In a followup to a Current investigation (Aug. 23 and Sept. 7), the New York Times reports today (Nov. 22) that Mykalai Kontilai, the new owner of Nightly Business Report, agreed to leave the instructional programming business in 2000 and paid $250,000 as part of the settlement of a fraud suit. Kontilai confirms making the payment but denies agreeing to step out of the field.
Ronald Reed, former president of AGC/United Learning, an educational content provider that has since become part of Discovery, told the newspaper: "We felt, from our point of view, that it would be best not to have him in the industry," after discovering "what we considered to be inappropriate business practices." Reed added that he was surprised to learn five years later that Kontilai was still in the business. He declined further comment, citing a privacy agreement.
Atalaya Capital Management, a New York investment company, provided financing for the show's purchase, which Kontilai said was "well over a million dollars." Atalaya's other investments include Creative Loafing, an alternative weekly newspaper chain.
In his more than 10 years of distributing educational video to public television stations," the newspaper added, "Mr. Kontilai, 41, left a trail of ill will and claims of hundreds of thousands of dollars in unpaid debts. Stations ended contracts early with a company he ran but did not own, citing unfulfilled obligations."
The newspaper cited more than a dozen people who have done business with Kontilai, who each questioned "whether his new endeavors would end with the same sort of problems that plagued his previous public television efforts."