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Localist jets in controversial UK consultant, savaged by BBC

Chris Keall
Tue, 17 Jan 2012

A source close to Localist has complained to NBR that the directory company has drafted in an American consultant to help engineer a restructure – despite her mixed record overseas.

Chairman Sam Knowles refused to identify the consultant’s name, but chief executive Blair Glubb confirmed she is Christina Domecq. The consultant is part of the Domecq family that founded a Spanish sherry dynasty and was part of Allied Domecq before its acquisition by Pernod Ricard in 2005 – but also holds US citizenship. She went to university in the US, but most of her business activity has been in the UK.

Writing about herself in the third person on her LinkedIn profile, Ms Domecq (33) relates the creation of her largest venture, Spinvox:

Her moment of inspiration in 2003, when she received 14 voicemails in one morning and asked: “Why can’t I get my voicemails as text?” led her to co-found SpinVox with Daniel Doulton. With characteristic tenaciousness and a passionate belief in the concept, Christina grew the business from concept to 350 employees and turnover of more than $70million. SpinVox proved to be a winning team and concept having signed over 32 carrier contracts world wide and having over 80 millon active users. SpinVox was sold for over $!00m [sic] in 2009.

However, the source who contacted NBR was unimpressed, forwarding a link to a BBC technology blog (one of a series that questioned Spinvox's financial situation) that tartly notes Spinvox was bought by US voice technology giant Nuance for a pittance:

The people who had poured in over £100m to a company which claimed that it had world-beating technology ended up with just £600. No, not £600 each - that was spread among the owners of 5.3 million ordinary shares and 1.9 million A shares.

According to a Guardian report, centred on privacy concerns over Spinvox’s business practices, Ms Domecq at one point valued Spinvox at over $500 million.

Mr Glubb defended Ms Domecq’s recruitment. The Localist CEO said she had extensive experience as a technology entrepreneur, and managing fast-moving companies.

If you ran an internet search for any high profile person, you would find both good and bad feedback, Mr Glubb said.

Localist did not immediately make Ms Domecq available to interview, but head of marketing and content Sheryl Nichols did later forward a profile of the consultant detailing her achievements (below), which include Ernst & Young and CNBC entrepreneur of the year awards, and founding and running an IT services and training company that employed 120 and consulted to companies including Kraft, Nabisco, Pepsi, Pfizer and Kodak.

Mr Glubb said Ms Domecq was brought on board as a technology advisor around three months ago, and was part of a team consulting on Localist’s restructure – which will see sales staff and senior management numbers cut.

Ms Domecq first posted on Localist in August, promoting MexiKai (listed on her profile below as one of her investments). MexiKai is a food truck - based on a trendy San Francisco concept for chefs unable to afford a full restaurant - run by Kelly Young, runner-up in the first local series of reality show Master Chef.

Chairman Sam Knowles emphasised that the final shape of the restructure would be decided by the chief executive.

“Blair is driving the change process and Blair will make the call,” Mr Knowles said.

Localist's Christina Domecq profile

  • Christina joined the Localist advisory board in late 2011 to assist the business in evolving strong platforms for growth – including productisation, monetization and establishment of technology platforms to underpin new propositions.
  • Domecq is the former CEO and co-founder of SpinVox, established in 2003, and subsequently sold in 2009 for over $100M.  Major shareholders included Goldman Sachs, GLG, Allen and Co, and Blue Mountain Fund.
  • She holds more than 15 years experience as a CEO and corporate strategist for technology companies and has successfully founded and sold 4 companies.  She remains a non-executive director for a number of technology companies in the US and UK.
  • Christina is a true entrepreneur, having started her first business in technology‐based services in New York at the age of 20. Her company provided IT services and training to some of the world’s largest corporations, including Kraft, Nabisco, Pepsi, Pfizer and Kodak. As CEO and 100% shareholder she employed over 120 staff with a turnover in excess of $14 million; ultimately selling the business in August 2002.
  • Over the years, Christina has won a raft of awards for her entrepreneurship, including ‘The Young Entrepreneur of the Year' and the ‘Science and Technology Entrepreneur of the Year’ from Ernst & Young.  She has also led SpinVox to win a number of prestigious awards for its mobile and messaging innovation. In 2009 she won CNBC Entrepreneur of the Year.
  • Christina has a strong commitment to supporting young NZ led businesses in expanding their global reach, meanwhile attracting international investment in to the public and private NZ markets.
  • She currently advises and invests in a number of technology and innovation businesses in New Zealand, including Stolen Rum, Gidget (mobile app business), KingTide Asset Management and MexiKai.
  • Christina is a descendent of the Spanish sherry dynasty.  She holds a Masters degree from Notre Dame University, a BA in Systematic Theology and a BSc in Economics from Boston College. She holds dual US/European citizenship.
Chris Keall
Tue, 17 Jan 2012
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Localist jets in controversial UK consultant, savaged by BBC