UnhappyFranchisee.Com asked The Journal Record (in February of this year) to stop putting the public relations agenda of Beautiful Brands International (BBI) ahead of the welfare of its readers and the credibility and reputation of its own publication.
We specifically asked Mary Melon and TJR to print corrections to the inflated BBI franchise sales and units counts that it has been printing at BBI’s behest for several years.
Instead of breaking with their role as BBI propagandist, The Journal Record chose to highlight the inane, silly lawsuit BBI filed to try to intimidate its Internet critics, and included the statement that BBI has ““297 locations around the world,” which they know to be false.
We sent this letter to The Journal Record President & Publisher Mary Melon:
April 22, 2013
VIA Email & Registered Mail
President & Publisher
The Journal Record Publishing Co.
101 N. Robinson Ave. Suite 101
Oklahoma City, OK 73102
Dear Ms. Melon:
My name is Sean Kelly. I have 24 years of experience in the franchise industry, having been VP of an international franchise consulting firm, an executive with a successful franchise company, founder and President of a franchise advertising agency, an expert witness in franchise litigation, and, currently, as publisher of UnhappyFranchisee.Com. I am frequently quoted in national publications on franchise matters, and am a contributor to trade and industry publications.
On February 13, 2013, I sent you a detailed email (attached) alerting you to what I believe are a large number of inaccurate and misleading statements about Beautiful Brands International (BBI) published by The Journal Record. I pointed out that these misleading statements could be potentially damaging to your readers, some of whom may rely on your articles to make significant franchise investment or partnership decisions.
In my opinion:
- For several years, The Journal Record has consistently misled its readers as to the success of Beautiful Brands International by overstating the number of franchise locations BBI has open.
- For several years, The Journal Record has consistently misled its readers as to the success of Beautiful Brands International by overstating the number of franchise locations BBI has “in development.”
- For several years, The Journal Record published “earnings claims” that franchisors are prohibited from disclosing, bypassing protections put in place by the Federal Trade Commission.
- For several years, The Journal Record has consistently misled its readers as to the success of Beautiful Brands International by printing only positive stories and self-serving announcements provided by the company, and turning a blind eye to the lawsuits, widespread franchise closures, skyrocketing SBA franchise loan default rates and the near-complete failure of the BBI partnership program.
In my email of February 13, 2013, I cited specific examples of inaccuracies and requested that you, at the very least, print corrections or clarifications to ensure that your readers receive accurate information. I copied your senior editorial staff, your business editor, and writer D. Ray Tuttle on the email. You responded by instructing Mr. Tuttle to look into these allegations and to keep you informed as to what he found. Mr. Tuttle sent me an email, saying “Thank you for alerting me to BBI, these practices and the projections. You raise good points and something that needs attention.”
Not only did neither you nor your writer ever follow up with me on this matter, The Journal Record continued its tradition of faithfully serving the public relations interests of BBI by publishing the story “Beautiful Brands sues anonymous Internet critic” on March 12, 2013.
The unfounded lawsuit against the “Internet critic” (me) is, in my humble opinion, BBI’s cynical & transparent attempt to send a public warning to discourage whistleblowers from sharing their experiences with and opinions of Beautiful Brands International. Beautiful Brands International, CEO David Rutkauskas, and/or their attorney Robert Sartin of Barrow & Grimm, obviously hand-fed Ray Tuttle the lawsuit and their quotes.
It seems quite telling that, over the years, The Journal Record did not consider a sexual harassment lawsuit against Camille’s Franchise System, Inc. involving Mr. Rutkauskas (2007), a lawsuit filed by an international Camille’s franchisee (2010), a lawsuit filed by a local Camille’s Sidewalk Café franchisee (2010), or a lawsuit from an international master franchisee (2012) against BBI to be newsworthy, yet considers a frivolous, bullying lawsuit designed to silence a critic of BBI to be priority news. Ray Tuttle’s “Internet Critic” story appeared days after the lawsuit was filed, complete with polished quotes from attorney Sartin and details regarding the potential financial penalties for expressing negative opinions toward BBI.
Remarkably, Mr. Tuttle not only continued to describe the troubled and embattled BBI as if it were a success story, he repeated the false claim that “BBI has 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.”
Having read my email, Mr. Tuttle knows that BBI does not have “297 locations around the world” and that BBI has no ownership stake in CherryBerry Self-Serve Yogurt Bar (CherryBerry principals recently told Franchise Times that they only use BBI for “legal work.”) Mr. Tuttle and The Journal Record continue to mislead readers by inflating BBI’s franchise sales and unit counts, and deceptively attributing locations that belong to other companies to BBI.
The Journal Record is not the only publication that has helped to create the illusion that BBI is an international franchise powerhouse with the Midas touch. However, The Journal Record is the only publication that has continued to intentionally deceive its readers about Beautiful Brands International after being informed of the truth. After your counterparts at Tulsa World and Franchise Times read my reporting on BBI at UnhappyFranchisee.Com, they each published excellent articles (Kyle Arnold’s "Camille’s empire copes with setbacks" and Julie Bennett’s "Reality Check," respectively) that provided reality-based overviews of BBI’s recent track record.
Ms. Melon, I hope this letter will help motivate you to accept my offer of assistance in helping you and your writers correct the misinformation and inaccurate impressions you have communicated regarding both the track record and current performance of the Beautiful Brands International franchise ventures and partnership programs. If The Journal Record chooses instead to continue to serve as an unfiltered public relations propagandist for David Rutkauskas, Beautiful Brands and their attorneys, I will continue to do your fact-checking for you and publicly debunk the BBI fairy tale you seem so intent (at least to this point) on communicating.
All the best,
President, Relentless, Inc.
Attachment: Emails dated February 13, 2013
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Tags: The Journal Record, The Dolan Company, Mary Melon, Ray Tuttle, Kirby Lee Davis, Beautiful Brands International, BBI, David Rutkauskas, Robert Sartin, Barrow & Grimm