Mud Immortal promoter received big money from province
Jonathan Brett is well known as the man behind last summer’s Mud Immortal fiasco, an event that made some big dollars for the promoter and resulted in thousands of disappointed participants, many complaining that they felt ripped off.
During January of this year, Brett came close to pulling another stunt in the Maritime provinces with the Great Canadian Beer Expo, which was shut down before it got off the ground.
But did you know that the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador gave Brett more than $420,000 several years before Mud Immortal?
In March of 2008, the provincial Department of Innovation, Trade and Rural Development gave Brett $351,698 to MedicLINK Systems, of which Brett was CEO, to develop and market new software for use in dermatology clinics. That’s Trevor Taylor (above, right), the minister at the time, in a photo op with Brett.
Fifteen months earlier, in December of 2006, Brett received an additional $70,000 from the same department to commercialize MedicLINK’s Eyesistant software.
However, it all came crashing down in December of 2008 when MedicLINK locked its doors abruptly, and with little notice for staff. That was just nine months after receiving the $351,000 funding from the province.
Internet searches for MedicLINK in general and its dermatology software in particular turn up nothing, from the funding announcement in March to the company’s closure in December. All I could find was an entry in Wikibin – which says that the company “abruptly closed down” in December of 2008 – and a story in Atlantic Progress magazine from July of that year announcing the opening of an office in Toronto.
It would not be the first time that Brett’s enterprises came into possession of a large amount of money.
According to a September 23, 2013 story in The Telegram, a total of 5,134 people signed up for Mud Immortal at “$70 to $90 per person.” If we use the lower amount of $70, that works out to a gross of about $360,000. We don’t know what the net was on that event but, based on the site location and complaints of participants, not a lot of money was spent on facilities and services. Many people demanded a police investigation, and it was later revealed that Brett was in personal bankruptcy at the time he was staging Mud Immortal.
Alarm bells went off for some people in January of 2014 when Brett started selling tickets for the Great Canadian Beer Expo, with six events in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island. It was soon revealed that Brett did not have signed contracts in place at some venues, and was selling tickets directly through his own site rather than a recognized ticket agent. In PEI, an event without government partnership would have been illegal and a non-starter.
All this is not to suggest that Brett took the government’s money and ran but, in light of more recent controversies, it does raise some valid questions.
I sent a message to the current Department of Innovation, Business and Rural Development (IBRD), asking if MedicLINK provided receipts to confirm how the money was spent, if the finished dermatology software was ever brought forward, and if an investigation was ever launched into the company, after it closed so suddenly. I will update you if and when I receive that information.
UPDATE: Shortly after posting this item, I received the following message from Heather MacLean, who works in communications with IBRD:
“Provincial Government funding was provided to MedicLINK Systems Limited in 2006 and 2008 to modify and expand its software technologies. Funding was provided through a program at that time which provided support for emerging knowledge-based industries in equity based financing. Proper due diligence was undertaken, however MedicLINK ceased operations in December 2008 due to market factors.
“Efforts made by the Provincial Government to recoup the common share equity investment were unsuccessful as there was no equity available from the company. The company provided all required documentation to support the investments toward the modification of software technologies and to expand markets in Canada and the United States for the developed software. The company also provided proof of other investment sources, including private. Further, as condition of funding programs, financial statements were received. Funding was provided to modify Eyesistent and further develop DermPro (a dermatology system). The company ceased operations midstride in the product development stage (of) DermPro and the software did not reach full commercialization.”