Milestone Systems Admits IPO Plan Lie

By John Honovich, Published Feb 27, 2015, 12:00am EST

Now wholly owned by Canon, Milestone's CEO admitted that they lied about not planning an IPO in 2014, as we reported at the time.

The Claim

To IPVM in 2014, Milestone said, "There are no plans for this right now" and "We continually assess our options for the future of the business."

At the company's 2014 event, they made a big show of not planning an IPO, declaring:

“We’re not preparing for an IPO this week, in two weeks or two months. An IPO is not on our plate at this time.”

and:

"Milestone CEO Lars Thinggaard said going public is something Milestone may do and it “will be great if it ever happens,” but that the company “had not decided to do that.”

The Admission

Now at the 2015 event, Milestone came clean:

"Although [Milestone's CEO] couldn’t share insights about the initial public offering (IPO) that Milestone had been planning prior to Canon’s purchase of the company last year, Thinggaard on Tuesday did discuss their thought process and how they arrived at the decision that partnering with Canon would result in a better outcome than going public."

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Milestone CEO's excuse:

“There is a lot of legal confidentiality to these processes as you know, so I could not go out and confirm anything.”

No Comment Instead of Deception

So instead of simply saying 'No comment' or 'We don't comment on rumors', etc., he decided to manipulate and deceive.

That was Milestone's choice. They could have went the 'no comment' route, which would have been truthful, but they saw the short-term business benefit of deceiving their partners, customers, and the community.

Be Skeptical About Canon 'Independence'

Now, Milestone wants you to believe them about the next critical company issue - remaining 'independent'.

Indeed, at the company's 2015 event, they continued to hammer home that Milestone will be independent, despite being wholly owned by Canon and despite Canon's 'plan' to acquire Axis.

When the day comes that Canon, as 100% owner, decides to cross-sell / combine Axis and Milestone (which Canon would have to be incompetent not to eventually do), surely Milestone's CEO will have another excuse or perhaps will be retired, enjoying the good life, leaving that to a new person to spin.

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Milestone CEO Book: Why He Aborted the IPO and Chose Canon on Sep 15, 2015
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Milestone's 2014 Financials Revealed on Jun 15, 2015
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Comments (17)

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Just typical corporate speak...Axis announced at their Kick Off event just 2 weeks before the Canon announcement that they were Definitely NOT for sale...

Corp.management believes this type of talk will keep employees and customers from bolting.

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"Corp.management believes this type of talk will keep employees and customers from bolting."

They are probably (mostly) right about this, ethics aside.

It's a shame that it's an effective tactic.

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Agreed!

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Though with many of us that lack of ethical behaviour will be remembered.

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Although I am not condoning lying, it may be slightly more complicated than you portray, for a couple of reasons.

1) prior to the 'lie' there were numerous reports of an IPO in the works, apparently leaked one way or another, by someone with knowledge.

2) the 'lie' was an effort to discredit this leak, because of the perceived negative impact to the process itself.

Still a lie but not simply a gratuitous one.

'No comment' is not much of an option here. Because it is similar to the case where a court room defendant, trying to avoid perjury, is asked the following:

  • Did you kill your husband in Dallas? Heavans no, I've never even been there!
  • Then maybe in Memphis? Absolutely not!
  • But what about Los Angeles? I would like to take the 5th.

Point being that when you have truthfully denied an IPO several times in the past, to change your answer suddenly to "No comment" is as good as a confirmation.

Furthermore, as brutal as it might sound, as CEO his loyalty is to the shareholders first. I think that most people understand this is the way it works sometimes, and are unlikely to condemn him for it.

As for your main point about trusting him that Milestone will remain independent, I think that you should believe it as far as it makes sense, but no further.

And in this case he is not even the one who is making the decision...

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"'No comment' is not much of an option here."

That's wrong. No comment is a common tactic here. A company can use a more polite of version like, "As a private company, it is our policy to never comment on such matters. If or when we ever go public, we will follow the law for appropriate disclosures."

I am not commenting on your murder analogy since no one here is being accused of murder.

Finally, I agree that Milestone's CEO is not making the decision about Milestone's ultimate future, another manipulative tactic that he/they are taking. In truth, it's up to Canon, as we discussed here.

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Its just business, not deception..

I think John is being a bit harsh here, opinions such as this do not help the industry, I wouldnt mind reading a more positive spin on things like this, it often seems negative/bashing for the sake of creating an article to spurring a thread or reaction in comments (which may be done just to increase search rankings etc)

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You can certainly feel free to offer a more positive spin. What is your positive spin on this?

As for search rankings, you are missing something about how they work. (1) This content is almost entirely behind a paywall which search engines rank poorly. (2) Moreover, high search engine ranks depend largely on links from other sites. Since this is critical of a major player and is behind a paywall, it's extremely unlike it is going to get many links.

It's a fact that Milestone publicly declared that they were not planning an IPO while they were indeed planning one.

It's my opinion that it's deception, it's your opinion that it's just business. We are both entitled to them.

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It's actually really irritating to me to suggest that deliberately lying should somehow be more tolerable because "it's just business".

It like when that group of teenage punks in your area break the law, and the parents just write it off as "well, boys will be boys"... give me a break.

Let's not call it opinion, either. Deception is pretty absolute.

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Let's not call it opinion, either. Deception is pretty absolute.

Yes, it's deception. Yes, it's business. Business sometimes involves deception.

And it was beneficial in this case for shareholder value to keep the lid on it. And it wasn't illegal, just deceptive. So he did it.

Anyway I think that people's retrospective perception would have been largely the same even if had said only "No Comment". People would still feel, looking back at it, that he was evasive and not forthcoming, in either statement.

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Thanks for the feedback.

Our position is that 'no comment' is appropriate and ethical, unlike outright lying. Some will feel differently, but I don't see 'no comment' as being evasive. Companies are under no obligation to answer any questions to the media or the public. Many do answer questions because they hope it will be beneficial or they believe it is prudent since the information will get out regardless.

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Brian, it might be just like the behavior of the teenage punks that can be traced back to the parents parenting skills in most cases....those speaking for the business may not know everything coming down the pike.....poor parenting or deception by design?

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Keep in mind Milestone's CEO is the one making these claims.

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I understand but....I have sat on a corporate board, not as a CEO, but as a CFO and beleive me, things go on within that structure that sometimes surprise the CEO. I and the CEO worked 2 years to bring a company back from the brink and the first board meeting that we reported "in the black" we were replaced by a major stock holder and his wife. It was a surprise. This CEO also reported 2 weeks prior to leaving that he had no intention of leaving and the new CEO reported to the media that he had resigned for a better position and took me with him.

Just saying that this could be deception by design and not the CEO's design.

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The board usually does 'surprise' the CEO when they are replacing him. When planning/road showing an IPO, on the other hand, the CEO is the main actor and would have to be a part of it.

Besides he admitted it already. Or is he lying about knowing?

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I might be 'just' business, but it doesn't change the fact that it's still deception.

Milestone can choose this over just saying 'No comment', but then don't expect me to not any have sincere doubts when they try to convince me that they will still be independant in the future as clearly deception just to earn some bucks, isn't something they shun.

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I have to agree with you here John. Its too common today to dismiss deception, little white lies that only walk a grey line, that kind of thing.

You are either truthful or you are not. Milestone could have done the right thing and said nothing about it (no comment, etc) - rather they chose to mislead - and that eats away at a company, or person's credibility.

But then again, that really depends on what your meaning of the word 'is' is. Right?

Just because little lies are "acceptable" to some, it doesn't mean it's right.

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