Members fighting against sale of MEC say planned COO hiring conflicts with Canadian company values

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Members of Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC) fighting against its takeover by a US investment firm say the hiring of an executive of a US company that makes shoes for the military and police comes into play. conflict with company values.Jay Taylor who is currently listed as the CEO of LALO Tactical on his webpage, is online to be president and chief operating officer of MEC if the sale goes through Kingswood Capital Management, the Los Angeles-based company confirmed to CBC News in an email.

So far 2,400 MEC supporters have raised more than $ 100,000 for a legal fund to fight the takeover, but the deal could be approved as early as Monday at a court hearing in Vancouver.

News of the potential hiring created a buzz on social media this weekend, infuriating members of Save MEC, a band trying to stop the sale from the Vancouver retailer and organize a counter offer.

“It’s shocking to me,” said Jackie Pierre, a 10-year Vancouver MEC customer and member of Save MEC. “It’s so far from what [MEC] is originally known. ”

Jackie Pierre from Vancouver is a client of MEC and a member of the Save MEC group. She is shocked that an executive from a company with military and police ties comes to MEC. (Submitted by Jackie Pierre)

MEC’s ​​values ​​include democratic collaboration, social and environmental responsibility, stewardship, and most recently, diversity and inclusion. Those who want to end the sale of MEC – the largest cooperative in Canada – fear that the arrival of a leader with military roots is a bad match for the brand and could endanger the culture of the company.

LALO Tactical, based in San Diego, was established in 2009 “ to meet the needs of special operations forces“They make specialty boots with names like ‘Intruder’, sold in colors like Black Ops and Ranger Green.

Although it also manufactures sports shoes, LALO Marketing Instagram leans heavily towards the army and the police.

In an open letter last week, Kingswood assured MEC customers that the brand’s values ​​would be protected.

But Pierre and other Save MEC members, including Kevin Harding, say Taylor’s potential hiring sends a different message.

“If this is how Kingswood intends to honor the values ​​of MEC, I am deeply disappointed,” said Harding of Vancouver.

A former Taylor social media post is also cited as evidence of the inadequacy.

The members of Save MEC are not the only ones who fear that the company’s values ​​are at risk. An advertising expert warns Kingswood that he could harm the iconic business he wants to buy.

Culture shock seen through the prism of social media

Kingswood confirmed to CBC on Saturday that Taylor attended meetings in Vancouver last week as part of “preliminary discussions” with “major suppliers and new executives at MEC.”

Taylor’s history with LALO is alarming to some members of MEC.

Jay Taylor has been with LALO Tactical since 2013. The company’s social media posts showcase the military and police, displaying not only his shoes but also his weapons. (LALO Tactical / YouTube)

The company, which counts a former US soldier among its founders, claims that LALO stands for “Light Assault Lo-Vis Operator, an agile, swift and tactical special forces operator.”

Numerous company Instagram posts show his boots are worn by heavily armed men in combat settings, or by men in police uniform with guns.

Captions for some articles include: “I have a very strict gun control policy; If there’s a gun around, I want to control it, “And” Locked, armed, and ready to switch. «

Another police representative said ” Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called children of God. ”

The reactions on the Save MEC Facebook page have been strong.

One member described LALO’s Instagram feed as “particularly shocking to those familiar with MEC’s ​​philosophy.”

Another, who claimed to be part of the hunting and gun community, called Taylor a name and said the executive and LALO were “absolutely not the right fit.”

This posting (scrambled by CBC) came from a member of the group concerned about the hiring of Jay Taylor to the MEC leadership team. It was featured on the Save MEC Facebook page over the weekend. (Save MEC / Facebook)

There is also a strong reaction to a post from Taylor’s own little used. Instagram account in 2016.

In it, Taylor responds to the murder of a group of police officers known as “Dallas 5.” The gunman was an Army veteran who said he wanted to kill white officers to show his anger at police gunfire on black men.

Taylor’s post suggests that people should buy a T-shirt to support the families of deceased officers.

The post includes the hashtags #livesmatter, #policelivesmatter and #bluelivesmatter.

This post was posted on Jay Taylor’s Instagram account in July 2016. Members of the Save MEC group say this shows that its values ​​do not match the MEC brand and culture. (Jay Taylor / Instagram)

Although it mentions a more inclusive hashtag, #oneteamonefight, it doesn’t mention #blacklivesmatter.

At the time, the Black Lives Matter movement was already three years old and police shootings against blacks were increasingly part of public discourse.

For Jackie Pierre, it is a moving image.

“You know, this guy for me rings the guns, All Lives Matter, Blue Lives Matter,” she said. “Anyone who makes these decisions is obviously not showing solidarity with people of color. “

MEC supporters put pressure on creditors

Pierre said if Kingswood’s offer goes through and Taylor is hired, not only will she stop shopping at MEC, but she will stop doing business with RBC, which is one of MEC’s ​​main creditors.

MEC lost $ 11 million in its most recent fiscal year. COVID-19 has further weakened the business this year and its management has accepted the sale.

The Save MEC movement put pressure on the company’s creditors, in particular RBC, to provide loans to MEC long enough for the group to present a counter-offer.

WATCH | Why MEC could perish, regardless of the sale to an American investment firm:

Members of Canada’s largest consumer co-op say the deal goes against its business principles. 5:26

The group hopes that drawing attention to the brand’s legacy values ​​and the direction the company would take under the new owners will encourage RBC to include public perception in its assessment.

Nearly 50 years old, MEC has 5.4 million members and 22 stores across Canada. More than 135,000 people have signed an online petition to end its privatization.

An accomplished framework

Responding to concerns from Pierre and other members of Save MEC, Kingswood said in an email to CBC that she has a “deep appreciation for what MEC stands for” and will operate according to MEC’s ​​values.

He also said Taylor is “a longtime Vancouver resident and member of MEC” and an “accomplished executive in the outdoor industry”.

In addition to his expertise in “product innovation, development and manufacturing, as well as sales and marketing,” the press release describes his past experience as a ski shop owner in British Columbia.

Taylor’s LinkedIn profile also describes his leadership role in the running shoe company Hoka One One for nearly three years.

He says he was responsible for launching Hoka in North America and the Asia-Pacific region before negotiating the sale of the brand to another company.

Taylor did not respond to a CBC request for comment or an interview.

Risk the brand

Toronto-based advertising executive Denise Cole has worked with iconic Canadian companies like Roots and Lululemon, as well as international mega brand Coca-Cola.

Co-founder of ad agency Juliet Creative, she said she thinks Kingswood should be concerned about the reaction to her offer for MEC.

“A brand is certainly only as valuable as people’s belief in it, in what it stands for,” said Cole.

Denise Cole of Toronto advertising agency Juliet Creative says MEC is built on a “community basis” and disrupting that community could seriously undermine its value. (Submitted by Denise Cole)

MEC is built on “a community basis,” she said, and disrupting this community could significantly harm the sales and value of the company in the future.

Cole said she believes MEC’s ​​most loyal customers will accept an American owner as long as they feel the owner is listening to them.

“And I think the outcry we’re seeing from the most active consumers and the most active members of their base is putting them at risk. “

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