Watching the preparations for Mega, Kim Dotcom seems in full control, as always.
But on paper, at least, he is neither a manager nor shareholder in the new venture.
Dotcom has named Wellsford man Tony Lentino as the largest of three outside investors in his new file sharing service, Mega.
Lentino has also been named acting CEO of Mega and a company owned by Lentino, Instra Corp, has been contracted to provide billing and technical services for Dotcom's new file sharing business [UPDATE: along with Luxembourg-based domain reseller EuroDNS and Christchurch-based Digiweb.]
In an interview with NBR ONLINE on Friday, ahead of Mega's official launch on Sunday, Dotcom said with his funds still frozen (bar that freed for rent, living expenses and legal bills), he had no money to fund Mega.
Three investors had stumped up with cash: one from Luxembourg (still hush-hush, but Dotcom tells NBR the EuroDNS' CEO will attend the Sunday launch), one from Australia, and one from New Zealand (Lentino).
Dotcom would not say how much Lentino had put into Mega.
Lentino onstage at the Mega launch party with Dotcom's US lawyer Ira Rothken (left; see more launch event pics here). Lentino was born in Napier but raised in part across the Tasman and speaks with an Aussie accent. He told NBR he first met Dotcom "offline" when the giant German came to drag a car on the airstrip that sits on Lentino's 1000-acre Wellsford property. Lentino says he was disgusted that the Crown held Dotcom in jail for a month last year with all his accounts frozen. He stepped in with money to buy food and pay the rent - to the tune of around $250,000.
He did reveal that Lentino was a longstanding "close friend and business partner ... He was instrumental to me being able to stay in my home and help out with paying the rent early on when I didn't have the court decision yet that I could have funds to pay by rent."
Dotcom describes Lentino as a respected and well-known figure in the domain name business. Maybe so. But your correspondent had never heard of him. Pacific Fibre co-founder Rod Drury had never even heard of his company, let alone the man himself.
In the months after Dotcom's January 20, 2012, arrest, when his fortune of up to $US200 million was competely frozen by the courts, Lentino paid the rent on the $30 million Dotcom Mansion, and helped out with family and living expenses.
That's no small helping hand. Documents filed by Dotcom's lawyers during his bid to get funds freed put annual lease payments on the mansion at $1 million. Maintenance costs at the mansion, which sits on 60 acres of land, were put at another $600,000. Other monthly costs included $29,000 for staff wages, $28,678 for general costs, $24,000 for security and $8500 for power.
(Dotcom was bailed on February 22, a month after his arrest. On March 22 he gained access to around $60,000 a month for rent and other expenses. He did not win a bid for access to $800,000 for rent, plus $4.83 million for lawyers, until late August).
Largest investor, but minority shareholder
Lentino may have put more money into Mega than the other two investors, by Dotcom's account, but that does not mean he controls the company.
According to Companies Office, records 89.69% of Mega shares are held by MD Corporate Trustee Ltd, whose sole director and shareholder is Dotcom's wife Mona.
The balance (10.31%) is held by NZ-registered Instra Group Holdings Ltd (a separate entity to Lentino's Australian-registered Instra Corporation). Instra Group Holdings (of which Lentino is the sole director) is owned by the Sainsbury Barclay Trustee company, which in turn is owned by Hawke's Bay law firm Sainsbury, Logan and Williams, which presumably invested on Lentino's behalf.
Although Mona Dotcom is the largest shareholder, she is not a director. The three members of Mega's board are Kim Dotcom, Lentino and Mathius Ortman, one of Dotcom's three co-accused.
$20 million turnover company
Brian Clarkson, who serves as CEO of Instra, was happy to talk to NBR. He said the company, fully owned by Lentino, had revenue of $20 million a year and was very profitable.
Instra is registered across the Tasman, in Melbourne, and has a development office in the city. Clarkson is based in Brisbane. The company also has a sales and support office in Napier.
Clarkson said he also made many visits to Lentino's home-office on on Springhall Farm in Wellsford, north of Auckland - a 383ha (946-acre) property with its own landing strip.
Lentino had no formal title at Instra, but as the owner and "ideas man" was closely involved in its strategy.
Clarkson said Lentino was born in Napier. He founded Instra in 1997, and grew it into one of the few businesses that sells domain names (web addresses) for almost every country in the world. Most sales were made outside Australia and New Zealand.
For his part, Clarkson said he had no qualms about Instra contracting to Mega as the Megaupload legal action continued. "It's quite clear in our minds the court process will resolve itself in Kim's favour," he told NBR.
Breaking cover Sunday
Lentino hilmself has stayed almost entirely off the radar.
His sole media appearance seems to be a passing mention in local paper The Rodney Times (and subsequently Stuff) for a rally held on his Springhall Farm property - during which he drove a Subaru Impreza WRX (an interesting side note: given the keen interest of local National MP Lockwood Smith in rallying - the Speaker owns a rally car - it would seem likely the two would have crossed paths at some point).
More should be revealed when Lentino makes his first major public appearance on Sunday night during the 7.30pm - 9.30pm Mega launch at Dotcom mansion (which NBR will blog live at www.nbr.co.nz/mega).
Mega has already launched for early users, including NBR. Read a report on that count, plus Dotcom's efforts to lawyer-up for an anticipated Hollywood/music label onslaught, here.
RAW DATA: Mega press release
NZ’s Instra Corporation Powers mega.co.nz
As Mega prepares to launch their new cloud storage service on January 19, 2013 [Jan 20 NZ time], Instra Corporation – a global domain name registrar – is primed to provide
expert product, billing and technical support services to mega.co.nz users in anticipation of dramatic new global demand for the Mega service.
According to Instra CEO, Brian Clarkson, “The new Mega promises a revolution in online privacy with one-click encryption for every user, creating a secure online
cloud storage service for internet users across the globe.”
During the launch phase, Instra will be assisting in day-to-day operations, providing all front-line technical support for any and all related products and services.
According to Tony Lentino, CEO of Mega, the new cloud storage service will bring immediate economic value to New Zealand in the form of new jobs as it
grows the Mega venture.
About Instra Corporation Pty. Ltd.
Formed in 1997, Instra Corporation is a privately-owned company based in Melbourne, Australia and Auckland, New Zealand, Instra has expanded its initial domain name business from New Zealand and Australia into a leading, worldwide domain registrar.
Instra Corporation supplies over 300+ country domains worldwide and has direct accreditations with over 100 registries. Many companies and household brand names from around the world take advantage of Instra’s unique and sophisticated Domain Management System to actively manage their online intellectual property. Our customers come from over 160 different countries.