleeing the country due to the toxic reputation of Malta and, frankly, a jurisdiction which just doesn’t work,” she said this week.
The businesswoman, who has given TEDx talks as well as being rewarded an MBE from the UK, had come to Malta to enthusiastically head up an MFSA-regulated company within the Ariadne Capital Ltd.
She was welcomed to the island to acquire Portcullis Asset Management based on her reputation and past successes, and set up office in 2016, but it soon became apparent that things were not going as well as they seemed.
And just last month, Ariadne Capital Ltd went into bankruptcy administration.
Shady business practices
Meyer has plagued by accusations of business misconduct for years, both from former employees as well as companies that she would contract.
One ex-employee who spoke to the Malta Independent recounted how they had been offered the opportunity to join a “challenging project yielding extremely high profits”.
Many employees were attracted to this type of project, which, combined with her reputation and a small monthly wage, gave many soon-to-be employees confidence.
It wasn’t until her employees had to chase her with invoices that she would eventually turn on them, and threaten them with legal measures if they continued to pursue her.
She would often make her employees sign Non-Disclosure Agreements when joining her company, nipping many potential lawsuits in the bud.
However, some ex-employees vented anonymously online, with one alleging that “this company is a con, it makes no money, and has no cash, and anyone with basic financial training will know that if you have no cash, you’re insolvent. If you work there, you will not be paid.”
Her credit worries in Malta began to really blossom when Meyer’s company was given a garnishee order of €59,600 on behalf of a website design company based in Naxxar.
A former employee also filed a judicial letter in the hopes of recovering €22,000 in unpaid wages that they had incurred while working for Meyer.
Around the same time, two directors from Ariadne Capital Malta Limited resigned, leaving her in breach of Maltese regulations as she became the sole director of the company.
Meyer responded to this by saying “the Directors of Portcullis Asset Management (Joe Aquilina, David Barry, Karl Strobl) had run their business into the ground, and seemed to profoundly dislike each other. Portcullis had a virus, and I was intent on not letting its ghosts become part of Ariadne. Unfortunately those three came to Ariadne, and I had an enemy within. It has taken me some time to get the whole management team changed.”
It is understood that at least one of these former directors left due to “unpaid emoluments and other payments”.
Prior to her company entering bankruptcy, she had told investors back in June that she would be redomiciling her UK-based fund in Malta. This fund was to be administers by Alter Domus.
But this is not going to happen after Meyer told investors in a new update that “we have found Malta to be an exceedingly difficult jurisdiction in which to work.
She continued by saying “absolutely nothing was simple, and actions which should have been done in a matter of weeks took months and quarters to achieve. In no way, shape or form can Malta become world-class for funds anytime soon.”
A loss for Malta?
Ironically, Meyer had recently said she was “on Team Malta – I have invested €1.5 million in the country.”
She also said “my reputation is not being hurt by this negative press on Ariadne – Malta’s is,” in reaction to the negative media surrounding her company in Malta.
Many people in Malta welcomed the news that Malta’s financial environment was too difficult for the famous American entrepreneur, indicating to them that recent critiques of the country’s financial transparency were unfounded.
With Malta now out of Julie Meyer’s favour, the island might need to find a new entrepreneur to start up a new venture capital firm in Malta successfully.