ALL POSTSCraig TractenbergDzana HomanFox RothschildFRANCHISE BULLYINGKids FranchisesSCHOOL OF ROCK FranchiseTutoring franchise

Open Letter to Rick Elfman and Sterling Partners

Sterling Partners, through their attorney Craig Tractenberg of Fox Rothschild, is threatening web publisher Sean Kelly with a personal smear campaign and a crushing lawsuit if he does not remove unflattering comments about made by Sterling Partners’ School of Rock franchisees from Kelly’s from UnhappyFranchisee.Com website.  Here is Sean Kelly’s reply.

(UnhappyFranchisee.Com by Sean Kelly  Rick Elfman and Sterling Partners has threatened to wage a war against me and my family.

They have vast financial resources and some of the nastiest, most expensive attorneys money can buy.

I have the truth, some very good friends and a fierce and relentless hatred of bullies of all kinds.

Rick Elfman, Sterling Partners and Craig Tractenberg may not realize it yet, but they are the underdogs in this fight.

Here’s my reply to Sterling Partners.


Sent 6/9/17 to Rick Elfman via email

Rick Elfman

Managing Director

Sterling Partners

401 N Michigan Ave

Chicago, IL 60611


Dear Rick:

Ever since the first complaints by School of Rock franchise owners appeared on my UnhappyFranchisee.Com website, I graciously offered you, CEO Dzana Homan and executives at Sterling Partners the opportunity to provide rebuttals, clarifications, corrections or other statements you would like to make.  School of Rock franchise owners made serious complaints that under the ownership of Sterling Partners, and certainly under the direct management of the CEO you hired, the quality of franchise support and the attractiveness of the School of Rock franchise opportunity has greatly diminished.  Numerous franchise owners  (not the handful that CEO Homan claims) have alleged that Dzana Homan has replaced a once-vibrant, collaborative and creative company culture with one akin to living in a police state, where franchise owners fear sharing their opinions and ideas lest they be singled out and subjected to bullying and retaliation.

With each subsequent post, I renewed my invitation to School of Rock and Sterling Partners management.  As I was not familiar with either School of Rock or Sterling Partners, I assumed that perhaps you might be unaware of the significant discontent among School of Rock franchise owners and the allegations of abusive behavior by Dzana Homan.  I assumed, wrongly it seems, that you would appreciate having a chance to address these problems and make improvements as necessary.

After receiving the threatening phone call from your hired muscle, attorney Craig Tractenberg, it now seems to me that not only were you aware of this bullying behavior, not only do you condone it, but likely you and Sterling Partners are initiating and directing it.

Let me be clear:  I take the threats by Sterling Partners from your representative Craig Tractenberg as a vile, reprehensible and illegal attack on me and my family.

You have vast financial resources, teams of professionals and the most expensive attorneys in our industry.

I have my constitutionally protected right to publish my opinions and truthful statements, the truth, and a boundless passion and finely honed talent for exposing and warning others about the business practices of bullies who think their shiny office buildings, nice cars and expensive suits can hide the fact that they are no more than common thugs and cowardly bullies.

So if it’s a war that you and Sterling Partners, insist on, it’s a war you shall get.

Please accept this message as a formal response to the threats you made through your highly paid goon, Craig Tractenberg.

Rick, I will not give in to your threats of releasing my personal financial and bankruptcy records.

I will not give in to your threats of releasing and publicizing my divorce records (in fact, I welcome seeing them as I cannot recall ever having been divorced).

I will not give in to your and Sterling Partners’ threats of publicizing my prior lawsuits (in fact, I welcome it.  I suggest you review the outcome of the last two bullies who sued me.  The Sterling Partners logo will soon join theirs on my trophy wall).

I will not give in to Sterling Partners’ threats of a lawsuit based on my suggesting School of Rock franchisees wage a royalty strike (I look forward to the “written proof” Mr. Tractenberg claims to have, since I would never recommend such a mistake to franchisees).

And I will certainly not give in to a lawsuit based on Sterling Partners’ and “Super Lawyer” Craig Tractenberg’s belief that they can singlehandedly eliminate the protections granted to website publishers under Section 230 of Title 47 of the United States Code (47 USC § 230).

Starting now, I will be mustering as much support from pro-free speech groups as Public Citizen, The Electronic Frontier Foundation, The Reporter’s Committee for Freedom of the Press, and the American Civil Liberties Union, all of whom have come to my aid in the past.  In addition, I shall be soliciting support from the many private attorneys who are willing to help a web publisher dedicated to the public interest stand up to the unethical and likely illegal tactics of corporate bullies like you, Sterling Partners and legal thugs like Craig Tractenberg.

So enjoy your weekend, Rick.  You might want to carve out a little bit of time to decide how you’re going to justify to your decision to start a war between Sterling Partners and an  angry blogger.  Be ready to explain to the partners what upside they can expect, as I can see no upside for anyone except Craig Tractenberg and whichever travel agent/Porsche dealer/boat salesman or whomever will end up with Sterling Partners’ wasted legal fees.

All the best,


Sean Kelly

Publisher, UnhappyFranchisee.Com

President, Relentless, Inc.

Relentless, Inc.  P.O. Box 10232, Lancaster, PA  17605

Further reading on the School of Rock / Sterling Partners Controversy:

School of Rock Attorney Craig Tractenberg Threatens Unhappy Franchisee Publisher

Attorney Craig Tractenberg Threatens Web Publisher (Press Release)

SCHOOL OF ROCK Franchise, Sterling Partners Controversy: It’s All About Dzana (Topic Index)

SCHOOL OF ROCK Franchise Complaints
Is Dzana Homan an Abusive CEO? School of Rock, Sterling Partners Controversy Grows

SCHOOL OF ROCK Dzana Homan Responds to Franchise Complaints

SCHOOL OF ROCK Franchise CEO Dzana Homan Faces Tough Questions




TAGS: Rick Elfman, Sterling Partners Rick Elfman, Sterling Partners, Craig Tractenberg, Fox Rothschild law firm, Dzana Homan, CEO Dzana Homan, franchise bullying, School of Rock, School of Rock franchise, School of Rock franchise opportunity, School of Rock franchise complaints, School of Rock unhappy franchisees, School of Rock franchise

13 thoughts on “Open Letter to Rick Elfman and Sterling Partners

  • Freedom of speech!

  • Don't Be Fooled

    Good job, keep up the good work, Sean.

  • Thank You Sean

    Grateful that you are shining a light where we cannot without reprisal. We thought that it was just Ms. Homan who uses legal threats to bully owners but see that she is fully backed by the School of Rock Board of Directors, Rick Elfman being just one of them, and Sterling Partners. What a shame we can’t just work together and get this thing back on track but to do that they would have to change, get rid of our toxic CEO and work with the franchisee network in a real way. Such a shame. And shame on all the powers that be who only care about CYA and not about the real people who are affected by their greed and arrogance.

  • Your letter to Rick was too scathing. I was not privy to your phone conversation with the Philadelphia lawyer. From reading his resume online he is their franchise attorney who is there to protect their interest by ‘ hook or by crook.’

    This matter is now a full fledged pissing contest. While both sides have an arsenal of resources, it is time to turn down the heat and resolve this issue. Calling the Philadelphia lawyer a thug and Rick Elfman a Porsche driving so&so does not help your cause.

    I read your emails when they come true and I hope you are around for years to come. In any event, all the best.

  • Phil Weisberger:

    First, thank you for sharing your opinion. I may disagree. We may never agree. But I appreciate that you took the time to read the post, to think about it, and to express your opinion. That’s how this site is designed to work. Readers can view opposing viewpoints and make up their own minds. It’s especially important for prospective franchisees doing their due diligence. Many are about to risk their homes, savings, IRAs and taxpayer money (if financing with an SBA guaranteed loan). The FTC says prospective franchisees should have access to the opinions of current and recent franchisees. Attorneys like Tractenberg and clients like Sterling Partners, in my opinion, are trying to eliminate the ability of prospective franchisees to hear the candid opinions of current and recent franchisees before making the biggest investment decision of their lives. This is the first big firm, big law firm, and first big PE owner of a franchise company to try to squash the last place that protects franchisees’ ability to share freely. So the stakes are high and the issues bigger than than a pissing contest between an ethics-free attorney and an idealistic blogger.

    Second, my language was intentionally scathing. I just want Rick Elfman and Sterling Partners to be aware of the war that they are choosing to initiate. This may be one of 20 threatening, unethical phone calls Tractenberg makes every week (or day). This may never even warrant a mention on the Sterling Board Agenda, ever. But Elfman needs to understand this is my life. I run an important website that only works because I have demonstrated that I will not be intimidated or back down by the bullying of franchisors, private equity parent companies, or exploitive attorneys who get paid even when they lead their franchisees into a PR nightmare.

    Three times I have been legally bullied to the point where it went to court. I haven’t lost and will not lose this time. Each time, the franchisor client’s attorney assured them that they could make things so hard for me I’d give them what they were demanding. Each time I didn’t back down an inch. Each time the franchisor client ended up with much more bad press than they ever dreamed of and, in the largest case, they had to pay my attorney fees and court costs. Each of the three times the attorneys walked away with tens of thousands in legal fees while their clients suffered. That’s why guys like Tractenberg are so cocky. No matter who loses, they win.

    Craig Tractenberg threatened to destroy my reputation in the court of public opinion and to destroy me financially in civil court. I might not be a match for him personally in civil court. But I will go toe to toe with him in the Court of Public Opinion any day. Just as I’m not an attorney, he’s not an experienced public relations and marketing professional of 25+ years. I will be submitting testimony in the COPO daily, including weekends.

    So my harsh language is meant as a valuable & constructive warning for Rick Elfman and Sterling Partners. I will emerge from this with my reputation intact, if not enhanced. Craig Tractenberg will emerge from this with tens of thousands in (in my opinion) undeserved fees. Rick Elfman & Sterling Partners will be the big losers in this dispute.

    They can’t say I didn’t warn them.

    Sean Kelly
    Publisher, UnhappyFranchisee.Com
    President, Relentless, Inc.

  • Thanks Sean

    Thank you for your support Sean. Having thought that the tactics Ms. Homan uses to get her way that have damaged our company culture were unique to her, I am dismayed to see that Sterling, Mr. Elfman and apparently the School of Rock Board members all approve of her ego driven behavior by having counsel employ such tactics so as to attempt to try and damage your reputation and interfere with your family. It’s sad to think this all could have been avoided if the above mentioned parties were willing to have meaningful and productive discussions with the franchisees.

  • Tired of this nonsense

    Getting so tired of the lack of response from Rick Elfman, and anyone else at Sterling or School of Rock. They are treating things as business as usual…and we are concerned that nothing will change, and the owners will have to deal with the nonsense. We hate the fact that some owners feel they can’t speak their mind…the capabilities of the owners is frankly unbelievable when compared to the senior management team, and left to their own devices would turn this business around

    Sean thanks for putting this all out there…finally this nonsense is seeing the light of day.

  • There is always someone watching and listening… let’s just say that there is a MAJOR news outlet that is paying very close attention to this story. These kinds of corporate bullies abusing our legal system and using contracts as weapons against small business people is disgusting & shameful (and in many cases illegal). Great work Sean!

    Truth Troll: If you have a contact at this news outlet, please have him or her get in touch with me asap at UnhappyFranchisee@gmail.Com.
    Feel free to contact me as well.

    If anyone would like to contribute but can’t afford much, the contribute menu stats as low as $25 and can be put on a credit card. Barring that,
    you could put $1 or $5 in an envelope and mail it to the address listed on the page. While I do need funding to fight these guys (as you’ll learn when Tractenberg releases my financial info on the Internet), I am quite sincere when I say that the gesture of lending support – even $1 –
    is what’s most important.

    Thanks for all the support I’m receiving. It’s appreciated. -Seam Kelly

  • Thanks for your support

    Thank you for continuing to keep this issue in the forefront Sean! The owners continue to ask questions and ask for Written processes for use across all schools in the system whether they be Corporate or Franchise. Corp. schools receive instructions that are shared with franchise schools months after the fact and sometimes not at all. We are continuously promised that solutions and improvements are coming, yet some of these we have been waiting for for over a year. We pay outrageous fees for empty promises.

    And now, we are literally watching those who are in control and at the helm of this company behave in appalling ways. We’ve had no responses to our questions and very serious concerns about the behavior of the CEO and the core of our business, but instead, continue to be treated like unruly children.

    Ms. Homan has been silent, Mr. Elfman has been silent, the SoR Board has been silent and Sterling has been silent. We need answers – not for our fees to go towards paying counsel to intimidate and threaten those who have come to our defense.

  • anonymous

    The bottom line is Tractenberg is nothing more than an overpriced “showboat” attorney. He has a big client he needs to impress to validate his existence and fees. Perhaps it would have been a wiser move if Tractenberg told his clients the truth, (your not going to win a libel suit against a publisher) , perhaps his clients should have been better business people and understand this is a PR issue, not a legal one.
    Congrats, the wise ass “big wig” attorney just got his clients 10x more negative publicity. ……..

  • Fight Fight Fight

    Sean…how can people contribute thru Paypal?

  • Fight Fight Fight:

    Thanks for asking and thanks for supporting the free speech rights of franchisees.

    Contributions can be made from the pull-down menu on this page. A Paypal account is not required.

    You can also send a check (made out to Relentless, Inc.) to the address on that page.

    If you have a Paypal account and want to go direct, our paypal email address is “”

    Thanks for all who are contributing and supporting our efforts.


  • He is actually my dad, and your letter is absolutely correct. He needs to reevaluate his choices and think about how to pay people correctly. Rick Elfman deserves to know this, trust me

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