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Sterling Partners Claims Tractenberg NOT Authorized to Threaten Publisher

Fox Rothschild partner Craig Tractenberg’s threatening phone call to web publisher Sean Kelly was NOT authorized by School of Rock or its parent Sterling Partners, according to Sterling General Counsel Avi Epstein.  Would attorney Craig Tractenberg really use extortion-like threats without his client’s approval?  Or is School of Rock CEO Dzana Homan – who franchisees say is a vindictive bully – not being honest with the private equity parent who hired her?

Sterling Partners(UnhappyFranchisee.Com)  Nearly three weeks after web publisher Sean Kelly received a threatening phone call in which Fox Rothschild attorney Craig Tractenburg threatened to release and distribute damaging and embarrassing personal financial, bankruptcy and (false) divorces records about Kelly and sue him, Kelly cannot get a clear answer as to whether the threat is still in effect, if it has been withdrawn or whether School of Rock had sanctioned the threat in the first place.

On June 6, 2017, attorney Craig Tractenburg identified himself as representing education franchisor School of Rock and its CEO Dzana Homan.  Tractenberg said that Kelly would be the target of a smear campaign and a debilitating lawsuit if he refused to delete comments submitted and published to the website by School of Rock’s own franchisees and possibly former employees.

On June 9, 2017, Kelly emailed Rick Elfman, the Managing Partner at Sterling Partners who oversees School of Rock, but received no reply.

June 16, 2017, Kelly emailed Avi Epstein, General Counsel, Sterling Partners:

Mr. Epstein:

My name is Sean Kelly and I’m a franchise industry expert and publisher of a franchise discussion site, UnhappyFranchisee.Com.

Nearly two weeks ago I received a call from attorney Craig Tractenberg who said he represented Sterling Partners’ owned School of Rock.  He threatened that if I did not remove complaints from my website posted by School of Rock franchise owners I’d have by reputation ruined by the posting of personal financial, bankruptcy and divorce records.  As I’ve never been divorced and have no skeletons in my closet that haven’t been made public, I assume Tractenberg and School of Rock are threatening to smear me with false records or those of another Sean Kelly.

He also threatened that School of Rock would crush me with a massive lawsuit.

I have reached out to Rick Elfman and others at Sterling Partners and received no response.  I am certainly not likely to bow to such unethical and illegal tactics, but would like to know if you and Sterling Partners have sanctioned and directed this threat.  Are you and Sterling Partners threatening this action through School of Rock and Craig Tractenberg?

I have made a formal complaint to the Disciplinary Committee of the Supreme Court of the State of Pennsylvania (letter attached).  If you have not already read about this, you can get up to speed here:

Craig Tractenberg Complaint Submitted to Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court of PA

School of Rock Attorney Craig Tractenberg Threatens Unhappy Franchisee Publisher


Mr. Epstein, I am in disbelief that a private equity firm would risk its name and reputation by condoning such a thuggish and illegal attack on a private citizen.  I cannot find a possible upside for Sterling Partners to make such a mistake.  But I also find it hard to believe that a managing partner would not have notified the company’s General Counsel about what looks like it could be a very public and messy battle with someone who has 30 years in marketing, PR and media relations.

Please afford me the courtesy of a response (it will be the first response of many I’ve requested from SoR and Sterling execs) and let me know if the spectre of these threats are still hanging over me.

Thank you,

Sean Kelly

Publisher, UnhappyFranchisee.Com

President, Relentless, Inc.

Later that evening (10:53 PM EST), Kelly received a reply email from Epstein,  who claimed that neither Sterling Partners nor School of Rock authorized, or even was aware of, Craig Tractenberg’s threatening call.

Mr. Kelly,

Sterling Partners is an investor in School of Rock and, as a matter of practice and consistent with the activities normally associated with investors, does not generally engage directly in operational matters with those outside the company.  Nevertheless, I can confirm that neither School of Rock nor Sterling Partners was aware of, or authorized, Mr. Tractenberg to contact you.

The entire situation continues to be a perplexing, self-inflicted mess of mismanagement on the part of CEO Dzana Homan, School of Rock & Sterling Partners.

Either School of Rock CEO Dzana Homan authorized Craig Tractenberg’s likely illegal and certainly unethical bullying and threatening call, or she has a reckless, out-of-control attorney creating liability for the company without her knowledge…

Either Sterling Partners is clueless about the bullying and intimidation tactics being deployed under CEO Dzana Homan’s leadership and supervision, or they approve or even directing.

Either way, Sterling Partners, Dzana Homan and School of Rock seem strangely determined to providing validation to the School of Rock franchisees’ allegations of meanspirited bullying, unprofessional and ineffective leadership that set this controversy rolling in the first place.

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

SCHOOL OF ROCK Franchise, Sterling Partners Controversy Overview

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

School of Rock Attorney Craig Tractenberg Threatens Unhappy Franchisee Publisher

Craig Tractenberg Complaint Submitted to Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court of PA





TAGS: School of Rock, School of Rock franchise, School of Rock franchise opportunity,  Dzana Homan, CEO Dzana Homan, Sterling Partners,  Avi Epstein, Rick Elfman, Fox Rothschild, Craig Tractenberg, Craig R. Tractenberg, education franchise complaints, Paul Green School of Rock Music,

11 thoughts on “Sterling Partners Claims Tractenberg NOT Authorized to Threaten Publisher

  • Not Surprised

    The School of Rock Board and Sterling Partners are fully aware of her behavior and continue to ignore it. Franchisees have implored both the School of Rock Board and the managing partner at Sterling Partners. The turnover rate of corporate employees since she has been on board continues to grow and the majority have resigned due to her behavior and treatment of both the employees and the franchisees. Most just couldn’t take it anymore. It is a well known fact within the system that many complaints have been filed and sent directly to the board and Sterling Partners.

    It’s not surprising that you received such a response. Nothing really shocks us anymore.

  • My opinion is that Dzana Homan directed Craig to go after you, Sean. Birds of a feather…


    The fact that Sterling Partners or the School of Rock Board have not submitted a formal response to this litany of concerns and bad behavior proves the concerns of staff and franchisees. They are absentee stewards of the School of Rock brand. How low does this company have to sink before someone stands up as a leader and takes action. Fix the problems, starting with the top.

  • Thanks for your comments and your support.

    I, too, have a hard time believing Tractenberg would make such a bold attack without a client’s approval or knowledge. But that’s what Sterling General Counsel stated. Seems like that would make it even more egregious on Tractenberg’s part – I will have to submit another letter to the Disciplinary Board to state that the client claims Tractenberg acted without their knowledge or approval.

    I sent Dzana Homan this message this morning and will send a hard copy registered mail. Either Tractenberg acted without her approval or knowledge – which should make her furious for making her look out of control (see my recommendation regarding his payment). Or she had knowledge and/or gave him approval and possibly lied to Rick Elfman and/or Avi Epstein. FYI I did appreciate that at least Epstein responded – and at around 10 PM Chicago time on a Friday night.

    Dear CEO Dzana Homan:

    As you’re aware, Craig Tractenberg contacted me on June 6, 2017 and stated that he represented you and School of Rock. He demanded that I remove all references to you and School of Rock from my UnhappyFranchisee.Com website. He stated that if I did not comply with this demand, School of Rock would not only sue me but would also release and distribute damaging personal financial, litigation and divorce records. As I have no divorce records and no real sensitive financial records, I assume that Mr. Tractenberg was threatening to (on your behalf) spread false information intended to damage me personally and professionally.

    Sterling General Counsel Avi Epstein has stated that neither Sterling Partners nor School of Rock authorized or were even aware of Mr. Tractenberg’s phone call or threats.

    If true, this would mean that Fox Rothschild attorney Craig Tractenberg took it upon himself, without your direction or permission, to make highly unethical and likely illegal threats against an unrepresented private citizen in the name of School of Rock. If Mr. Epstein is correct that you had no knowledge nor granted authorization for Mr. Tractenberg’s threats, Tractenberg recklessly put a long-time client in a very unfavorable light, and created potential legal exposure.

    Ms. Homan, as the highest ranking executive at the School of Rock, I invite you to act like a leader, come out of hiding and address these issues that have gotten out of hand on your watch.

    First, please clarify whether I am and/or ever was under threat of being sued and slandered by School of Rock and its law firm Fox Rothschild or other third party operatives if I do not (or did not) remove all content regarding you and School of Rock from my UnhappyFranchisee.Com website. If Mr. Epstein’s claims are true, you should have no problem setting my mind at ease that I am not, and never was, under threat by School of Rock. Conversely, it would be fair to interprete your silence or a lack of reply to indicate that you wish the threat to linger and continue to cause distress to me and my family.

    Second, could you please confirm Mr. Epstein’s statement that you did not authorize the threats made by Craig Tractenberg, and that you had no prior knowledge of his call. If this IS the case, could you please explain what corrective steps you have taken to make sure Mr. Tractenberg does not take such unauthorized actions on your behalf in the future? Have you informed Mr. Tractenberg of any punitive action you are taking against him, such as withholding the $30,000 he claims to have incurred on investigating and making unauthorized, misguided threats against me, and instead diverting such funds into the franchisee ad fund to try to offset the damage he’s made to the brand?

    As you know, I have submitted an ethics complaint against Mr. Tractenberg to the Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court of the State of Pennsylvania. I would like to provide an update to the complaint to reflect Mr. Epstein’s statement and your clarification. My initial complaint reflected my suspicion (and Tractenberg’s representation) that Mr. Tractenberg was acting at your and School of Rock’s direction or at least with your approval. If you contend, as Mr. Epstein stated, that you had no prior knowledge and did not give Mr. Tractenberg permission to contact me, then the complaint with the Disciplinary Board should reflect that.

    Thank you for finally breaking your silence and taking steps to clarify and resolve this unfortunate and needlessly messy situation.

    Sean Kelly

    Publisher, UnhappyFranchisee.Com

    President, Relentless, Inc.

  • Regretful

    BAD PEOPLE EVENTUALLY GET WHAT THEY DESERVE ! We can only hope that soulless CEOs and scummy equity groups will BURN for this…
    No morals, poor ethics , god complex and just BAD PEOPLE DOING BAD BUSINESS …

  • In this life often the “Bad People” have great lives and die peacefully in their sleep at an old age.

  • Yes, in this life. But not on this website ;)

  • Amen!

    If SOR franchisees want things to get better they have to take action.

    Taking action means spending money, coordinating with each other and getting an attorney.

    Otherwise, Dzana will continue laughing at you while you are waiting for a white knight on a unicorn to save you.

    Dzana is already looking for her next bigger franchise CEO job anyway. In the meantime she will inflict as much pain and suffering on you as she can enjoy.

  • Regretful

    Maybe the franchisees do have a lawyer and a master plan ? and maybe the CEO and the lawyers are walking into the web as we speak – no need for “unicorns” just the facts

  • Doubtful that will happen Regretful.

    The SOR franchisor may be a bunch of idiots but what have they done in violation of the franchise agreements?

  • Fight Fight Fight


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