16 APR 2013: Simon Bala died on Sunday at a Scarborough, Ontario, hospital from complications of diabetes and subsequent cardiac arrest. He was 60 years old. If the name is familiar, it should be, Bala was at Conquest when it failed and after being doggedly pursued by TICO, he was convicted last years of various trust and working capital violations.
Bala, a former vice president of Conquest Vacations Inc. was convicted on one count of failing to maintain trust accounts contrary to section 27 of Regulation 25/05 made under the Ontario Travel Industry Act, 2002, and also convicted on one count of failing to maintain the minimum working capital required contrary to section 24 of the Regulation.
He was fined $25,000 for each count for a total fine of $50,000. As well, he was required to pay $100,000 in restitution to TICO, $50,000 of which was paid at the time of sentencing, with the balance due in 30 days.
Bala was also subject to a two year probation order, which included paying the balance of the $50,000 restitution to TICO within in 30 days.
TICO did not seek a jail term for Bala out of consideration for his health issues.
Bala began at Conquest under founder Robbie Goldberg. In late 2007 when, after 37 years at the helm, Goldberg moved on, a management team headed by COO Errol Francis and CFO Bala were believed to have taken over. Rumours at the time had other industry high-flyers also involved in the sale though that, if true, never came to light.
It took less than a year and a half for the new owners to shut the doors. In April 2009 after months of rumours, speculation and gossip, the Toronto tour operator posted a statement on their website, saying it regretted the ‘inconvenience’ caused to its customers, and blamed overcapacity and price wars among the major tour operators, “that have made it difficult to make money” and also the “unrealistic and unreasonable demands by the credit card processing companies”.
Conquest’s statement also said the “credit squeeze and economic turmoil of recent months made it impossible for companies like Conquest to continue in business, “even after weathering many storms over the past 37 years”.
Approximately $1.9 million in claims were paid out of the Ontario Travel Industry Compensation Fund to assist consumers.