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Jones says that, based on what Sands saw, it was a sign that things have not gone well since his departure. "Definitely, it's a setback. When I was there, it took around four to six weeks to make the wire harness."
And as for how it bodes for the future, Jones says: "The company will succeed with appropriate funding and appropriate resources. If they don't have appropriate funding and resources, it would be very unlikely that this would happen."
Sands blames GlobeTel's problems on the company's obsession with promoting itself: "They're too busy selling the stratellites to actually make them," he says.
Doug Murch, the retired U.S. Air Force colonel who replaced Jones, disagrees, saying: "We are not making any outlandish claims. We understand the challenges in building these types of airships enough to say that we have confidence that we will build a near-space airship.
"There have been problems, but we've turned a corner."
Perhaps. But it's hard to believe that hot zone utopian dream is going to arrive anytime soon on the research and development budget GlobeTel is spending on its futuristic zeppelins.
In 2005, that budget amounted to a whopping $26,553.
But at least GlobeTel's executives haven't been left out in the cold.
Though the company has never turned a profit, GlobeTel pays big salaries and even bigger bonuses to its executives. In 2005, compensation for the top six executives totaled $12 million an 85 percent increase from the year before, according to the class-action complaint and SEC filings:
Former CEO Timothy Huff earned a $300,000 bonus on top of his $200,000 salary, with stock options and other benefits totaling $2.5 million.
Lawrence Lynch, former chief operating officer at GlobeTel, filed plans to sell more than $1.6 million of GlobeTel stock when it was trading at record highs.
Executive Vice President Steven King, whom the SEC has disciplined in the past for "securities fraud violations," is the sole owner of Investor Source Group LLC, which in turn owns ISG Jet LLC. GlobeTel contracts with ISG Jet for travel services and has paid it with company stock ISG has reported planned sales of more than $2.8 million.
Taboada, the analyst who had worked for Hornblower & Weeks, has been contracted by GlobeTel since 2005 via his company Charles Morgan Securities Inc. to consult and was paid in stock options. Last April, Taboada reported that he planned to sell that stock for $2.5 million.
Leigh Coleman, GlobeTel's former president and director, used an affiliate, Sky China Ltd., to make about $5 million by selling GlobeTel stock given to Sky China. Personally, Coleman reported he planned to sell $1.7 million of GlobeTel stock while it was trading at about $4.
Khoury has replaced Huff now chief of technology as CEO. Lynch and Coleman are gone.
"I'm not savvy about all this stuff, but when something smells bad, it smells bad," longtime shareholder Frank Buffone says. "I'm just waiting for them to go out of business. But I want to see if they make another P.R. push, and if they do, then I'll get rid of what I've got left."
Like many others, Buffone, 45, of White Plains, New York, bought in small 1,000 shares of Sanswire at 26 cents a share ($260) before GlobeTel bought the company. At the stock's inflated height, nearly $4 after the Russian P.R. bonanza, Buffone could have cashed in for nearly $4,000. But he held on, and his stake is now worth about $400. Others aren't so lucky. New Times heard from one investor, who wanted to remain anonymous, who claims to have lost millions on GlobeTel's fluctuations.
But Buffone, the small-timer, is philosophical. "It was a few bucks to throw in there," he says. "If you lose it, you lose it; no big deal. It wasn't that much money to begin with. A lot of people's money went to waste there. I'm one of the lucky few.