Lawsuit could derail work of South Florida millionaire in stopping child
LexisNexis parent company suing for violating non-compete;
Hank Asher countersues for $1.06 billion
By Brian Haas
South Florida Sun-Sentinel
4:42 PM EDT, July 5, 2009
A South Florida man is at the center of a billion-dollar lawsuit that he says
has hindered his efforts to help law enforcement find child predators.
Millionaire Hank Asher, who lives west of Boca Raton, is being sued for
undisclosed damages by the London-based company Reed Elsevier, owner of the
LexisNexis information clearinghouse service and Asher's former business
partners. Asher, who founded the public record and counter-terrorism company
Seisint, sold his stake of the company in 2004 to Reed Elsevier in a $775
million deal and signed a non-compete agreement.
The lawsuit in Palm Beach County Circuit Court accuses Asher and his new
company, called TLO, of violating that agreement, in part because of his work
with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
"During the past I would say six months or so, he's been going around
calling all our customers and saying things in the press about how he's got
this revolutionary new product," said H. Lamar "Mickey" Mixson,
attorney for Reed Elsevier. "It sounds like he not only plans to compete
with us, but may already be competing with us."
The company is asking a judge to stop Asher's activities and to extend the
non-compete clause, which is set to end Sept. 1, for another 25 months. It is
also asking for unspecified damages.
Asher disputes that he violated the agreement. And his co-workers say the suit
is muddling their efforts to catch child predators with the National Center
for Missing and Exploited Children. He is countersuing for more than $1
billion in damages.
"He has no products to compete with," said Asher's attorney, Jim
Carrol. "The sole activities that he's involved in have to do with the
protection of children in conjunction with the National Center for Missing and
Asher has long supported the center, helping develop database software to
track down child predators. And his deal with Reed Elsevier even has an
exception to allow Asher to work with the center. The center was founded in
1984 by America's Most Wanted host John Walsh, whose son was abducted from
Hollywood and later found murdered. The organization helps find missing
children and track down child predators.
Mixson said that Reed Elsevier has no interest in interfering with Asher's
philanthropic work, but believes that Asher is secretly marketing a competing
Steve Racioppo, chief operating officer of Asher's TLO, said despite Reed
Elsevier's intentions, the lawsuit is making police agencies hesitant to work
with the company. This, in turn, limits what the center can accomplish.
"Many of them are kind of standing on the sidelines to see what's going
to happen in the lawsuit," Racioppo said. "We could probably be
doing more, faster, more completely, more successfully."
Asher has countersued, saying Reed Elsevier is trying to kill competition in
the public records database market by trying to extend the non-compete
agreement he signed. He says the company is also trying to move in to charge
the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children for the services he has
been offering for free.
Asher is asking for about $1.06 billion in damages in his countersuit.