On Wednesday, Gaydar agreed to settle the complaint from Page Enterprises for $34,000, paid over three equal installments beginning April 2. On Monday, Gaydar completed its $9,000 purchase of the assets of Southern Voice and David, which closed in November as its parent company, Window Media, collapsed and filed for bankruptcy.
Gaydar co-owner Matt Neumann said Friday that the company will rebrand its nightlife magazine as David beginning with the March 10 issue. He also expects to launch a new Southern Voice either March 24 or March 31.
“We are in production for David to hit the streets next Wednesday,” Neumann said. “We are taking big steps to make it a better product next week with some refinements to Gaydar. We are going to launch SoVo, but that is something that is a couple of weeks down the road. Anything worthwhile is worth waiting for. We are going to get David out for a couple of weeks and get it up to standard and then proceed with SoVo.”
The moves by Gaydar come as the company recently restructured itself. Neumann, who oversaw production of the weekly nightlife glossy Gaydar and the short-lived Atlanta Free Press newspaper, took on an ownership role last month when he and Victor Paster purchased the shares of Macon resident Ennis Grady Odom.
Neumann and Paster now co-own the business and, according to an updated corporate registration with the Georgia Secretary of State, are listed as CEO and secretary. Brian Sawyer is listed as the company’s CFO. Chip O’Kelley, who has been identified in previous media reports as a co-owner and who in December said he took the reins of the business operations of the Atlanta Free Press away from Neumann, now has no operational responsibilities with the company, Neumann said.
“He runs errands and helps with delivery and distribution,” Neumann said of O’Kelley.
Readying for a SoVo, David re-launch
Gaydar’s purchase of Southern Voice and David assets came after a last-minute bid during a March 25 bankruptcy hearing in downtown Atlanta. The $9,000 bid usurped the efforts of former SoVo staffers and its co-founder, who had proposed buying the assets for $8,000 as they also work to launch Georgia Voice in the coming weeks. The surprise move by Gaydar came as a federal bankruptcy judge approved the sale of the former Window Media and Unite Media to three groups, marking the final step in the dismantling of the nation’s largest publisher of LGBT newspapers little more than three months after its collapse.
After the hearing, former Southern Voice staffers and readers expressed concern over the fate of the publication’s extensive archives. Neumann said Friday that those archives are being donated to the Atlanta History Center.
He said the company is hiring staff for both publications as it readies its launch and plans to re-launch the websites for the publications this weekend. But as Gaydar publishes its versions of David and Southern Voice, it has to overcome concerns about the quality of its publications and its former newspaper, the Atlanta Free Press, and charges from some former employees that they haven’t been paid for their work.
The Atlanta Free Press hit the streets Dec. 10 with the promise of filling in for Southern Voice, but the newspaper ceased publication a few weeks later after firing its first editor over past plagiarism allegations and having its second editor and other staffers quit over concerns about editorial quality and charges that they weren’t paid.
Neumann said Friday that the former employees have been paid.
“Those were nasty comments from disgruntled employees that have a difference of opinion. Everyone was paid what they were due. If anybody feels like they are owed money legitimately, call me,” Neumann said.
Settling a nearly $40,000 lawsuit
He also said that the company is moving forward with settling the lawsuit with Page Enterprises, which filed suit after attempts to receive payment for several outstanding invoices from November and December were ignored, according to court documents. David Page, president of the Marietta-based company, said he was initially concerned about printing Gaydar last fall after a complaint was lodged against Gaydar with the Printing & Imaging Association of Georgia from another printer who alleged it wasn’t paid for its services.
“[Neumann] assured us that was not the case,” Page said. “We were nervous from the beginning.”
Once invoices for Gaydar went unpaid after 30 days, Page Printing sent Odom a demand notice for payment on Nov. 30 after “numerous” efforts to work with Neumann for payment were unsuccessful, Page said. Odom didn’t respond, either, so the company moved ahead with the lawsuit, which was filed Dec. 21. The complaint also sought attorney’s fees. Odom could not be reached on Friday for comment.
“Gaydar has acted in bad faith, has been stubbornly litigious, or has caused Page Enterprises unnecessary trouble and expense, entitling Page Enterprises, pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 13-6-11, to recover attorney’s fees and expenses of litigation of $3,792.13,” according to the lawsuit.
In January, the company asked the court for a default judgment, but the two companies met on Wednesday and reached an agreement to settle the case. The agreement calls for Gaydar to pay $34,000 in equal payments on April 2, 16 and 30 to settle the case.
“I’m happy that they decided to make good on their debt to me. I’m hopeful, but we’ll have to wait and see,” Page said.
Neumann said the invoices went unpaid over his concerns about quality and delivery of the magazines.
“The dispute was over delivery of product and invoicing amounts. That was the original dispute. We finally sat down at a table and reached an agreement that was fair for both sides. Nobody would sit down at the same time and talk for the last few months, so it escalated to a lawsuit,” Neumann said.
‘People look at us as a villain’
Neumann said that since he became an owner of the company that he’s been working to “clear up any debris that may have been out there.”
“Some things have fallen through the cracks and we have not been perfect. In the last two months, the company has changed dramatically,” Neumann said.
He added that the company is being portrayed unfairly because it carried debt, arguing that most small businesses face similar financial challenges.
“On the scale of things, a lot of people look at us as a villain because we had a debt and a dispute with somebody, but really? Compare it to David and SoVo prior to bankruptcy. They are Enron. We may be disputing our light bill, but they are Enron. We are a business like any other small business. But don’t hold us up to the standards of a 30-year-old publication. They failed. We are a year old,” Neumann said.
The parent companies of Southern Voice, David magazine and three other LGBT publications collapsed Nov. 16 as they faced monthly losses of more than $195,000 and nearly $11 million in debt that covered all aspects of their operations and included unpaid payroll taxes, rent, printing and distribution, health insurance and freelancers.
Neumann said the company is focused on improving the quality of its publications and understands the “heavy responsibility” of adopting the Southern Voice and David nameplates.
“We have struggled for the last year to get to where we are. The effort and the intent is to deliver a quality product. To crucify us for a typo here or there – we didn’t have an office of 30 people with proofreaders. There are some people upset about that. I’m sorry about that. There will be people upset with us for using the names. Anybody else could have done it. We are really trying to live up to the standards that everybody in Atlanta expects,” Neumann said.