Troubled selfie drone maker replaces chairman hours after deal with Telstra
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Troubled selfie drone maker IoT Group has brought in an American with strong finance links, but no retail experience, to lead its push into the US.
IoT (ASX:IOT) makes “selfie drones” such as its latest model, the Air Selfie, a pocket-sized flying camera.
The company is hoping incoming American non-executive chairman Robert C Smith will find a way to shift more Air Selfies than IOT’s earlier two models – the ROAM-E which did not take off and the ROVA, which is stocked by seven North American stores, with 2600 orders delivered by last month.
Mr Smith, a New York-based fund manager, replaces former chairman Scott Brown who resigned on Monday, just after the company announced its first Australian distribution deal with Telstra for the Air Selfie.
Mr Smith has focused his attention over the last two years on supporting child-related charities, according to his LinkedIn page. He has no discernable links to Australia, or to retail consumer technology in the US.
The company has also been looking for a CEO since September, when it sacked prior chief Simon Kantor.
It’s also gotten rid of most of its employees, reducing its staff costs from $1 million in the first quarter to $360,000.
The company would not respond to multiple requests for comment, directing calls to an unattended shareholder phone line and not responding to emails.
IoT Group said in a statement that it expects Mr Smith to provide access to US investors “who understand the significance of our products and distribution network”.
Until now the company’s retail experience has come from Ian Duffell, a former executive at Virgin Entertainment Group, and founder Sean Neylon who has largely worked in food consumerables.
Mr Neylon has a few hiccups in his corporate history — he was a founder of LibertyOne, which became a victim of the 2000 ‘tech wreck’ and failed franchiser Signature Brands.
IoT Group started its days shrouded in controversy.
It listed via a reverse takeover by ROAM Systems of Ardent Resources, completed in March 2016 and was immediately hit with a lawsuit in NSW by the cofounders of ROAM.
In court documents filed in the Supreme Court of New South Wales, the cofounders accused then-CEO Simon Kantor of selling the company to IoT Group without the approval or knowledge of ROAM’s other shareholders.
Mr Kantor was sacked in September, with the board calling his position “untenable”, and the lawsuit was settled confidentially in November.
That was followed by the threat of a second legal action in January 2017. International Media Distribution, Overlook Management and MySat allege that an IoT Group legacy subsidiary sold their media content, via a subscription internet protocol television service, without being licensed to do so.
MySat manager Tony Ihsak told Stockhead that although the subsidiary had since been shuttered, he was currently drafting a response to IoT Group to find out what had happened to the estimated millions of dollars subscribers paid for the unlicensed services.
In 2016 IoT Group also tried and failed to buy US hoverboard company Cutting Edge.
Since then, IoT has signed all of its current US and Australian distribution deals for the ROVA and Air Selfie drones.