Atlanta’s Black-Owned Business Community Reacts To The Firing of TK Peterson and The Lawsuit Between The Co-Founders of The Gathering Spot vs. Greenwood
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 24, 2023CONTACT:
ATLANTA, GA -We, the community of Black entrepreneurs, creators, disruptors, executives, artists, and forward-thinkers of Atlanta, are committed to innovation and culture. The Gathering Spot (TGS), founded in 2015 by Ryan Wilson and T’Keel (TK) Petersen, created something special that honors the true essence of Atlanta. TGS provided a meeting ground for politicians, entrepreneurs, creatives, and community builders of this city’s culture. Through TGS, we forged connections that transcended a physical space, and this community has expanded to major cities such as DC, LA, and beyond.After the acquisition of The Gathering Spot by Greenwood Inc. in 2022, the mission of the community we hold dear - “To create a world where opportunity is the byproduct of community and collaboration” - has been disrespected in ways we cannot tolerate. Based on these actions, we will no longer gather in a space and place until and unless it becomes safe for or trusted by our community once again.We believe in our community. Though brought together in many ways, by The Gathering Spot, our community and its collective genius and power are more significant and loom larger than the TGS space, TGS founders, TGS acquirers, or the current divisions that have shown it in a negative light.Our community stands for equity.
Our community stands for safe spaces.
Our community stands for Black entrepreneurship.
Our community stands for innovation.
Our community stands for excellence.
Most of all, our community stands for one another.We will not stand for an assault on the integrity of our community. This is a message to the world that the Atlanta Tech, Startup, Political, Entertainment, and Business Community persists in unity and excellence. Atlanta got somethin’ to say:“We still gather.”
Please join us by entering your name, email address, and phone number below to ensure that while we figure out what's next together, we remain deeply connected, resilient, and supportive of our beloved community. We will release more information shortly on how #WeStillGather.
In 2021, when speaking to Forbes, the CEO of Greenwood Inc., Ryan Glover, said “Greenwood … will not be predatory in any way. We will be at the opposite end of the spectrum of how institutions have traditionally treated the underserved communities in the country.”However, Greenwood’s actions speak differently. TGS Founders, Ryan and TK, have alleged very serious and concerning actions by Greenwood following the acquisition of The Gathering Spot; including fraudulently removing money from Greenwood Inc. in the form of personal bonuses. This is outlined in publicly available court documents filed as part of the lawsuit(s) on behalf of The Gathering Spot shareholders. We do not have the information necessary to weigh in on the veracity of either these allegations, or recent statements made by Greenwood founders to the media concerning potential misconduct by TGS Founders. We hope that a just, swift, and transparent court process will shed more light on the actions of all parties in a way that brings healing to our community. What we do know is that the dispute between The Gathering Spot and Greenwood has unearthed information about Greenwood that makes the company seem like an opportunistic play to enrich its founders rather than truly create wealth in the Black community.First and foremost, we know that Greenwood Inc. is not a bank, despite early marketing and representations by the company at formation that it was a “Black-owned bank.” This deceptive marketing is even more egregious when considering the company is named after the wealthy enclave of Black-owned businesses that existed in Tulsa, OK before it was razed by racial violence. In fact, Greenwood “is a financial technology company…[with]...Banking services provided by Coastal Community Bank.” In the video below, co-founder Killer Mike participates in an interview that repeatedly calls Greenwood a “Black-owned bank,” which was misleading to consumers.
All money that users invest in Greenwood bank becomes part of the holdings of Coastal Community Bank, which is located in Washington State. Coastal Community Bank has no publicly known Black or minority leadership. Coastal Community Bank also has no publicly known Black or minority ownership. The leadership team of Coast Community Bank is pictured below.
Coastal Community Bank (holder of all Greenwood funds) Leadership Team
In fact, Greenwood Inc. itself has very little Black leadership. The dispute with The Gathering Spot led to the news that all Gathering Spot General Managers have been asked to report to Michael McClosky, the recently hired new CFO for Greenwood Inc. Whatever Mr. McClosky’s resume, his management of The Gathering Spot as a whole indicates a departure from the culture that made this space unique and safe for our community.In response to this news, Greenwood purposefully misconstrued the leadership of Greenwood to appear more committed to community than its actions demonstrate in a late-night reactionary email on July 15th. In this email, Greenwood did not disclose that in addition to the CFO, both the COO and the CTO of Greenwood Inc. are white males. The CFO, COO, and CTO are the only C-Suite Executives of Greenwood known to us outside of CEO Ryan Glover - and Chief Community Officer Ryan Wilson, who is currently engaged in a legal battle with the company. These C-suite executives are pictured below.
Greenwood Inc. Executive Leadership
Not only did Greenwood misrepresent its leadership in the July 15, 2023 email to The Gathering Spot membership, it also misrepresents its leadership on its website (screenshot below).
The website includes Lynn Cherry, who is no longer employed with Greenwood, as well as a VP - and does not include any of the white Executive Leadership team. It also terms these listed parties as the “Board and Management Team.” However, even Greenwood’s actual Board of Directors, which has 11 members, only has 4 Black members - 3 of whom are the founding team.Greenwood Inc.’s Board of Directors
• Ryan Glover (Co-founder and part owner)
• Paul Judge (Co-founder and part owner)
• Andrew “Bo” Young (Co-founder and part owner)
• Gardiner Garrard of TTV Capital
• Omar Eissa of Bank Of America
• Richard Lee of Bank Of America
• Terry Wu of Bank Of America
• Jakub Konieczny of Truist Ventures
• John Knott of Truist Ventures
• Christina Russ of Truist Ventures
• Jeff Meyers of Citi Ventures
Greenwood Board of Directors Pictured Below (without co-founders and part owners)
Greenwood has acquired 3 Black-owned companies - Kinly, Valence, and The Gathering Spot - and has not awarded board seats to any of the Black leadership of those businesses. The leadership of Greenwood Inc. does not reflect the “Black Wall Street” of Tulsa that it has styled itself after at all. Nor does it honor the legacy of George Floyd, whose murder was used by Greenwood founders to raise millions of dollars in capital.Even when considering the actual work that Greenwood has done in the Black community since its launch, it has fallen woefully short, showing itself to be little more invested in our community than any other entity under white control. In 2021, CEO Ryan Glover stated to Forbes that “Greenwood will identify qualified entrepreneurs, business owners and creatives and equip them with the bank capital they need to grow their businesses to make their dreams a reality,” says Glover.” To date, outside of acquiring businesses like The Gathering Spot in whole, Greenwood has not publicly awarded or even loaned capital to Black entrepreneurs.Following this kerfuffle, Greenwood has refused to speak directly to The Gathering Spot membership in Atlanta, LA, and DC TGS locations about the current situation. Greenwood has also ignored requests for a Town Hall with members, showing an unjustifiable lack of concern for the community. The alleged actions of Greenwood showcase poor behavior towards our community that, unfortunately, has been the historical practice of some bad actors - including a Greenwood founder - in our community. Greenwood has shown that, contrary to website claims that “Greenwood is a Black owned system developed by us, for us,” Greenwood actually has very little Black leadership or investment in our community.We stand together as a community, despite the actions that have shown a blatant disregard for our history and culture, and demand that Greenwood Inc. actually take steps to do what it raised $90 million dollars by claiming it would: “close this racial wealth gap once and for all.”We demand following:• Greenwood Inc. remove Ryan Glover and Paul Judge from the business, force the repayment of any unearned benefits, and forfeit any unvested equity that either have in the company
• Greenwood Inc. form a relationship with a banking partner that has Black leadership
• Greenwood Inc. bring Black leadership into its C Suite
• Greenwood Inc. publicly disclose all shareholders in the company
• Greenwood Inc. provide an accounting, to the public, of any money spent in bonuses and salary payments to employees
• Greenwood Inc. provide a list of Black vendors with which it currently works - if any such relationships exist
• Greenwood Inc. share any plans it has to acquire a banking charter
• Greenwood Inc. provide an accounting, to the public, of any money from the almost $90 million dollars it has raised that has been spent with Black businesses, vendors, consultants, and communities - if any such payments exist
• Greenwood Inc. provide an accounting, to the public, of any grants made to Black-led organizations and entities - if any such payments exist
• Greenwood Inc. hire a Chief Equity Officer, or other similar role, to ensure that the interests of the community that Greenwood claims to serve are taken into account with all executive decisions
• Greenwood Inc. lay out its 5 and 10 year plans to create wealth in the Black communityIf Greenwood Inc. cannot comply with these demands, we then demand that:• Greenwood Inc. change its name immediately
• Greenwood Inc. remove from its branding, marketing, and positioning that it was created to serve the Black communityFurther, if Greenwood Inc. cannot comply with these demands, our community commits to:• Mass cancellation of any memberships with The Gathering Spot
• Mass cancellation of any accounts with Greenwood Inc.From,
Members of The Gathering Spot Community
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