Payfirma boardroom battle ends with approval of company’s sale

Payfirma founder has agreed to leave the company in the wake of merger

From left, Coastal Contacts Inc. founder Roger Hardy, Payfirma CEO Michael Gokturk and Hootsuite CEO Ryan Holmes all sat on the board of Payfirma while the company was embroiled in a proxy battle over a potential reverse takeover | Credits: Richard Lam, Chung Chow, submitted

A boardroom battle entangling some of Vancouver’s most notable names in business has ended with the approval of the sale of the company that sparked the clash.

Shareholders gave to the greenlight to the amalgamation of payments processor Payfirma with an undisclosed buyer on February 14 in a unanimous vote, according to company founder Michael Gokturk.

“This team that acquired Payfirma will take Payfirma to the next chapter, meaning speedier customer service, faster execution for charges, better technology to keep up with online, Bitcoin, regulated environments like gaming and cannabis,” he told Business in Vancouver.

Gokturk said he couldn’t yet share the name of the company Payfirma would be merging with as part of a reverse takeover but he described the buyer as a Canadian payments company with a history of bringing in “senior people from major payments players all over the world.”

In October 2017, shareholders voted to remove Coastal Contacts Inc. founder Roger Hardy, Peer 1 Hosting founder Lance Tracey and Mosam Ventures founder Marc Levy from Payfirma’s board.

The removal came after Gokturk, in a September letter to shareholders, accused Hardy, Tracey and Levy of “self-dealing” and trying to “seize control” of the company by blocking efforts to pursue a reverse takeover deal.

Tracey filed a defamation suit against Gokturk later that month and the two factions continued trading barbs throughout subsequent press releases leading up to the shareholder vote.

The three opposing directors went to court in early October to postpone the shareholders’ vote until the following month.

But an October 6 decision from B.C. Supreme Court Justice J. Christopher Gauer ruled against the opposing directors’ efforts to postpone the vote.

Later that month shareholders voted in favour of Toronto lawyer Paul Pathak replacing the trio while Gokturk, Hootsuite CEO Ryan Holmes and BluePay executive chairman John Rante got the nod to retain their seats in the boardroom.

Gokturk told BIV he resigned as CEO following the sale’s approval but the remainder of Payfirma’s employees will be retained under the new company.

“My weakness is administrating a company or operating it. From a vision perspective and building the product … that’s where my strengths are,” he said.

With his withdrawal from Payfirma, Gokturk said he would focus more attention on the cryptocurrency exchange he co-founded in 2017.

Vancouver-based Einstein Exchange came under fire earlier this year following complaints that customers could not access their money and the company was too slow to respond to concerns.

Gokturk acknowledged the Einstein Exchange garnered negative press after customer growth exceeded expectations but he said the company has taken steps to resolve earlier issues.

“We’re 40,000 customers deep in seven months and it’s grown significantly,” he said, adding the company, which allows people to buy cryptocurrencies with their credit cards, now employs more than 100 people.