TNCI To Pay Agents Through Reorg

Trans National Communications International Inc., a privately held reseller and VoIP carrier based in Boston, will continue to pay commissions and honor agreements with its indirect sales agents during its reorganization. 

The service provider filed Oct. 9 for protection under Chapter 11 of the U.S. bankruptcy code. In its filing, TNCI reported more than $13 million owed to its top 20 unsecured creditors, which primarily are the resellers underlying network providers, including Sprint, AT&T Qwest/CenturyLink and Verizon as well as numerous CLECs, including PAETEC, One Communications (now part of EarthLink Business), XO Communications and Covad (now MegaPath).

Indeed, the bankruptcy filing was made to address outstanding carrier issues,” said TNCI spokesperson Jeanne Duca in an interview Wednesday with Channel Partners.

TNCI, which was founded in 1991, relies on its indirect sales channel of approximately 250 master and direct agents for 100 percent of its sales, Duca said.

She noted that since the filing, TNCI President Brian Twomey, along with key members of the TNCI sales and management teams, have been engaged in calls with TNCI agents both one-on-one and on an open conference call Tuesday afternoon. Duca said nearly 100 participants attended the open call wherein Twomey reviewed the basis for the filing as well as the protections afforded agents and customers during the process.

Questions regarding commission payments and the ongoing service to customers were top on the minds of agents as one might expect,” Duca said. Several agents indicated that they intended to continue to support TNCI with future business, citing their confidence in the company based on the history of the relationship and the lengths to which TNCI has always gone to ensure the best for them and for their customers.”

Bill Power, CEO of the Agent Alliance, a group of 17 telecom agents that share a contract with TNCI, said he is encouraged by conversations with TNCI management.

Weve been assured TNCI will continue to operate without interruption to customers and agents and that all financial commitments to the channel will be met,” Power said in a prepared statement. A workgroup of Agent Alliance shareholders, including legal counsel, is in place and will be closely following the situation to ensure that the interests of our collective subagents and customers are protected.”

An automatic stay provision provided in a Chapter 11 filing prohibits TNCI’s carrier suppliers from making changes to current services, contract terms or rates during this period. 

The Agent Alliance has banked heavily on the success of TNCI, creating an equity program for the alliance and other telecom agents in June 2008. The plan was heralded at the time for TNCIs ability to get to a transaction. Twomey pointed to the successes of its parent company, Trans National Group, and its founder and chairman, Steven Belkin, a serial entrepreneur who may be best known as one of the owners of Atlanta Spirit LLC, the parent company of the Atlanta Hawks basketball team and the Atlanta Thrashers hockey team. Belkin founded his first company in 1974 and nearly 30 other companies, including TNCI, since then. Twomey said 14 of these were sold.

Duca said the equity program itself is not impacted by the reorganization. Agents that have earned equity will retain that percentage. As to the value of that equity, Duca said once TNCI emerges from bankruptcy a healthier company, the value may not take the expected hit. It will, however, necessarily delay time to transaction, she said. The original plan was for the company to be sold in 2011.

Twomey and other TNCI executives will be attending the Channel Connect event sponsored by master agency Intelisys this week as planned. Twomey will use a scheduled presentation to answer questions from Intelisys partners about the Chapter 11 filing and process, Duca said.

Duca also said that agents will be kept in the loop through the reorganization.

As TNCI moves through the process, ongoing communication with TNCI agents will include follow-on one-on-one discussions as well as additional conference calls open to all TNCI agents,” she said.

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