My name is Rob Deak. Together with my siblings Lula Malone and Jon Deak we started SafeCig many years ago. This family owned business was built with love, blood, sweat and tear. What little money we had, primarily savings and Lula’s inheritance, we invested into the company which became the only source of income for the three of us and our elderly mother.
When we talk about The SafeCig it is important to remember that this is not a huge company with hundreds of employees or a stock exchange ticker, which might be a worthwhile target for taking over. No, SafeCig is a small company with a dozen or so employees. The majority of those are blue collar workers who earn their living answering phones, packing boxes, and working in the warehouse. Despite its humble beginnings and small size, the company has provided stable income for our workers for years. Today that small dream, a families only income, and the wages of simple people are being threatened monsterous egos, incredible mismanagement, and my own failure of placing all my trust in the reputation of a family name. We will lose everything unless this fight is resolved and we will lose it because of John Cameron.
The media likes to make an indirect comparison between the brothers. In every interview John has done he is referred to as John Cameron, brother of famed director James Cameron – director of Avatar. What a wonderful picture, if the comparisons and abilities did not end with the name we would be in a wonderful place and the SafeCig would still be the thriving business I originally built.
When John came to us, he weaved dreams of great success for the company and the family. No door couldn’t be opened with the Cameron name, and Hollywood would fall at our feet. Distributors would be lining up around the block to buy our product, not to mention the FDA which would come to the table and be willing to be reasonable since they were speaking with the brother of the famed director. Eloquent and persuasive, John convinced us to trust him completely leading to us entering a “Super Group” agreement with him Seamus Blakley and Ryfka Taylor. The agreement allowed these three to come in and work with the company, and in exchange earn equity as they met certain benchmarks. Pretty soon John convinced us that we needed a CEO, someone who could take charge and be the voice of the company – and naturally he was the best pick for this position.
Interestingly John always swore that the day we felt he was leading the company astray or were unhappy with his leadership, he would step down gracefully. And with that promise intact he went about building something that was as far away from an e-cigarette company as possible.
Robert Heggie was hired as the Chief Operating Officer for a colossal salary of $300,000 per year in addition to having his health insurance premiums paid and SafeCig picked up the tab on his apartment. We also paid for him to drive a Cadillac to work everyday in addition to ever expense, no matter how trivial. Heggie was supposed to bring distributor and retail relationships to the table. Everybody as SafeCig is still waiting for the first deal to come through the door, meanwhile plenty of money has flown Heggie’s way.
Seamus Blackley became the de facto and very absent president of the company. Showing his face no more than five times, it became apparent the Seamus’ whole role included making sure that John’s authority was never questioned. In exchange for these “services” Seamus was paid $260,000 in a calendar year, including funds taken illegally and inappropriately from the Seminole Tribe of Florida’s account.
Steve Else, personal friend of John Cameron, was hired as the Chief Innovation (?) Officer and paid $160,000 per year. Health insurance, home payments and cars were standard practice. Steve was tasked with setting up the shipping and warehouse operations, despite the fact that the system we had was working perfectly. A new system was duly installed and it works so well that 1 out of every 3 orders at SafeCig today have to be manually reentered. We pay the highest rates in the industry for shipping and our productivity dropped steadily. Other than the failed shipping mechanism Steve is yet to bring anything of value to the company.
Monica Ord, socialite and marketer was hired and paid $1,500 per day to use her famous black book to bring in white label deals. Ms. Ord is now suing the company after we terminated her for failure to bring in a single client or client connection last year. John wrote in a “golden parachute” clause that gives Ms. Ord a three month severance in the event we let her go.
In all there were over 7 Chief Level executives in SafeCig, plus over 70 new contractors were hired. The overhead for this operation quickly reached over $600,000 a month for a company that, at its prime, was only bringing in $500,000. As the mismanagement of funds continued under the watchful eye of Toya Ayala, personal money manager and long time friend of John, inventory levels got down to virtually nothing and pretty soon sales started to plummet. In a very short while we were making less than $200,000 per month.
SafeCig runs a very simple business. Bring in product, package product, and sell product. We have no need for things like Security Officers, Publicists, Production Managers, three different law firms, or executive assistance (who made upward of $60,000). When things went wrong instead of cutting the fat and reducing the debts John stuck to his guns borrowing money from the James Cameron Trust Fund to tide over the company, and giving away 3% of equity for a loan in the process. When that lasted a few weeks and the company was once again looking at going broke Cameron and his executive entourage dipped into the Seminole Tribe of Florida’s money.
The Seminoles had bought and paid for over $2.9 million dollars in product. They also paid for point of purchase displays and marketing support. To this day not all products have been shipped to the Seminoles, they will never get their POP displays, and all support promised vanished when they refused to pay John an additional $14 million for marketing. Why were they never made whole? Between September and November of 2012, under the direction of John Cameron and supervision of Toya Ayala – SafeCig spent $3.2 million dollars. Much of it was paid out to the executives or for backed up expenses. Product was not paid for, POP was not paid for, and the Seminoles were left hanging without the product they had paid 100% upfront for. I have documented evidence of at least one payment to Seamus Blackley of over $20,000 from the Seminole fund and that John took at least $50,000 personally.
However, who are we as the owners of SafeCig and the original partners to voice an opinion? When our concerns were aired they were brushed aside. Eventually we reached the breaking point and asked John to step down, gracefully as he had promised. He refused.
We soon learned why. Using false pretenses of needing an updated operating agreement to draw in an investor from the East Coast, John had us sign a new operating agreement. Under this agreement he gave 48% of the company to an organization called Homeland Health Inc. Combined with the 3% he had previously given the Cameron Trust Fund, he now had a majority in the company and all his promises of SafeCig always being a family company were quickly thrown out of the window. Ironically we, SafeCig, had paid Homeland Health over $474,000 during 2012 along for “consulting services”.
Interestingly there were never any share documents, never any board meetings or minutes, never any legal process that might have raised questions. Instead, under the watchful eye of Phil Daman – who was another personal hire of John Cameron, documents were drawn up in the middle of the night and we were “required” to sign them. Even more interestingly, John cleared out the safe at the office when disputes arose and to date neither I, nor my siblings, nor my attorneys who have requested access frequently have seen any of the contracts, agreements, or other paperwork stored in that folder. Documents keep appearing magically when needed to support John’s case but the originals, if they ever existed, are long gone.
So now we are in a fight. An unfair once since John has a wealth and famous brother. Unfair because we trusted a name and promises of decades of experience and let John have his way with the company. Unfair because I have travelled up and down the country trying to resolve angry vendors and prevent multimillion dollar lawsuits against SafeCig. All while John and Phil have closed down bank accounts, set up a “new board”, and denied employees their wages. Today my warehouse staff cannot pay rent or buy food because John froze the bank accounts after I issued them paychecks and the new “board”cannot vote to release these funds. Are egos worth a starving family?
I have been accused of “stealing” inventory because I chose to send $1 million of Seminole inventory to their facility in Florida, at their request, because John did not want it sent. I have been “replaced” as a managing member of SafeCig. I have been told I cannot enter the premises where I hold the only lease agreements.
This is a letter to plead for some sense of sensibility to be brought back to the table. John Cameron is not his brother, he is not a businessman, and he has no sense of how to build an organization that will last the test of time. He has taken SafeCig from an $8 million dollar company with $600,000 in savings to the verge of insolvency and over $2.2 million in debt. He continues to want to pay out over $1 million dollars to maintain his entourage. He thinks it is okay to drive a rented car to work from his house everyday at company expense, while maintaining a limousine service on call for the same purpose. He has ruined this business like he has other businesses in the past.
For those of you who have been wondering what happened to the SafeCig, my family and I continue to fight the name and power behind John Cameron to bring back the company. A deal with the Seminole Tribe of Florida is allowing us to sell under a White Label agreement with them on their website. Support has been little and hard to come by and we are very thankful for the few people that do know our plight and have supported us.