Tulsa’s Journal Record – a business publication we on the “fringe” have accused of being little more than a bulletin board for Beautiful Brands press releases – has posted its first-ever negative story about the company and the CEO it usually treats with awe and reverence.
Journal Record writer D. Ray Tuttle had previously written about Beautiful Brands International as if it were Tulsa’s entrepreneurial Camelot, elevating BBI founder David Rutkauskas to iconic status (“From Sports Star to Businessman…” wrote Tuttle).
Now even Mr. Tuttle is having to come to grips with the fact that behind the glittering BBI façade he, the Journal Record, Tulsa World, and Fast Casual (among others) helped to erect lies a wasteland of broken dreams, lost investments, soured partnerships, abandoned concepts and failed franchises.
As recently as January, 2013, the Journal Record was promoting the mythical success story of BBI’s continuous record-breaking growth and franchise success, stating “In 2012 alone, BBI opened 114 stores and has 79 new stores under construction. It has a total of 297 locations around the world, including franchised units for CherryBerry Self-Serve Yogurt Bar, Camille’s Sidewalk Café, Rex’s Chicken, and FreshBerry Frozen Yogurt Cafe.”
BBI websites, in fact, indicate the chain has fewer than 100 remaining locations. More than 2/3 of its Camille’s Sidewalk Café franchises have failed. The Journal Record has ignored repeated requests to correct the many factual errors about the success of BBI still viewable on its website.
Perhaps after this article, Mr. Tuttle will begin to dismantle the BBI myth his publication helped to create.
Here are some excerpts from today’s Journal Record story Beautiful Brands drops blogger lawsuit:
Beautiful Brands drops blogger lawsuit
By D. Ray Tuttle, The Journal Record
Posted: 08:31 PM Thursday, June 20, 2013
TULSA – David Rutkauskas, owner of Beautiful Brands International, did an about-face this month.
Beautiful Brands dropped a lawsuit against a blogger who for months has blasted the franchising company on the Internet.
At the same time, Rutkauskas published an apology to Sean Kelly, the blogger and creator of UnhappyFranchisee.com. Rutkauskas wrote the apology on his personal blog.
“Well, I just want to move on,” Rutkauskas told The Journal Record on Thursday. “I have put it past me. I’m off doing other things. Investing. I’ve started a couple of new companies.”
Kelly, using his blog, had been critical of Rutkauskas, a Tulsa-based restaurant franchiser and consultant. Kelly also contacted officials at the Tulsa World and The Journal Record, asking why the media outlets were publishing only glowing articles about Rutkauskas.
Rutkauskas dropped the lawsuit because, as he told The Journal Record, over the last several weeks he’d talked to people who know him well.
“They convinced me this was guy (Kelly) was fringe,” Rutkauskas said. “The mainstream is not interested in what he’s doing.”
Rutkauskas said there was nothing to gain in a lawsuit against Kelly.
“He will continue to mock me for whatever I do,” Rutkauskas said. “He will put it out there. The lawsuit seemed pointless.”
Tuttle then quoted Jonathan Fortman, the defense attorney in the lawsuit, who said someone must have talked some sense into Rutkauskas.
It was clear that Rutkauskas was shredding what reputation he had left and running his company into the ground with his vindictive, baseless lawsuit and self-destructive Twitter rants.
The feud gained local notoriety after Urban Tulsa Weekly on June 5 published a story in which Fortman claimed a Tulsa World reporter was providing Rutkauskas with background information on Kelly. Rutkauskas made the case even more visible when he took to Twitter with harsh, vulgar criticism of Kelly. He later deleted the tweets.
In his apology, Rutkauskas said that over the last few months he’s not been himself.
“I’ve said many horrible, vulgar and hurtful things that I’m so ashamed of,” he wrote. ”I know my apology can’t undo what I’ve said and can’t overcome the shame and embarrassment that I’ve caused, but from the bottom of my heart I want the world to know that I’m sorry!”
Kelly said his mission was to get the truth out.
“I have no financial stake in this or an agenda,” Kelly said. “Part of it is that I am sick of seeing people being taken advantage of.”
Rutkauskas said he was ready to put the issue to rest.
“I’ve apologized, I got off Twitter, it is time to move on with these others things I am excited about,” Rutkauskas said.
Writer D. Ray Tuttle noticeably avoided stating that David Rutkauskas’ apology cited heavy drinking after many years of sobriety as a main factor in his vicious Twitter attacks.
He also failed to mention that the issue that started the dispute was that Rutkauskas continues to sell franchise investments of hundreds of thousands of dollars, while threatening those who lost their investments in his deals to remain silent.
We hope that Mr. Tuttle will do future stories on these important issues – and will tell us what “new companies” David Rutkauskas has started.
Here on the “fringe,” we sincerely hope those companies don’t involve selling franchises.
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TAGS: Ray Tuttle, Journal Record, David Rutkauskas, Beautiful Brands International, BBI, David Rutkauskas Twitter, Robert Sartin, attorney Robert Sartin, Barrow & Grimm PC, Unhappy Franchisee lawsuit, Sean Kelly Lawsuit, David Rutkauskas lawsuit, BBI lawsuit, Beautiful Brands lawsuit, SLAPP lawsuit, jon Fortman, Jonathan Fortman