Robert Bonnier, the colourful entrepreneur fined for market abuse in 2004, quit as the chief executive of Future Internet Technologies yesterday and agreed to take its consumer business off its hands.
The former UBS banker, who took charge of the AIM-listed shell company in March, still owns about 25 per cent of FIT.
The single biggest shareholder, John Morley, the son of the Miss World organiser Eric Morley, also steeped down as an independent FIT director. He owns about 20 per cent of the shares, which are suspended at 36.75p.
In return for its nascent internet telephony business, Mr Bonnier agreed to take on £3m of FIT's liabilities, £1.2m of which are already due. He will be paid £100,000 by FIT to help cover development costs. Should he sell the consumer business within three years, Mr Bonnier would be liable to pay FIT up to £15m.
The unnamed business, which is yet to be launched and generates no revenues, will remain privately owned. It is understood that FIT considered this a far riskier bet for investors than its company-centred operations.
FIT is still in talks to acquire Advance Global Communications, a Dallas-based internet telephony company, and is trying to agree final terms to buy the 51 per cent of Artilium, a Belgian developer of telecoms technology, that it does not already own. FIT's executive chairman, Paul Gratton - the former head of Prudential's Net bank Egg - will run FIT.
Mr Bonnier, the co-founder of the online directories business Scoot.com, is no stranger to controversy. In December 2004, he was fined £290,000 by the Financial Services Authority for market abuse over his dealings in the serviced office provider Regus.Reuse content