Peak Speed founders fired
SUMMIT COUNTY – The trustee appointed by a bankruptcy court judge to manage the Breckenridge-based internet provider Peak Speed Communications has fired the husband-and-wife team that founded the company, according to an e-mail distributed to the company’s customers.This move comes as a Front Range company that rescued Peak Speed earlier this year itself had to declare bankruptcy because of its Peak Speed relationship.Peak Speed, formerly Netbeam, itself a bankrupt operation, is the company local government officials awarded almost a half a million public dollars to create a high-speed wireless internet network in Summit County.A U.S. Bankruptcy Court judge assigned James T. Markus, a Denver business attorney, to run Peak Speed Communications. Peak Speed filed for Chapter 11 federal bankruptcy protection in May earlier this year.Peak Speed, which provides wireless, high-speed internet service to customers in Summit County, as well as communities in the Front Range, Arizona and Utah, merged with Netbeam in December 2003.The merger was part of Netbeam’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization, a plan approved by the bankruptcy court after an infusion of cash from an Aurora-based internet services provider (ISP), Rock Solid Broadband, and a schedule to pay back the millions the company owed creditors and suppliers. The companies were also financially buoyed by winning a Beanpole Project contract from the Summit County Telecommunications Consortium. The $456,000 contract paid for wireless internet infrastructure and service hook-ups for county government and nonprofit agencies throughout Summit County.Both Netbeam and Peak Speed were founded by Greg Friedman and Judith Mercer-Friedman, who oversaw the companies’ operations, sales and accounting.Throughout their terms at the helm of the companies, the Friedmans were under fire for service interruptions for subscribers, missed deadlines in the Beanpole Project and unpaid bills to contractors and vendors, including as much as $50,000 to local companies. Following a financial examination ordered by the court during Netbeam’s bankruptcy proceedings, the judge also admonished the Friedmans for deplorable bookkeeping practices that resulted in overbooked sales, questionable expenses and money-shuffling between numerous bank accounts that resulted in repeated overdrafts and charges.The Friedmans, along with investor Thomas Balun, continued to run Peak Speed following the most recent bankruptcy filing and, according to the company’s website, were busy expanding service to customers in Arizona and Utah until September.Time ran out for the Friedmans, however, when investors Alan Peryam, a Denver business attorney, and Robert Pulcipher bought the note on Peak Speed’s line of credit, becoming secured creditors in the eyes of the bankruptcy court, and filed a motion to have the company placed under management by a trustee.In the e-mail to customers and concerned parties, Markus explained that the ship was set aright:”In particular, I have fired Gregory Friedman, Judith Mercer and Thomas Balun for cause. These people no longer work for nor are authorized in any way to represent or deal with Peak Speed Communications Inc. In addition, they are precluded from soliciting your business or taking any other steps to interfere with the operation of Peak Speed Communications Inc.”Robert Bowen, president of the now-bankrupt Rock Solid Broadband and former chief at Peak Speed following the merger with Netbeam, said he and his partners lost their entire $250,000 investment. Bowen and his Aurora-based telecom company entered the picture in Netbeam’s 11th-hour, ponying up the investment and convincing the bankruptcy court that the companies could continue to operate and turn a profit.”We feel like fools,” Bowen said Thursday. “They destroyed our company. They looted it.”Markus’ e-mail said that a new management team has taken office. The managers include Dr. Flo Raitano, former mayor of Dillon and the executive director of the Colorado Rural Development Council; Kevin Manweiler, a 24-year veteran of global telecommunications; Chris Perlitz, an expert in wireless technology business; and Gail Shea, an accountant with experience in telecommunications business planning.Raitano said Thursday that the team is “picking up the pieces.” The new management arrived at Peak Speed’s Airport Road offices to find chaos – physically, in the form of scattered equipment and furniture, and figuratively, as records were in disarray. On the technical side, Peak Speed service continues to operate with the oversight of a new technical staff.”But at this point, we’re just playing catch-up,” Raitano said. Reid Williams can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 237, or at email@example.com.
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