By Harry Keaney
The already uncertain future of VirtualIreland.com, the New York-based Irish-American community website, has become even more gloomy with its parent, Virtual Communities, failing to issue paychecks to staff last week.
Virtual Ireland editor-in-chief Brian Rohan confirmed that the company did not issue a payroll but he insisted that the website was still "alive and active."
In addition to Rohan, the Virtual Ireland editorial team includes two other editors, Stephen McKinley and Noreen Bowden, and webmaster Kristen Geiger.
Although Rohan said he could not speak about the intentions of other staff members, he said he believed "we will continue working on the site. The fact of the matter is that we are committed."
"I have no plans to stop working on it," Rohan said.
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He said the company was still looking for purchasers and had talked to a number of other companies.
"We are still actively courting buyers," he said. "We are expecting to sell the site and keep it running under a new buyer."
However, Virtual Communities may be obliged to cease operations if immediate financing cannot be obtained, according to internet news reports.
News about the uncertainty of Virtual Ireland’s future first emerged last July when Virtual Communities announced the layoff of 50 employees, a third of its staff. Apart from Virtual Ireland, Virtual Communities has four other ethnic sites, VirtualJerusalem.com, VirtualHolyLand.com, VirtualItaly.com and VirtualIndia.com. None of those layoffs affected Virtual Ireland.
But last week, Virtual Communities announced layoffs of another 40 workers after failing to secure new financing. Virtual Communities is changing its strategy from managing online communities, such as the Virtual Ireland website, to the more lucrative development and sale of CORTEXT, which is content-management software for the web.
Virtual Communities, with a ticker of VCIX, is quoted on the Nasdaq small cap market. Shares closed last Thursday, the day of the announcement of the latest layoffs, at a year low of 1/32, off a 52-week high of $8 13/16.