February 28, 2024

Taylor Daily Press

Complete News World

“We are turning to AI and ChatGPT to translate and write articles.”

“We are turning to AI and ChatGPT to translate and write articles.”

The media company of Paul Giessens and Wouter Verschelden has shut down the Business AM radio station after a year, and employees have been waiting for invoices or wages for months. What's going on with the business empire of Paul Giessens, who also owns construction company Ghelamco and Antwerp Football Club?

Bruno Strois And Dimitri Thijskens

Employees of MediaNation, the parent company of Business AM, are taking legal action against directors Paul Gheysens and Wouter Verschelden. Some have sent directors a notice of default, a first step in legal action, and others have already gone to court. The reason is simple: they have been waiting for their wages for several months.

VRTNWS reported this based on anonymous testimonials, which have been confirmed the morning. Freelancers also have to deal with deferred invoices. “I know that for some there are tens of thousands of euros in late payments,” says one source. “Vershelden herself is still waiting for money, too.”

Based on what a former employee said, the payment problems have been going on for several years. “It went from bad to worse,” he says. “That would be a zombie company: it's still struggling, but it's barely standing on its feet.”

Paul Gheysens, the financier behind MediaNation, talks about a “reorganization.” He says he has downsized the company from 55 to 12 employees.

“The reason for this is simple: we are the first in Flanders to turn to AI and ChatGPT to translate and write articles,” says Giessens. the morning. He did not provide further details about how this happened. “Some have held their position for too long, but that is not a problem. Positive cash flow means we will meet all obligations.”

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Business figures at MediaNation don't care about that. Since 2018, the value of shares has declined and the company has only accumulated losses. In the last four years alone, there has been a loss of more than 10 million euros, all of which has been offset by Giessens. He has already pumped nearly €20 million into MediaNation.

Wouter Verschelden himself will also be waiting for money.Photo ID/Levin Van Assche

He was the former editor-in-chief of the morning Wouter Verschelden who in 2014 She created the NewsMonkey brand to reach young people in particular. This was not a huge success, and several new media brands followed, one more successful than the other: the Flemish version of NewsweekHealth and travel-related websites, and Business AM, which focuses on financial and economic news.

Since January, there has also been Business AM Radio, mainly at Paul Gyssen's insistence. Less than a year later, the plug will be pulled: from January, radio will only broadcast repeats. According to Gheysens, the project is only “on hold”, waiting for a more suitable advertising market.

“Until recently, a radio station could collect €2 million a year in advertising revenue, but there was nothing left,” says Giessens. “Then you have to come to your conclusion in time.”

Glamco and Antwerp

On the other hand, experts point to problems with Gheysens' main business, the construction company Ghelamco. As a result, he cannot continue to cover losses in his other projects, and the money tap is shut off. the morning I previously reported about the problems at Ghelamco. The reason is that commercial real estate is going through a recession. “Initially, borrowing became more expensive due to the increase in interest rates and tougher credit conditions for banks and bondholders,” says financial expert Pascal Pipin (KU Leuven, savesvarkens.be). “In addition, office real estate has become less popular since the COVID-19 pandemic and working from home.”

The bond loan is still being repaid in our country, but otherwise the market in our country is not interesting, which is why Ghelamco is now focusing on Poland. The company needs those bond loans to pay off its debt. Due to the decline in value and the losing lawsuit, Glamco recorded a net loss in the first six months of this year and debts increased.

“These alarm bells are not good news,” says Pascal Pipin.

There will also be an impact on FC Antwerp, which has grown rapidly into a top club under Giessen, partly by bringing in expensive players and managing the likes of Marc Overmars and Mark van Bommel. Gheysens has now postponed its planned €47.5 million capital increase by several months. It has recently emerged that Antwerp has canceled its winter training for “practical and financial reasons”. Clubs go to warmer locations during the winter break to complete more comfortable training sessions.

Within the club there is potential for good transfer fees for players like Arthur Vermeeren. According to Gheysens, there are no concerns about Antwerp's capital increase and there will be another installment before the new year.

It must be said that Antwerp has already been fined €2 million this year for non-compliance with Financial Fair Play rules. “They demand that income should largely cover costs, while Giessens has made Antwerp a big club by always making up the deficit itself, which is a kind of financial doping,” says sports economist Trudeau DeJong (University of Leuven).

Gheysens also denies there are problems at his construction company Ghelamco, saying: “We have a lot of assets that we can cash out if necessary, and we have bonds in Poland that will be paid off in January.” Wouter Verschelden does not answer questions, but forwards a statement from Dominic Tanaka, CEO of MediaNation. “Everyone knows that the economy goes through ups and downs. We still believe that there is a place for critical journalism in Flanders.