Duncan Mackay, the founder and editor of an Olympic news website, has been declared bankrupt over a six-figure debt to a former service provider.
Mackay is a past winner of the SJA’s Sports Journalist of the Year award. In March this year, he picked up a share of the Internet Sportswriter of the Year prize at the SJA’s British Sports Journalism Awards for his work on insidethegames, the website he launched in 2005.
But even as he gave his acceptance speech, Mackay knew that he was subject to court proceedings after a Birmingham-based web design company, Zulu, had launched a legal action over more than £100,000 in unpaid fees.
Mackay was in Acapulco, Mexico, attending an Olympic meeting, last week when, under the insolvency reference number 0349 of 2010, the Official Receiver confirmed a bankruptcy order had been brought against him.
This follows a ruling against Mackay by District Judge Chaudhuri at Milton Keynes County Court earlier this year.
On Monday, Mackay was acting as moderator of one of the discussion sessions at the Global Sports Industry Congress, where insidethegames was listed as one of the event’s “media partners”. Mackay chaired the session “Imagining the Perfect Event”.
According to public and court records and other sources, Mackay launched his website, insidethegames.com, in 2005, soon after London won its bid to stage the Olympics. At the time, Mackay was also on the staff of The Guardian, as athletics correspondent.
Mackay started his business with his wife, Lorraine, who had previously used web designers Zulu Creative for projects with Birmingham city council. The Mackays gave Zulu the design brief for their new online business.
Lorraine Mackay died in the summer of 2007.
It was after this that Zulu stopped receiving regular payment of the bills incurred by insidethegames. Between 2007 and 2009, the web design firm continued to service the Olympic website out of goodwill and because of written assurances from Duncan Mackay. This written evidence was presented at the court hearing.
Unknown to Zulu, in July 2009, Mackay, by now working with his new partner, Sarah Bowron, registered a new company, Dunsar Media, at Companies House. Initially, Mackay was named as a director of Dunsar and was registered as holding one of the two shares in the business.
As the dispute over the unpaid bills escalated, when the time came for insidethegames.com’s domain registration to be updated, Zulu undertook the renewal in their name in an attempt to protect their interests.
In September of last year, insidethegames.biz went “live” on the internet for the first time. It had a new look and some new content, but also included articles orignally published on the insidethegames.com website, while using many of the same regular contributors.
Mackay and Bowron now operated all their editorial and advertising content at insidethegames.biz, alongside two other sports websites, with design services provided by a Milton Keynes firm.
It was after this move that Zulu sought to recover its debts through the courts. At least one hearing date was postponed because Mackay and Bowron were attending the Winter Olympics in Vancouver in February.
In March this year, Mackay stood down as a director of Dunsar.
According to insidethegames.biz site this morning, Mackay is “editor and publisher”, and he is still described on Dunsar’s football and paralympic sports websites as “founder, publisher and editor of insidethegames”. Dunsar says he is editor only.
Even though Zulu is owed substantial sums related to the .com website, it would have no financial claim against the new business.
Last month, Dunsar Media received their local Chamber of Commerce’s “Business Excellence Award” for “the Most Promising New Business”.
According to a press release issued by Dunsar, the citation at the ceremony described the Olympic website as having “shown rapid and sustainable growth”.
No one from Zulu was available for comment.
After Mackay was contacted by sportsjournalists.co.uk, Bowron called the SJA chairman and left this message:
“I will sue the SJA if anything is published about my companies which is incorrect. I have already been in communication with my solicitors during the night,” the award-winning businesswoman said.
“I will make it my personal mission to find out who is behind this.”
Mackay did reply by email, confirming his bankruptcy. He said: “Dunsar Media, the publishing company who owns insidethegames, insideworldparasport and insideworldfootball, is wholly owned by Sarah Bowron and the questions being asked are irrelevant to my position as editor at the three sites.
“I am an employee of Dunsar Media,” Mackay said.
“I find this extremely distressing, including the manner in which I am being treated.”
According to the government’s Insolvency Service, Mackay is expected to be called in for formal questioning by the Official Receiver later this month.