Law­suits, staff changes shake up At­lanta’s LGBT me­dia out­lets

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On July 12, a fresh glossy hit At­lanta news­stands: Peach ATL, the city’s new­est nightlife and gay life­style mag­a­zine.

In­side the cover, some fa­mil­iar names graced the pages. Mike Flem­ing, co-owner of Project Q, ed­i­to­rial di­rec­tor of David At­lanta and Go­liath is named ed­i­to­rial di­rec­tor. Wil­liam Duf­fee-Braun, co-founder of Fenuxe, sales and de­vel­op­ment di­rec­tor for David and pub­lisher for Go­liath, is the pub­lisher and reg­is­tered agent for Peach ATL Me­dia, LLC. Or, well, they were. Barely a month af­ter the first is­sue — a com­plete re­brand of the now-de­funct David At­lanta, Peach ATL is un­der new own­er­ship. So is Go­liath Me­dia LLC. And the name of the new reg­is­tered agent for both may sound fa­mil­iar to the At­lanta LGBT com­mu­nity: Brian Sawyer.

The new­est own­er­ship

“Peach will taste fa­mil­iar and all good. At­lanta will not skip a beat on its weekly guide to gay cul­ture, clubs and cock­tails, boys and beers, DJs and drag,” Flem­ing promised in the de­but is­sue. “[Duf­fee-Braun] and I are con­fi­dent that our mix of skills and ex­pe­ri­ence is the right one to keep the good tra­di­tions alive while forg­ing new ones — not only in the weekly print pub­li­ca­tion, daily web­site and so­cial me­dia pres­ence, but in our per­sonal com­mit­ment to the com­mu­nity, its or­ga­niz­ers and its events.”

That con­fi­dence, how­ever, lasted barely six weeks.

Duf­fee-Braun an­nounced on Face­book that he’s leav­ing gay me­dia, and around that time, new doc­u­men­ta­tion was filed with the Sec­re­tary of State that showed him re­sign­ing as reg­is­tered agent for Peach ATL Me­dia. By Aug. 30, both Duf­fee-Braun and his part­ner, art di­rec­tor Tan­ner Gill, who also worked for David At­lanta and Go­liath, were off the mast­head.

Flem­ing fol­lowed soon af­ter. His last day A num­ber of per­son­nel changes plagued the newly launched Peach ATL mag­a­zine, a re­brand of the for­mer David At­lanta pub­li­ca­tion. (Photo by Dal­las Anne Dun­can) with Peach ATL and Go­liath was Sept. 8, though he re­mains a co-founder of Project Q At­lanta.

Ac­cord­ing to the Sec­re­tary of State’s of­fice, Sawyer’s role as reg­is­tered agent is the “mail­box” for Peach ATL and Go­liath, mean­ing he is the per­son to re­ceive “any ser­vice of process, doc­u­ments or other of­fi­cial com­mu­ni­ca­tion” on be­half of the busi­ness.

Nei­ther of the com­pa­nies has of­fi­cers — chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer, trea­surer and sec­re­tary — listed on as part of their busi­ness reg­is­tra­tions, only the reg­is­tered agent.

Nei­ther Duf­fee-Braun nor Flem­ing would speak to Ge­or­gia Voice about the busi­ness shakeup, nor their de­ci­sions to leave Peach ATL and Go­liath. At­tempts to reach Sawyer and his at­tor­ney, Todd Poole, were un­suc­cess­ful as of press time, so it is un­clear the ex­act events that led to the change in lead­er­ship.

An ill­ness and a law­suit

When Peach ATL launched, no­tably ab- sent from the mast­head was the name David Thomp­son. Thomp­son, who also did not re­turn calls as of press time, is the CEO, chief fi­nan­cial of­fi­cer and sec­re­tary of DRT Me­dia Group, Inc., the com­pany that pub­lished David At­lanta prior to its be­ing re­branded as Peach ATL. DRT Me­dia Group also pub­lished Go­liath.

In his first Peach ATL let­ter, Flem­ing said Thomp­son is the only per­son of the for­mer David staff to not be at Peach.

“It was his de­ci­sion to move on from the pub­li­ca­tion that prompted [Duf­fee-Braun] and I to start the new com­pany,” Flem­ing wrote. “Ul­ti­mately, ill­ness in­flu­enced his de­ci­sion to shut down op­er­a­tions and takes him away from his daily du­ties. … [Thomp­son] re­mains in At­lanta as a busi­ness con­sul­tant while he takes care of him­self as much as he has of oth­ers. The tran­si­tion pro­vides him more time to fight some of the bur­dens that con­trib­uted to his ill­ness.”

It is likely that one of those bur­dens is a law­suit filed against Thomp­son, DRT Me­dia Group, David At­lanta and the for­mer SOVO, Inc. A plain­tiff in that law­suit?

Sawyer — the very same in­di­vid­ual who is now in charge of Peach ATL and Go­liath.

In May 2014, Sawyer, along with Charles “Chip” O’Kel­ley, Martin Mar­shall (the le­gal name of Matt Neu­mann) and ASHC, LLC, filed a ver­i­fied com­plaint in DeKalb County.

Ac­cord­ing to the com­plaint, Thomp­son seized the as­sets of David Mag­a­zine, “a com­pany in which he re­lin­quished his mi­nor­ity own­er­ship” and trans­ferred those as­sets to DRT Me­dia, of which he is the sole owner.

“Along the way, Thomp­son and DRT Me­dia, in­di­vid­u­ally and through their ex­er­cise of con­trol of the other de­fen­dants, breached sev­eral agree­ments and trans­ferred as­sets to avoid obli­ga­tions and fidu­ciary du­ties to Plain­tiffs,” the com­plaint reads.

The law­suit, which is still an open case, in­volves a lot of back-and-forth be­tween Thomp­son and the plain­tiffs, all of which Thomp­son claimed in a 2015 de­po­si­tion “has an ef­fect” on the high blood pres­sure plagu­ing him for the last three years.

“It cre­ates stress, which cre­ates high blood pres­sure,” he told at­tor­neys, ac­cord­ing to court doc­u­ments.

By DAL­LAS ANNE DUN­CAN

A whole lot of his­tory

Thomp­son isn’t the only one who may have high blood pres­sure from work­ing with the plain­tiffs in his law­suit. Sawyer and Mar­shall, at least, have had their hands in a num­ber of At­lanta’s LGBT pub­li­ca­tions — Sawyer is also the or­ga­nizer of BMS­me­dia, LLC, which de­signs Fenuxe Mag­a­zine. Mar­shall, un­der his pseu­do­nym Matt Neu­mann, ran the for­mer Gay­dar Mag­a­zine and At­lanta Free Press, and for a short pe­riod of time, the sec­ond it­er­a­tion of South­ern Voice af­ter it was pur­chased fol­low­ing bank­ruptcy of its par­ent com­pany.

Sawyer and O’Kel­ley were also own­ers of At­lanta Pearl Day Com­mit­tee, which hosted a non­profit ben­e­fit at Six Flags Over Ge­or­gia, but al­legedly never handed over the do­na­tions. Pearl Day was cre­ated in 2007 and ad­min­is­tra­tively re­solved in 2011.

It is un­clear at this point how much the law­suit against Peach ATL’s pre­de­ces­sor had to do with the plain­tiff in that case tak­ing over the pub­li­ca­tion and its brother mag­a­zine.

“Peach will taste fa­mil­iar and all good. At­lanta will not skip a beat on its weekly guide to gay cul­ture, clubs and cock­tails, boys and beers, DJs and drag.”

Septem­ber 15, 2017

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