On Monday, a press statement released on PRWeb.com announced that Google was purchasing ICOA Inc., a broadband wireless Internet network provider. According to PRWeb.com, Google paid $400 million to buy out ICOA, further diversifying their “already impressive portfolio of companies.” Shortly after this announcement, many news sources began to speculate what such a move could mean for Google.
ICOA provides both wired and wireless connectivity all over America, including Wi-Fi hotspots in airports, camps, hotels, and other “high-traffic” locations where people may need a connection to cyberspace.
Google has already moved into the market with a partnership with Boingo Wireless, sponsoring free Wi-Fi hotspots in some 4,000 locations. During the month of September, any Android user was able to access these hotspots for free, a move which was meant to support Boingo’s new sponsorship model, giving web access away for free in exchange for some ad placements. However, while the Internet was still trying to understand Google’s angle in spending $400 million for Wi-Fi hotspots, some ICOA executives quickly spoke up, saying the news of the acquisition was a hoax.
Erwin Vahlsing, Jr., ICOA’s chief financial officer said the news was “false.” Although Vahlsing Jr didn’t elaborate on these claims, chairman and CEO George Strouthopoulos had plenty to say in emails to both PCMag and TechCrunch.
“This is NOT TRUE!!” wrote Strouthopoulos in his email. “Never had any discussions with any potential acquirers!! This is absolutely false!”
“Someone, I guess a stock promoter with a dubious interest, is disseminating wrong, false and misleading info in the PR circles,” he added.
Now, even Google is acknowledging the news isn’t true.
As the dust settles, some are beginning to wonder if this news should have been believed in the first place.
“It’s much easier to say it in hindsight,” writes Ingrid Lunden with Tech Crunch.
“But it did seem fishy that a Google acquisition of $400 million — potentially kicking off a whole new area of business for the company in its nascent role as a network service provider — would be announced in the form of a press release from the company without any statement from Google,” she noted–while the press release was still up on PRWeb at the time of Lunden’s comment, it is now no longer available.
The errant presser does seem official enough: It included a link to ICOA’s Web site, as well as a description of their business. PRWeb has yet to give any statement explaining how this false press release was published or who had sent it to be published.
While PRWeb is remaining quiet on the issue, Strouthopoulos has said he intends to report this incident to the proper authorities. After all, nothing makes returning on a Monday after a long holiday more exciting than putting out the fires sparked by a false rumor that your company has been acquired by a search giant such as Google.
November 27, 2012