First, Hitler. Next, serial killer t-shirts…

When a controversy about Nazi-related images on t-shirts is largely contained within the blogosphere, it is easy for companies to pretend that it’s a small issue. But if coverage then extends to the front pages of national newspapers, then it can become a major reputation problem.

Blog outrage about Hipster Hitler t-shirts on RedBubble led to criticisms of CEO Martin Hosking, who is also chairman of global construction collaboration technology vendor Aconex – see my 1 June post. In addition to the numerous comments on that post, I also received emails about other questionable RedBubble-marketed garments: baby and childrens’ clothes with images of serial killers on them. Other email recipients included journalist Susie O’Brien of the Australian newspaper, The Melbourne Sun Herald (print circulation c. 430,000; readership 1m+), which reported the story on its front page yesterday (11 June), and it is now being carried on several other news outlets in Australia; it has also been shared over 600 times on Facebook and on Twitter and LinkedIn.

However, it remains to be seen if this latest storm will impact on Aconex; the article did not mention Mr Hosking by name (though he has been mentioned online, eg: here), nor his other business interests. The next few days could be interesting….

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    • Befuddled on 12 June 2011 at 5:53 pm

    It amazes me that intelligent, cultured, educated business people even manage to get linked to people like Martin Hosking. Fransisco Partners injected a huge amount of capital into Aconex – does this not say something about the homework they do before handing over such large sums of money? Do they not look to see who is at the helm of the businesses they support?

    • HJ on 13 June 2011 at 5:09 am

    Too funny. Just when Stormfront thought they couldn’t buy this type of stuff anymore from him off RedBubble they still can!! Didnt one of the links say it would take up to six months of complaints before he would take offensive stuff for sale down. Come back to bite right royally that policy has. A well deserved walloping for Aconex too for turning the blind eye.

    • Ruben on 13 June 2011 at 8:01 am

    Based on the links in your two posts, the products he has been selling are an utter disgrace which, Pardon my French, makes him a fool or a rogue to sell them. Aconex are going to have to change their name to Ass-clownex.

  1. Hi! I am the person who originally raised the issue of Aconex Chairman Martin Hosking selling, via his other business RedBubble, racist and anti-semitic merchandise when I wrote to Arnold Bloch Liebler and other directors of Aconex. You might note that Redbubble and Hosking have made the news now re other merchandise hosted and sold there as well eg:

    To follow is an email that I sent yesterday to the Anti Defamation Commission and other organisations, including directors of Aconex. Please feel free to use this information in any way that suits you and your publication. If this information does not suit and article you might write, could you please publish a suitable extract from it as a “letter to your publication from myself”.
    Thank you,
    Kallena Kucers

    Kallena Kucers 10 June 2011 14:07
    Reply | Reply to all | Forward | Print | Delete | Show original

    Dear Mr Block

    I am most grateful for the work of the ADC in persuading Martin
    Hosking to remove the Hipster Hitler designs from sale on RedBubble.

    I am the person who on 11 May wrote to each of the partners of ABL and
    “blew the whistle” on RedBubble’s sale of these products (copy
    attached). I only wrote this letter after months’ of protests on
    RedBubble by many members, including members with a deep personal
    experience of the Holocaust, had failed to convince Mr Hosking to act.
    The next day ABL’s Senior Partner, Mr Mark Leibler, completely
    disassociated his firm from Redbubble and its promotion of “pro-Hitler
    merchandise”. Several weeks later, after publicly defending the
    merchandise via several media outlets, Mr Hosking relented and agreed
    to remove it. In the end, I believe it was a combination of factors:
    the ADC, the leadership of Arnold Bloch Leibler, pressure from Aconex,
    media attention, and increasing public outcry that finally convinced
    Mr Hosking that he needed to stop selling these pro-Hitler t-shirts.

    Unfortunately, this is not the end of the story. The same day that
    ABL declared they would cease to act for RedBubble, RedBubble blocked
    my access to my accounts on RedBubble for no other reason than I had
    been the one to raise the alarm by writing to the ABL partners. My
    work remained on display and offered for sale by RedBubble in breach
    of my intellectual property rights. My attempts to get an explanation
    and resolution (e.g. by removing my work from sale while I had no
    access to my accounts) were, contrary to all normal RedBubble policy,
    ignored. Finally, I wrote to Martin Hosking personally on 7 June and
    received this response the next day:

    From: RedBubble Objections

    Date: Wed, 8 Jun 2011 17:28:16 +0100

    Subject: Your Account/s on RedBubble


    Hi Kallena,

    We are writing in response to your questions regarding your

    accounts on RedBubble. Your accounts were suspended while we

    investigated activity linked to your membership of RedBubble. We

    have today taken the decision to close your accounts on RedBubble

    as per your request. We ask that you do not open or operate any

    accounts on RedBubble in future. Any further accounts found to be

    operated by you will be closed without notice.

    The RedBubble Support Team

    This says two things to me, and to the many other RedBubble members
    who have been involved in protesting, or who have been following this
    story, over the past months and weeks

    1. Martin Hosking regards my raising valid concerns about
    anti-Semitic content on RedBubble as deserving of retribution and
    permanent banning from involvement in the site.

    2. Martin Hosking made the decision to remove Hipster
    Hitler t-shirts from sale not because he believed it was the right
    thing to do to show sensitivity on this sort of merchanidse, or I
    might be thanked for my role in helping him reach the right decision,
    but because he was forced to do so begrudgingly by external pressure.

    Many other members who raised concerns about anti-Semitic content
    continue to have accounts suspended and their posts expressing concern
    deleted while Mr Hosking has not expressed the slightest regret for
    having sold these pro-Hitler products for so long nor for his
    treatment of people who complained about him doing it.

    This is a very disappointing outcome. It shows an extreme lack of
    understanding by Mr Hosking of right and wrong in relation to the
    pro-Hitler merchandise he sold. Punishing those who raised a valid
    concern strongly discourages future genuine complaints and raises
    serious issues about how anti-Semitic or other offensive content on
    RedBubble will be dealt with by Mr Hosking in the future.


    Kallena Kucers

    cc ABL partners

    cc Aconex directors

    cc Simon Wiesenthal

    cc Whistle Blowers Australia

    3 attachments — Scan and download all attachments
    877K View as HTML Scan and download
    hipsterhitler designs.doc
    873K View as HTML Scan and download
    880K View as HTML Scan and download

    • Anon on 13 June 2011 at 11:55 am

    Getting more and more interesting……………..
    …..wonder if the Aconex Chairman can answer the letter above which, if for real and the end of the story, undermines his integrity completely.

    • Jane Boyd on 13 June 2011 at 6:54 pm

    As a business woman, I cannot imagine Aconex will continue to jeopardize their reputation through an ongoing association with Martin Hosking. The damage to his reputation won’t go away quickly – having your name linked to products that promote neonazism, child abuse, serial killing and who knows what else is pretty difficult to bounce back from. I’ll be watching Aconex over the next few weeks to see what their response to all this is.

    • Anon on 13 June 2011 at 10:53 pm

    Try typing “Aconex + Hitler” into Google
    gives “About 4,630 results (0.08 seconds)”
    ….up from 1,780 results 10 days ago as someone commented in the June 1 post

  2. I wonder what Aconex’s clients like this

    think of his activities?

    There is a lot more on the Chairman of Aconex’s activities here

    • HJ on 14 June 2011 at 6:32 am

    As a subscriber to FirstRain – Seeking Alpha, “market intelligence on companies you invest in” used by investment professionals worldwide, I just noticed the first two results for Aconex Limited are stories about the Hosking/Hitler story.

    Nice work Aconex, if you have no plan ever to raise capital again or to have an IPO.

    Schmucks x n^100

    • lol at this on 14 June 2011 at 6:54 am

    If any of you Redbubble users are reading this, have you thought of a mail out of press clippings about and sample products sold by the Aconex Chairman to the right people at the companies listed here
    That would put some gasoline on the fire.

    • Anon2 on 14 June 2011 at 6:56 am

    aconex + hitler is now at
    About 4,740 results (0.14 seconds)
    90 more than last night

    • Goldie on 14 June 2011 at 7:22 am


    The requested site could not be loaded 451 The access to the address above is restricted. According to our harmful content database SiteCoach does not allow you to visit this page!

    I tried to read and a post comment from work on your new story about Martin Hosking’s t-shirts and Aconex but could not even read the comment thread!

    “According to our harmful content database, Sitecoach does not allow you to visit this page. An error has occurred while trying to open the page .”

    I can’t read what’s being said! What does that say? I can see there is a snail tail of un-stories about him in Google about Hitler, Nazism, lawyers quitting, Pay Pal investigating and ADC discussions and taking offensive merchandise down. The explanation for all this may be just bad management rather than any malice, but either way the “snail trail” leads back to Aconex which he is the head of as Chairman.

    • Man in Maida Vale on 14 June 2011 at 7:34 am

    Paul, excellent two posts – well done for bringing these stories to the SaaS community. Good to see Aconex get their nose bloodied. They are a bit arrogant: “the most widely-used online collaboration platform in the world” is just a crock of ___, so good to see their Aconex’s Chairman come a cropper with the press over his Hitler t-shirts and killer babysuits.
    Question for you though: is this the first time anyone to do with SaaS for construction, construction extranets has ever made it onto the front page of a newspaper for anything?

    1. I cannot recall anyone from the SaaS construction collaboration field achieving such prominence, no (though it has to be said that Mr Hosking has not achieved notoriety for his SaaS-related exploits).

      Trade magazine coverage has been the pinnacle of coverage for most SaaS collaboration vendors – though there has been some national newspaper coverage (I recall BIW getting some column inches inside the FT and Daily Telegraph a few years ago) – but even the trade magazine coverage has dropped off in recent years. This is partly due to declining interest in SaaS collaboration – it was novel and therefore “news” back in 2000, but not any more – and partly due to the lower amount of editorial space given to construction IT in today’s straitened times (there is less editorial coverage of every sector, not just IT, as industry display and recruitment advertising revenues have dwindled).

        • a former competitor on 14 June 2011 at 10:39 pm

        This nice post and the previous one were forward to me. I used to work in a SaaS competitor to Aconex in 1999-2005.

        Two observations:

        1. Nazism is one of those things like child porn or hard drugs that you cannot afford to be associated with in any way if you want a senior place in serious business. Some of Martin Hosking’s t-shirts may be in jest but some are very sick too. Hard to see an excuse for him unless he had no idea, but all his defending of it negates that.

        2. Your comment about media or and non-coverage makes me think that SaaS for construction may be a dog that has had it’s day. Same old value propositions, same old press releases, same old same old. It’s mid 2011 and not much has changed in 5 years. Is there any sizzle left in this industry?

        1. The construction collaboration technology sector has certainly struggled to achieve the media prominence that it enjoyed in the early 2000s, and – in my view – is about to face some new challenges as construction begins to embrace building information modelling (BIM) more whole-heartedly. Managing the “i” in BIM is one potential role for the vendors, and this may put some ‘sizzle’ back into the sector, but it may also prompt a shake-out as some vendors may not be able to provide the necessary support to BIM-enabled project teams.

    • Geoff M on 14 June 2011 at 12:15 pm

    The guy is radioactive according to a Google News of his name with 22 current news stories on Nazi trouble or Hitler kids outfits and it is even gone on into foreign language news sources,or.r_gc.r_pw.&fp=bca6a0e6cb4e12d2&biw=1024&bih=516

    Hosking and Aconex is not as bad and only brings up 9 articles in Google News all about the Nazi clothing stuff,or.r_gc.r_pw.&biw=1024&bih=516&q=hosking+aconex&um=1&ie=UTF-8&ncl=dJLsffKb2E1OOYM9L697NYMl7EI7M&ei=3U_3TZnJG5CWvAOOs5SDDA&sa=X&oi=news_result&ct=more-results&resnum=1&sqi=2&ved=0CCoQqgIwAA

    • Alison Withers on 14 June 2011 at 10:59 pm

    When does a protest cease to be a protest and instead become an act of vengeance and vindictiveness? IMO it is when the issues have been resolved, but protestors continue to bring down everything and anything in a person’s life.

    Martin Hoskings has a wife and children who have already become the innocent victims of this battle, unfortunately that part of collatoral damage couldn’t be avoided in order to achieve the key aims of the protest, however, as one of the members in the group of people who fought to have both the Hipster Hitler clothing range, and the repulsive images and slogans on the children’s clothing resolved, I would like it to be known that I am not associated with any further actions those continuing to protest are doing.

    I think that Martin Hosking, and possibly his family, have suffered enough.

    IMO there’s a time to fight, and a time to stop fighting, the difference between a legitimate protest becoming a personal vendettas, is knowing when to stop.

    Now I have work to catch up on that has been neglected throughout the duration of this protest, and there are other important issues and Causes, which need to be addressed and fought for.

    • Epic Facepalm on 15 June 2011 at 1:10 am

    Front page news epic facepalm for Aconex
    Their Chairman is now best known for selling super-offensive clothes in his other business. Hitler on a babysuit or Nazi android or serial killer kids clothes. Illegal in many places. The the stink will linger around Aconex for years to come, long after he’s gone now, because of his past association. There are pictues of thus guy on the web to do with Aconex. Ugly mess, and epic facepalm.

  3. Im a employee, not going to say more than this. The gossip at Aconex is a mix of try to pretend its not there, laugh at the story and demoralisation. It’s a new thing now to have to worry about in talking about Aconex to customers or friends with the Chairman in a scandal that people read about in the Herald Sun. The reporting was way over the top attack placing OBL and Hitler baby suits side by side on the front page of the newspaper but it was done and that is what people read.

    • Anon on 15 June 2011 at 9:03 am

    Makes me laugh, I mean getting busted selling these tees. What could the man have been thinking? Funny? Avant garde? New niche? Absolutely effing hilarious, beer out through nostril stuff that he is the Chairman of Aconex too.

    • Anon on 16 June 2011 at 1:32 am

    Google Aconex + Hitler
    “About 4,810 results (0.21 seconds)”
    up by about 70 new results in past 2 days

    • Anon on 16 June 2011 at 5:55 am

    I work at an Australian based competitor to Aconex (there are two, so I’m keeping readers guessing). These two stories about Aconex are the best two posts ever on ExtranetEv. If you could only see how much we have laughedabout this,
    a few ghooduns…just joking! ::))
    Why has Aconex sold so well across the Middle East? They heard about it first buying the Chairman’s t-shirt range
    What is going to be the next marketing tag line for Aconex? The Final Solution.
    Who is going to be the next Chairman of Aconex? Lars Von Trier

    • Anon on 16 June 2011 at 8:11 am

    Joke doing the rounds around today for Aconex’s new marketing tagline
    “Project Success. Easy as Aconex.” to become “Aconex. The Final Solution.”

  4. Hi Paul,

    Thank you again for doing such a comprehensive follow up on the issues surrounding Redbubble, specifically in regards to the baby wear.

    It’s a shame that Redbubble had to be pressured into making an ethical decision by so much media exposure and possible investigations, into why they were selling adult only content on baby and child wear.

    As I have told you through e-mail, I am a former member of the art site and also the person who provided information to the media and chid protection organizations regarding this matter.

    Susie O’Brien from the Herald Sun Melbourne contacted me shortly after receiving my letter to her. With the information I provided her, she subsequently wrote an article which has appeared all over the web, and was additionally printed on the front page of the Herald Sun.

    As a means of explaining to people what drove me to write my letter and contact various news agencies, I have done a write up in my blog.

    “Blowing the Whistle on Redbubble’s Serial Killer Baby Wear”

    Thank you again for taking an interest in this issue.

    Kind Regards,

    Tatum Wulff

  1. […] no mention of the reasons behind the resignation, but, as previously covered in this blog (1 June, 12 June), Aconex has recently been drawn into media controversies regarding RedBubble merchandise through […]

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