Livedrive's Andrew Michael is not your average storage CEO.
Storage CEOs are generally dependable, earnest and businesslike. They don't fly Grammy Award-winning popstars over the Atlantic to sing at their girlfriend's birthday party and they don't generally have a stopped cheque dispute with a gambling club. Neither do they hire the UK's most famous kiss-and-tell publicist, Max Clifford, to do the PR for their storage product.
Andrew Michael has done all these things. He made a reported $46m from selling Fasthosts, the small business internet hosting company he founded ten years ago, when he was aged 17, in 2006 to a German ISP. Since then he has become a bit of a celebrity on the social scene and started up a new storage company called Livedrive which stores your data in a Livewire facility giving you internet access, and can also keep local copies on your PC or notebook, caching them, so you can work offline as well as online.
The celebrity scene activities are becoming newsworthy right now. Last month it was reported that he'd stopped two cheques for the Clermont Club in Berkeley Square, a one-time haunt of Lord Lucan, one for £300,000 and another for £200,000. This was to pay for chips used in gambling at the club. He wrote the cheques shortly after joining the club in February this year. When the club presented them for payment the bankers refused as the cheques had been stopped. The club filed a High Court action to recover the money.
Max Clifford said that he'd talked to Mike Smith, the finance director at the Clermont and, after a couple of meetings, the issue was cleared up to everyone's satisfaction. The Clermont is no longer suing Andrew Michael, and he is not suing the Clermont Club.
Michael said: "We spoke to them and the disagreement was resolved. The money has been paid."
Michael flew R'n'B singer Usher to sing at his girlfriend Katy Teague's 26th birthday party in the Paper club in London earlier this year. He is said to be a friend of Pete Doherty, the former boyfriend of supermodel Kate Moss.
In 2003 he had Mis-Teeq, the Cheeky Girls and Louise Redknapp appear at his staff Christmas party. The next year a coachload of youngsters visiting his grand house near Cheltenham were entertained by Rachel Stevens, Girls Aloud, the Sugababes and Big Brovaz.
Now he's gone and engaged Max Clifford Associates as Livedrive's PR agency. Clifford is known both as a broker of kiss-and-tell stories and also as a man skilled in damage limitation and concealing harmful stories. Clients or story subjects have included Pamella Bordes, Rebecca Loos, Shilpa Shetty and many others. Clifford also created the notorious 'Freddie Starr Ate My Hamster' story for the Sun.
Simon Cowell is a Max Clifford client and the MCA website says: "He knew that his eye for the ladies left him in danger of being perfect kiss and tell fodder. Clifford’s unique combination of protection and publicity helped control his image and cement his place as one of the world’s most successful music moguls."
Michael said that Nick Cowell, Simon's brother, has put money into Livedrive. Simon Cowell has not.
Concerning the Livedrive product Michael said: "We're not the only people doing this. Everyone is predicting things are going online. There's Google's G: drive... we pretty much copied what they're talking about... and Microsoft has a product they're testing. Ninety percent of the products out there are rubbish... A lot of people who do have a [virtual] drive don't cache... people aren't going to use them for their main storage."
"We think we have a better product than Microsoft's LiveMesh product that's in beta. Basically it doesn't work, it's so slow."
"We haven't seen the Google one [but] we suspect it will be mass-marketed and advertising-supported. We've tried to build a product for business use."
The Livedrive product technology looks good, but it may be overshadowed. Will the news about its livewire CEO, his lifestyle, and his celebrity PR agent eclipse the Livedrive product news? Ordinary tech PR may never be the same again. ®