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Sorry state of (jewellery) affairs

The recent apology by industry magazine Jewellery World to event organiser Expertise Events would be laughable if it weren’t so serious. COLEBY NICHOLSON investigates the incident, the people involved and the subsequent fallout.

The October issue of Jewellery World contained an unreserved apology to International Jewellery Fair (IJF) organiser Expertise Events for alleged misleading and untrue statements published in July 2016. The magazine was also mailed with an inserted letter that, ironically, could now expose it to breaches of the Corporations Act.

The matter began when Jewellery World struck out at Expertise Events and the Sydney IJF in the magazine’s July issue. Expertise Events managing director Gary Fitz-Roy alleged that the report was misleading and untrue.

A legal spokesperson for Expertise Events confirmed that the company commenced legal proceedings against the magazine’s managing director Jeremy Keight and its editor Jo Thompson on 3 August 2016 in the Supreme Court of NSW.

He also confirmed that “proceedings reached the stage of directions hearings but there was no hearing on the merits”. The spokesperson declined to comment or provide details about the terms of the settlement.

An article titled “Apology to Expertise Events Pty Ltd and Mr Gary Fitz-Roy” was subsequently published on jewelleryworld.net.au. The unsigned apology read, “… we unreservedly withdraw and retract those statements and apologise to Expertise Events and Mr Fitz-Roy for any harm these statements may have caused.”

While the apology has since been removed from the website, the same unsigned apology has now been published on page six of Jewellery World’s October issue. The magazine included an inserted letter to readers signed by Keight and Thompson; however, the letter contains no regulatory information about the business as a public document in accordance with section 153 of the Corporations Act.

Jeremy Keight managing director Jewellery World
Jeremy Keight managing director Jewellery World

Although this might be an unfortunate oversight, it does add to the confusion surrounding Keight’s media activities and business holdings. In addition, it should be noted that the printed magazine does not list Thompson as editor, a curious break from the media tradition of listing all publication staff, including the publisher, in the magazine publisher’s panel or ‘skite box’ as it is known.

Jewellery World’s skite box does, however, list three contributing writers – external freelancers – but oddly does not list the name of the person who is charged with the important task of controlling the editorial standards and integrity of the magazine.

Crux of the dispute
Before dealing with these unusual matters, it’s important to review the original article, which is at the crux of the dispute.

Titled “2017 Tradeshow”, the four-page article deals with the Jewellers Association of Australia’s (JAA) “intention to stage its own jewellery tradeshow” next year. It is unclear whether the feature article was intended as a news report or as editorial commentary because it fails to identify an author.

If a news report, it would be difficult to see how the article complies with sections three and four of the Australian Press Council’s Standards of Practice that cover fairness and balance with particular emphasis on reporting accuracy.

Readers could even be excused for believing the article is a promotional-type advertorial given it has no author and has no appearance of being fair and balanced. It also attempts to present certain claims as factual without evidence and is repeatedly contradictory.

For example, the article states that “The JAA is set to take control of the most important industry event for 2017” while simultaneously announcing that the JAA intends “to stage its own jewellery tradeshow”.

Under the heading “Whose fair is it?” the unnamed author writes, “Previously, the JAA has extended an invitation to organisers to run it on the industry’s behalf. The fair organiser signs what are multi-year contracts for the privilege of running the fair and pays a commission back to the Association [JAA].”

I have been covering the jewellery industry for nearly 15 years and I cannot remember a time where the JAA effectively called for tenders from third parties to organise and run a new jewellery fair for and on the JAA’s behalf.

From my understanding, Expertise Events started the Australian Jewellery Fair 25 years ago and the JAA has been a financial beneficiary of the event every year since 1992. Therefore, I don’t believe that the JAA has ever “extended an invitation to organisers to run it on the industry’s behalf”.

However, to be sure, I contacted JAA president Selwyn Brandt and asked whether the JAA had ever attempted to run its own fair before or “extended an invitation to organisers to run” a fair on its behalf.

Brandt did not reply. Perhaps he too is unable to provide any evidence to support the Jewellery World claim. It appears wrong.

Logically, it is true that the JAA and Expertise Events have signed “multi-year contracts” and both parties would acknowledge that the JAA has received financial payments from Expertise Events for more than 25 years via a royalty or commission arrangement but because the JAA does not own the event, it cannot invite third-party organisers to manage it.

Jewellery World apology
Jewellery World apology

The article also made a number of other perplexing statements, including that the JAA was “forced into a do or die situation” and that Expertise Events was “pushing suppliers to sign up early” for next year’s event. Jewellery World then asked, “Does this mean the organiser [Expertise Events] intends to hijack the Australian jewellery industry’s own fair?”

I am not sure that anyone can force the JAA to do anything and nor do I believe you can hijack something you already own – this is perhaps one of the reasons why Keight and Thompson have unreservedly apologised and retracted some of their claims. 

Logic would dictate that their legal team(s) concluded that some of the published material was potentially misleading and untrue, which is why their apology recognises that Expertise Events owns the business name International Jewellery Fair and “has been successfully conducting the Fair since 1992”.

Paradoxical twists

Expertise Events’ legal spokesperson would not provide details on the settlement and/or whether the agreement included financial compensation paid by Keight and Thompson but astute readers would have noticed that the October issue, which contained the apologies, also featured a full-page colour advertisement for the 2017 Expertise Events-run jewellery fair.

It is not unusual for media organisations to provide ‘free’ advertising as part of any dispute settlement, sometimes over and above a financial payment by the publisher. It will be interesting to see whether the Expertise Events full-page ad for its Darling Harbour fair continue in Jewellery World and, if so, there’s an ironic twist that the magazine is now helping to advertise and promote the very fair it criticised!

Expertise fair ad in October Jewellery World
Expertise fair ad in October Jewellery World

 Further, industry veterans will recall that Jewellery World has attempted to launch jewellery trade fairs in competition with Expertise Events on two previous occasions.

In August 2006, the magazine announced the Jewellery World Show 2007, declaring at the time, “More than ever now, this show is the one for the industry – right focus, right time late in August, right venue and right price for exhibitors. There’s no longer a need to accept anything less.”

Jewellery World Show 2007, which was scheduled to take place two weeks before the Expertise Events fair, never eventuated and left a number of committed exhibitors angry and embarrassed.

Again in September 2011, only one week after the JAA signed a new five-year agreement with Expertise Events, the magazine announced the Jewellery World Show 2012. The industry was in uproar at two industry trade shows scheduled for around the same time in the same city. Jewellery World Show 2012 also failed to get off the ground and was canned two months after the announcement was made.

Coincidentally, Jewellery World’s two failed attempts to run its own trade show were scheduled to take place at the old Sydney showgrounds at Moore Park, the very same location where the JAA 2017 Jewellery Tradeshow is scheduled to take place.

Corporations Act

History aside, Keight might like to seek counsel about the magazine’s legal responsibilities. Nowhere on the apology letter to readers nor in the magazine’s skite box does Jewellery World’s Australian Business Number (ABN) or Australian Company Number (ACN) appear.

Section 153 of the Corporations Act 2001 states that all public documents and negotiable instruments must set out the business’s ABN and/or ACN. This important business information is conspicuous by its absence.

As previously indicated, this could be an unfortunate oversight; however, on further analysis, the issue raises many other confusing matters, which would otherwise be explained with an appropriate ABN.

According to Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) records, Jewellery World Pty Ltd (ABN 85 003 093 936) is a deregistered company.

The same ASIC record for Jewellery World Pty Ltd also lists a business name, Jewellery World Australia; however, that does not appear to be connected to the magazine and, in which case, arguably the name is now under the control of ASIC given the ‘parent’ company is deregistered. 

Perhaps more confusing is the fact that the magazine’s website – jewelleryworld.net.au – is listed as being owned by Jewellery World Pty Ltd, which is the very company above that was deregistered in May 2015.

Bottom line: the company no longer exists but it owns Jewellery World’s website!

To further confound matters, the registrant contact for the website is Keight but, as far as Jeweller can ascertain, he was never a director of the (now) deregistered company Jewellery World Pty Ltd.

Can it get more confusing? Yes. ASIC displays a record for Jewellery World Magazine (Q9488303) but that name has been ‘removed’.

Perhaps Jewellery World Online (ABN 51 167 086 875) might clear things up? No, Australian Gold Dealers Pty Ltd owns that business name so there is no connection to the magazine.

It might be fair to check whether Keight’s other publication Jewellers Trade magazine – which he closed last year – can shed any light on matters? No, it does not.

The magazine’s trading name is owned by Jeremy David Keight (ABN 41 143 385 895) but the website (jewellerstrade.com.au) is registered to JD Keight & M Keight (ABN 42 983 929 845) –government records show that this ABN was cancelled in 2012, three years before Jewellers Trade magazine was closed!

After all that, it’s unclear which business entity is responsible for Jewellery World magazine, and therefore which entity is ultimately responsible for the apology to Expertise Events and Gary Fitz-Roy.

The only thing that is clear is that the Jewellery World website is ‘owned’ by a company that has been deregistered by ASIC.

Jewellery businesses

At this point readers can be excused for being confused but here is where it gets even more interesting.

As well as being the registered contact for jewellerstrade.com.au, the cancelled ABN (JD Keight & M Keight) also lists two trading names, one of which is ‘Esskay Gems AU’. Jeremy Keight’s LinkedIn profile shows him as the ‘present owner’ of Esskay Gems.

Esskay Gems appears to be a diamond and gemstone wholesaler that operates from or, at least, has been listed on business-to-business portals.

Keight’s interests in jewellery wholesale businesses do not stop there; he is the registered contact for colourmydiamonds.com.au, a website that offers colour-enhanced natural diamonds. The business has previously been advertised in Keight’s magazine, listing Cashelle Fine Jewellery as distributor and the ads make no mention of any connection with the magazine owner.

Keight registrant for ColourMyDiamonds.com.au
Keight registrant for ColourMyDiamonds.com.au
Colour My Diamonds website
Colour My Diamonds website

  In another twist, the Colour My Diamond website proudly declares on the homepage that its Australian launch took place “at the 2013 JAA Sydney Jewellery Fair, Stand F43”, which is the very trade show Keight has criticised.

JoJer Partnership (ABN 32 776 499 460) is another jewellery wholesale business owned by Keight, this time with editor Thompson – the name is a contraction of Keight and Thompson’s first names Jo and Jeremy. Jojer was started in November last year.

Keight and Thompson
Keight and Thompson's Jojer Ad in Jewellery World

 JoJer is a watchband supplier that has regularly advertised in Jewellery World magazine without reference to the editor or the magazine’s managing director.


 JoJer is a watchband supplier that has regularly advertised in Jewellery World magazine without reference to the editor or the magazine’s managing director.

Thompson and Keight are listed as the business owners on ASIC records but the website, jojer.com.au, cites Keight as the registrant, listing his personal ABN (ABN 41 143 385 895) rather than the JoJer Partnership ABN.

Following the legal dispute with Expertise Events, it appears that Thompson may have left Jewellery World. Certainly, she is no longer posting to the Jewellery World website under her own name since Expertise Events initiated Supreme Court legal proceedings and, when contacted about her position at Jewellery World, Keight would not confirm that Thompson continued as editor.

When Jeweller contacted Thompson by phone, oddly, she also would not confirm her current status at the magazine.

Other wholesale businesses owned by Keight have been, or continue to be, advertised in his magazines.

To be clear, it is not illegal for Keight and/or Thompson to have other business interests but jewellery retailers and advertisers may ask whether it should be appropriate for media professionals to declare their interests, especially if the wholesale businesses are involved in the industry on which they report.

On that note, Keight recently gave his views on the importance of transparency in the jewellery industry.

Commenting on a Facebook group discussion about the current industry turmoil over the two fairs, he wrote, “My view is our small industry is built on honesty and trust. Throughout our industry we demand transparency from the diamonds we buy to the treatment of gemstones and gold.”

He went on to discuss governing bodies, the JAA, respect and unethical trading.

Ultimately, readers, advertisers and the wider industry will judge two things:

  1. Whether transparency should also relate to Keight’s own business dealings within the industry. That is, in the interests of the same transparency and trust that is demanded of other people, it might be prudent for Keight to lead the way by clearly identifying those advertisements for his own wholesale businesses, advertised in his own magazine, and which may compete with other industry wholesalers (including Jewellery World’s own advertisers). Now, that would be transparent!
  2. Whether the Jewellery World article, which Keight has now apologised for and retracted, served to unite the industry or whether it created a much bigger divide by (allegedly) publishing untrue and misleading statements about Expertise Events, noting also that his website published allegations against Nationwide Jewellers and its managing director Colin Pocklington (The article was quickly removed after threats of more legal action).

I think it’s fitting to end where the original Jewellery World article started: “The time for the industry to vote with its feet has arrived, quite literally … in the end, there can only be one [fair].”

Readers will eventually decide whether that prediction was right and, more importantly, whether Jewellery World’s actions contributed to a final outcome, whatever that result may be.

Editor’s note:
1. Numerous attempts were made to seek comment and clarification from Jeremy Keight on various matters but he did not respond.
2. The Jewellers Association of Australia is a financial beneficiary of Gunnamatta Media Pty Ltd, publisher of Jeweller.
 

More reading:
JAA’s perfect storm: Nationwide quits association
More industry division over two jewellery fairs
Nationwide, Leading Edge make 2017 jewellery fair decision
Sydney jewellery fair organiser hits back at JAA

 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Coleby Nicholson • Managing Editor

Managing Editor • Jeweller Magazine


Coleby Nicholson is publisher and managing editor of Jeweller magazine. He has covered the jewellery industry for more than a decade and specialises in business-to-business aspects of the industry.









Saturday, 24 June, 2017 03:32am
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