Dear Vistage Worldwide, Providence Equity Partners, and the Vistage Community,
My name is Eran Salu and I was an 8+ year client of Vistage Worldwide, a portfolio company of private equity firm Providence Equity Partners. Vistage Worldwide markets itself as “the world’s most trusted Executive Coaching Company” with an over 60-year operating history and 22,000 executive coaching clients.
In January of 2018, I contacted Providence Equity Partners regarding a series of lawsuits my Company and I are involved in with Vistage Worldwide and one of its Vistage Chairs (Coaches). Since the case had not yet gone to trial, Providence Equity Partners may have viewed my claims as mere accusations at that time and decided not to respond.
I am writing this open letter to Vistage Worldwide, Providence Equity Partners, and the Vistage Community (chairs, members, prospects, speakers, etc.) because, after 3 years of litigation, my Company, Direct List LLC, has won a $2mm + costs and legal fees trial verdict against Vistage’s Chair (Coach). A Federal Court jury unanimously found Vistage’s Chair (Coach) responsible for:
1. Intentional Fraud;
2. Intentional Interference with Prospective Economic Advantage;
3. Negligent Interference with Prospective Economic Advantage;
4. Misappropriation of Trade Secrets; and
5. Violation of the California Comprehensive Computer Data and Fraud Act.
Vistage Worldwide and Providence Equity Partners must now respect that it has been proven in Federal Court that a Vistage Chair (Coach) took confidential information shared in Vistage executive coaching sessions and used that information to steal a Vistage Client’s business. It is time for Vistage Worldwide and Providence Equity Partners to step up and take moral, legal, and financial responsibility for the actions of the Vistage Chairs (Coaches) that deliver their executive coaching services.
As Vistage Worldwide and Providence Equity Partners are aware, my Vistage Chair (Coach) does not likely have the means to fulfill the amounts due on the verdict. In fact, despite the fact that Vistage Worldwide markets its Vistage Chairs (Coaches) as “accomplished business leaders and mentors,” it is highly unlikely that most Vistage Chairs (Coaches) could perform on a multi-million dollar verdict.
If Vistage Worldwide and Providence Equity Partners do not stand behind the actions of their Vistage Chairs (Coaches), then the promise of confidentiality necessary for Business Executives to share confidential information is not worth the paper it is written on and the Vistage Worldwide Business Model fails.
Alternatively, if this is truly a one-time event and Vistage Worldwide and Providence Equity Partners take full responsibility and make reparations, it will only strengthen the confidence of the Vistage Community in Vistage Worldwide and Providence Equity Partners.
Warren Buffet famously remarked that, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.” It is time for Vistage Worldwide and Providence Equity Partners to heed his advice.
Eran Salu, JD, MBA, CPA
Managing Director – JAL Equity