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Venture capital firm Ariadne Capital has sued a London public relations company that it says botched an attempt to improve a Wikipedia entry in a campaign that did its reputation more harm than good.
Ariadne and Chief Executive Officer Julie Meyer hired Lansons Communications in 2014 to position it "as a leading investment firm in the U.K." and secure its place "on the world stage," according to Ariadne's legal documents from the suit, which were made available by a London court this month. The goals were never met, Ariadne said.
When Meyer asked how to improve Ariadne's out-of-date Wikipedia page, a Lansons employee sent an email to the online encyclopedia that was posted on the page along with a message that its contents were disputed.
This led to accusations that the firm had tried to "manipulate its own entry" and caused "further negative updates on Wikipedia," Ariadne said in the lawsuit.
Lansons argued in defense papers that any problems with the PR campaign were caused by Ariadne's business being "insufficiently appealing to the media" and by the fact that Meyer "has a poor reputation in parts of the investment industry." Lansons said it acted according to industry standards in trying to amend the page.
"We asked Ariadne to pay our outstanding invoices and they hit us with a joke lawsuit," Tony Langham, the co-founder of Lansons, said in an email. "We expect, eventually, that all of our outstanding invoices will be paid in full."
The suit didn't specify how much Ariadne was seeking in damages other than that the sum was more than 100,000 pounds ($143,000). Lansons has counter-sued for about 76,000 pounds in unpaid bills.
When reached by phone, Meyer said she had not given Lansons permission to write to Wikipedia and was shocked when they did.
"To have an intern contact Wikipedia was not what we paid for," she said. Lansons said a junior full-time executive handled the contacts with the website.
Ariadne said in January that it had started a 150 million-pound investment fund for "digital enablers," fast-growing technology companies that reinventing traditional industries.
Lansons failed to generate sufficient press coverage and meetings with journalists were "random," Ariadne said in court filings. The fund said it stopped paying the 6,000 pound-a-month retainer when it became clear Lansons "was not doing any discernible work."
Ariadne has been involved in a number of legal disputes in recent years, according to London court filings, including suits against law firm Nabarro and Barclays. The London Evening Standard newspaper reported in February that a consultant sued Ariadne over the alleged termination of a contract.
The Barclays suit was a "mistake," Meyer said, and the Nabarro case was a disagreement over fees that was settled.
"I don't like having disputes with anybody," she said. "I'm all about working with entrepreneurs."
Meyer's Wikipedia page describes her as an "American-born adviser, networking expert, broadcaster, and business commentator." She has won awards from the World Economic Forum, Ernst & Young and been named one of the most influential women in Europe by the Wall Street Journal, according to the entry.
Ariadne said in the suit that it was not possible to remove the Lansons email from the Wikipedia page which "will remain tainted and this has caused and will cause further reputational damage which has led to lost opportunities and income."
Wikipedia is a web-based free encyclopedia, built with content provided by volunteers, often anonymously. It is one of the largest reference sites in the world, attracting more than 300 million visitors a month. While Wikipedia editors monitor submissions, anyone with Internet access can write or change an article.