AppChat’s Holdsworth to fight on despite legal defeat

AppChat founder John Holdsworth has been denied leave to appeal a controversial judgment against him but has vowed to fight on to the Supreme Court and push ahead with preparations to launch his new mobile virtual network operator.

The denial of a right to appeal is the latest step in the prolonged legal battle between Holdsworth and the Reunert group, whose subsidiary – known as Nashua ECN – was founded by Holdsworth, who served as CEO until he sold ECN to Reunert in 2011 for R172 million (US$19.6 million).

Holdsworth announced to TechCentral in the wake of the decision that: “I have considered my position overnight and, after having consulted with my lawyers we’ve decided we’re going to petition the supreme court of appeal in Bloemfontein… I’m prepared to go out on a limb and say there is absolutely no doubt in my mind, given the evidence, that this will be granted.”

He added that: “A document has arrived in our possession by way of protected disclosure that I have no doubt, when it is presented to a court, will completely exonerate both me and AppChat of all the charges and accusations.”

As such, Holdsworth has maintained that AppChat will be launched on the commercial market as soon as in February 2013 in line with his original plans.

Nashua ECN launched a legal case against Holdsworth in the High Court of Pretoria in March of this year, with Managing Director Andy Openshaw claiming that at the time of Holdsworth’s resignation Nashua ECN was in the final stages of developing a Voice-over-Internet Procotol (VoIP) akin to that to be rolled out by Holdsworth under the remit of his new company AppChat.

Nashua claims that Holdsworth had knowledge of the intended product in the months before he left the company, and is essentially guilty of “corporate sabotage”.

The company has taken Holdsworth to court with claims of breaching a restraint-of-trade agreement and for poaching employees since his departure – in particular pivotal members of the company’s technical team – directly from the ranks at Nashua for his own new company.

In April, Holdsworth – in his signature hold-no-hostages style – rejected the claims answering Reunertwith his own allegations that the company is affronted by his launch of AppChat because it wants to “prevent fair competition and entrench itself in the market”.

He submitted a statement that he had no knowledge of any VoIP technologies under development by Nashua ECN at the time of his departure, and indeed had former Nashua Group CEO Andy Baker and former ECN director Jane Ashburner come forward to support his claims.

Holdsworth also denied poaching employees, saying that any member of the Nashua team wishing to come across to AppChat would face the same procedures as any other member of the public expressing interest in a position.

However, much to Holdsworth’s disappointment, in August of this year the High Court ruled in favour of Nashua’s new parent – the Reunert group – saying that Holdsworth had been privy to the information that Nashua was about to launch a VoIP application, that he had also been systematically poaching employees, and that as such he was in breach of his restraint-of-trade agreement.

Yet he has vowed to fight on. Speaking at the MyBroadBand Conference 2012 earlier this month, Holdsworth told attendees: “We have had a few challenges along the way, but cowboys don’t cry.”

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