Bad Deeds Will Out

It wasn’t murder, because nobody died, but the now infamous hacking by News Corp effectively killed the dream of an entrepreneur in Princeton a half-dozen years ago. Then it went under the radar of world news. Now it’s coming back to haunt the perpetrators.

Today’s Star Ledger and Times of Trenton dug up another grave, the sale of FLOORgraphics to the News Corp. The spade work had been done by by Jim Edwards of bnet.com and the New York Times’ David Carr.

I remember interviewing the founder, Richard Rebh, soon after the company began. He was still on Vaughan Drive, before he expanded to American Metro Center.
As below from U.S. 1 Newspaper files: The company started in 1996 when founder Fred Potok was working for a Montclair-based fleet graphics business, which had just come across a decal that could be protected from road hazards by a bullet-proof laminate. This laminate, less slippery than the floor itself, could make floor advertising viable, Potok realized.

Potok turned to a graphic artist, George Rebh, a Williams College alumnus, Class of 1973. For the CEO job they brought in George’s brother, Richard, who has a 1976 degree from Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School, and business and law degrees from Stanford.

Because the partners positioned the floor ads as media, manufacturers could pay for the floor space, not from display budgets, but from their advertising budgets — funds that might otherwise be used for print advertising or direct mail. This represented extra income for the store. “By creating an advertising medium that could be purchased, retailers could monetize the media value of their stores,” says Rebh.

With venture capital funding FloorGraphics bought a division of 3M that makes strong vinyl film for the decals. It was a textbook case of successful innovative marketing.

In 2006 I spoke to Rebh again. He was embroiled in a law suit with News Corps. As the inventor of a new advertising medium, he was trying to prove that News Corps had hacked his computer files to get proprietary information. Off the record, he told of his competitor threatening to destroy him.

“Our business is challenged by the fact that we compete with News America, and News America has not competed fairly,”
said Rebh, for the record, then. “We invented a great medium, and a lot of advertisers like us, but their buys get split across News America and ourselves.”

Rebh is silent now, thanks to the $30 million that News Corps paid for his company. Considering that his profit was only $1 million per year at the time, that’s a revealing admission of guilt. Presumably he had to pay his lawyers and split the remainder among his two partners, but still that’s a sufficient amount to buy silence. That would keep me quiet too. The usually loquacious Rebh told the Star Ledger reporter he had to “sit this one out.”

FLOORgraphics is still at American Metro Center. Scott Morgan’s U.S. 1 Newspaper/Princetoninfo.com story offers more tantalizing details. Morgan notes that Richard Rebh (far left in the photo with his brother and Potok) is still the CEO (a surprise to me) and that the name has changed to Entry Point Communications.

As they said as far back as Chaucer’s time, “murder will out,” meaning that a murderer’s presence would cause the corpse to emit fresh blood.

As heads roll from Murdoch’s empire, fresh blood indeed.

The image is a U.S. 1 file photo by Craig Terry. I made some changes in this post after I read the U.S. 1 Newspaper story at 6 p.m. July 19. From what I can figure out from scanty web entries, Entry Point Communications does point of purchase video displays, though I would welcome a correction or more information.

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