Behind the PHOTON Europe Insolvency: Photovoltaic Meltdown?

PHOTON marred by allegations of mismanagement, union busting, conflicts of interest, extraordinary arrogance, and even megalomania.

PHOTON_Holdingstruktur_Organigramm_250_680 I first heard about the impending insolvency of PHOTON Europe GmbH in the twin posts over at photovoltaik and pv magazine on December 6, 2012, Saint Nicholas Day.

Last Friday, a PHOTON press release was issued by the court appointed bankruptcy administrator, attorney André Seckler, titled “Photon-Insolvenz: Geschäftsbetrieb der Solarstrom-Fachzeitschriften wird fortgeführt” roughly translating to Photon Bankruptcy: Solar Energy Magazine Business will continue (Google English). Mr. Seckler claims the next print edition of PHOTON – Das Solarstrom-Magazin is on track for publication in January and the website will be maintained and updated. Mr. Seckler also claims he is working to secure the positions of the remaining 140 employees, and the employees believe in PHOTON’s future and are committed to saving the publication. While the financial position of PHOTON Europe is under assessment, the attorney expects outside investment will be required and has already been contacted by interested parties.

Digging deeper, I’ve heard anonymous reports of employee discontent building the past few months over late payment of salaries, benefits in arrears, unreimbursed expenses, and abysmal communication from management about the concern’s financial situation and potential summary liquidation. The same sources allege PHOTON piled up huge debts to employees and freelancers in unpaid wages, benefits, or expenses resulting in lawsuits, arbitration claims, and labor complaints lodged in Germany and the United States.

Per “Ärger um Kündigungen beim Solarverlag Photon” (Google English) by Wolfgang Schumacher for the Aachener Nachrichten newspaper, the German employee union believed recent layoffs at PHOTON targeted unwanted or undesirable employees and were not caused by solar industry consolidation. Three frustrated PHOTON employees attempting to organize a work council in late October were terminated without notice the day before the first organizational meeting to elect leaders. Subsequent organizational meetings were stalemated by the presence of PHOTON company loyalists and one employee who did not follow the company line was promptly dismissed. The question of union busting tactics on the part of PHOTON management is now a matter for the German courts to decide separate from the insolvency proceedings.

The PHOTON Group corporate structure consists of five (5) businesses under the PHOTON Holding GmbH umbrella: PHOTON Europe GmbH, PHOTON Laboratory GmbH, PHOTON USA Corp., PHOTON Power AG, and PHOTON Consulting LLC. All the subsidiaries are wholly owned by PHOTON Holding GmbH except for a 40% stake in PHOTON Consulting LLC held via PHOTON Holding Corp. It’s unclear if these businesses are insulated from the insolvency of PHOTON Europe. Reliable though unconfirmed reports claim PHOTON USA was evicted from their office last month at 514 Bryant Street, San Francisco, California USA, and has already folded with around eighteen (18) or so employees resigning or dismissed since the start of the year.

I was recently directed to PhotonWatch – kollektiver Watchblog zur Photon-Gruppe or the collective watchdog blog about PHOTON. The blog seems to support every worst suspicion or allegation regarding PHOTON’s controversial positions or conflicts of interest over the years. I’m still sifting through the rich and salacious content with Google Translate at the ready to supplement my German vocabulary. One theme easy to verify at the PHOTON website and on PhotonWatch is the mix of journalists involved with both the press publications and commercial enterprises such as PHOTON Laboratory and PHOTON Power.

Communication with management at PHOTON International and PHOTON Consulting LLC has not been acknowledged. Thus far, PHOTON is uncharacteristically quiet on PHOTON.

Attorney Seckler’s confidence in continuing the PHOTON Europe publications was questioned by sources believing too many talented editors and journalists had already fled never to return. All my sources requested anonymity because of aggressive, vindictive lawsuits by PHOTON against anyone speaking their minds with the media. Even Bloggers I suppose.

While it may be very complex, I don’t believe it will take five years to unwind the PHOTON insolvency like “Solar Millennium: Investoren schauen in die Röhre” (Google English). But this is just getting started.

3 comments

  1. Lisa says:

    It’s the result of deep rooted problems in a press group so arrogant as they thought they are the kings in PV and the world wouldn’t continue to turn around if they weren’t anymore … so arrogant that they thought also the whole world wants to read Photon magazines, with mainly translations, as well. Before the launch of the french magazine (and newsletter as well, I guess), they were looking for months for (I think) the ideal editor in chief and editors … but what did they turn up ? they probably didn’t want to pay te salary a competent person requested but they used instead translators (many), not all of them technology aware and therefore not giving always a good rendering of the subject and even this in an approximate french, to submit the short news taken mainly from news releases, and for the rest, they used a lot of the german base articles and translated them, even the editorial … even if the latter was specially written for the french readers, it was at the end only a translation, and even not a good one … so ; no wonder, if they fold over too little subscriptions .. I, for myself, always wondered how they did it to get that many ads in that magazine

  2. Ron says:

    Let’s face it, Photon has gone the way of the industry!

  3. INSOLVENCY: Photon Laboratory GmbH, Germany

    News issued by the court appointed bankruptcy administrator, attorney André Seckler on April 19th 2013

    Wide-ranging examination of the liability of the supervisory body of a large enterprise following insolvency damage totalling millions of Euro.

    read more: http://www.photonwatch.blogspot.de (in german language)

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