The story of HookMedia serves as a microcosm of the global economy: a quick, technology-driven rise, followed by an astonishingly rapid fall from grace.
Less than six months ago, the Boston-based independent had more than 100 staffers, new offices in Atlanta and New York, and esti mated billings of $125-150 million.
In the past couple of months, the Internet shop found itself unable to collect on its bills, pay its creditors or raise capital to continue operations while negotiating for a sale to a Havas unit. Hook president and founder Don Epperson, saying he saw no alternative, on April 23 filed for protection under Chapter 11.
According to the filing, Hook has total assets of $13.6 million and debt of $10.6 million.
"We had planned to do a deal with [Havas-owned] Media Con tacts," Epperson said. "At the last minute, our largest client couldn't pay on a receivable. That killed the deal at that point in time."
Epperson declined to identify the former client or say if legal action is being considered. Several sources, however, said the company was simply overextended with office space, staff and technology, and had collection problems with several major clients.
Epper son would confirm only that Allaire Macromedia, Fannie Mae and Genzyme remain at Hook, with 50 staffers in Boston and New York. He hopes to place the clients and staffers with the company that buys Hook's assets.
Sources said Epperson still expects the Havas deal to go through. Per federal bankruptcy procedure, other bids will now be entertained and a buyer named on May 24 by the court. "At this point, it's all subject to what's worked out in court," said Esteban Gómez, president of Havas' Media Planning Group USA in New York.
Hook's top creditors are USinternetworking ($420,404), DoubleClick ($317,134) and ZDNet ($248,636), per the filing.