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Is STERLING PARTNERS Funding a Craig Tractenberg Vendetta?

Sterling Partners may have given attorney Craig Tractenberg the go-ahead to bully and threaten web publisher without knowing that Tractenberg had been publicly embarrassed by Kelly three years earlier… and without knowing that Tractenberg may have dug up dirt on the wrong Sean Kelly.

(UnhappyFranchisee.Comby Sean Kelly  Today marks a full week since attorney Craig Tractenberg, on behalf of Sterling Partners & School of Rock,  threatened to destroy my reputation by publicly distributing damaging financial, divorce, bankruptcy and litigation records about me.

Sterling PartnersI have received no word from Craig Tractenberg or Rick Elfman of Sterling Partners (Elfman has never acknowledged or returned my communications), so I assume they are readying the smear campaign and lawsuit they promised.

Tractenberg and his client are demanding that I remove complaints posted to my UnhappyFranchisee.Com website by School of Rock franchise owners.

Section 230 of Title 47 of the United States Code (47 USC § 230) protects web publishers from liability for the content of 3rd party comments submitted to their sites.  While Tractenberg disputes that I am covered by Section 230 protection, he nevertheless chose to lead with his extortion-like threat of smearing my reputation.

I wondered why he and private equity firm Sterling Partners would risk making such an unethical and potentially illegal demand unless they thought they had something really, really damaging to disclose.

That’s what puzzled me.  I don’t have any deep dark secrets that would motivate me to undermine the credibility of my website.

I went through 1 bankruptcy over ten years ago.  Another franchisor bully posted it online about 3-4 years ago and his stuff is still live.  Donald Trump has 6 bankruptcies and was elected president.  Is that the best they’ve got?

Financial records?  Will it be a shock that a full-time blogger is not among the 1%?  He might disclose that I used to have a lot more money than I do now, but the same can be said for many who purchased the School of Rock franchise.  No skeleton there.

Craig Tractenberg threatened to release my non-existent divorce records.

Tractenberg threatened to release my divorce records, like that was going to be a bombshell.  I asked him what relevance my divorce records had on a dispute about School of Rock and Sterling Partners and he said smugly that I should wait and see when they were released.

Here’s the funny thing:  I have no divorce records.  I’ve been married for over 36 years to the same woman.  I’ve never been divorced.

Later, I wondered:  Could Tractenberg have dug up dirt on the wrong Sean Kelly?

Could he have told Sterling Partners that he had found proof that I’m a lowlife scumbag and could threaten to tell the world Mr. High and Mighty blogger is not so high and mighty?

That would explain why he acted like he had me by the short hairs when he, in fact, had nothing.

When I told Tractenberg I had never been divorced, he muttered “Well maybe that’s the wrong Sean Kelly.  There are lots of Sean Kellys.”

Actually, Craig, I live in Pennsylvania Dutch Country, where there are NOT a lot of Sean Kellys.

But there is at least one out there whom I get mistaken for.  I’ve had calls from a hospital and collection agencies about his past-due bills.

I got a call once about an abandoned car registered to him.

A few years ago, another franchisor bully posted my evil twin’s DUI records on my site, stating they were mine.

I’ve never had a DUI.  I’ve never been arrested or charged with a crime.  And I’ve never been divorced.

Did Tractenberg spend $30,000 of Sterling Partners’ and School of Rocks’ money just to generate bad information and worse advice?

Was his motivation, in part, to fuel a personal vendetta that he’s had simmering for three years?

Craig Tractenberg threatened UnhappyFranchisee.Com three years ago over PrimoHoagies comments

In July, 2014, I wrote a story about Nick Papanier, Sr.*, founder of Primohoagie’s franchise company, who was a client of then-Nixon Peabody attorney Craig Tractenberg.

It’s posted here:  PRIMOHOAGIES Owner of Nellie’s Provisions Pleads Guilty to Tax Fraud [Updated]

Nick Papanier, Sr. had pleaded guilty to tax evasion and had been sentenced to 8 months in prison and house arrest.

I wrote:

The U.S. Attorney’s press release alleges that PrimoHoagies franchisor Nick Papanier, Sr. “persuaded Primo Hoagies franchise owners to buy Thumann’s deli products from Nellie’s Provisions, often paying for them in cash. He took a significant amount of the cash paid to Nellie’s Provisions and deposited it into his personal bank accounts. He then used the money from his personal accounts to pay personal expenditures.”

Mr. Papanier, Sr. who also owned Nellie’s Provisions, allocuted in open court that between 2006 and 2008 he diverted $556,666 in unreported cash from his businesses into his personal accounts.

Tractenberg attacked the U.S. Attorney as “reckless,” for issuing the statements, and accused us of defamation for posting them.  Tractenberg wrote”:

The US Attorney made reckless statements. Nothing in the case supports those statements. You continue to make them.  For this reason, you continue to defame Primo…

It was bizarre.  Matthew Reilly, Deputy Public Affairs Officer, U.S. Attorney’s Office/District of New Jersey, stood by the statements and refuted Tractenberg’s statements as false.

I refuted Craig Tractenberg’s statements here:  PRIMOHOAGIES & Nick Papanier Sr. Tax Evasion: A Clarification

Tractenberg was arguing against basic facts of the case that his own client had admitted to.

Nick Papanier, Sr. owned both Nellie’s Provisions and Primohoagies.

Franchisees paid Nellie’s Provisions for meats and cheeses, often in cash.

Nick Papanier admitted to diverting half a million in cash from Nellies for his personal use and didn’t pay taxes on it.

For some bizarre reason, Craig Tractenberg thought he could bully away facts by distorting the easily verifiable truth.

He not only failed to keep his client out of prison, he needlessly generated additional negative press for Nick Papanier, Sr. and Primohoagies.

He certainly didn’t build any goodwill for himself or his clients with the U.S. Attorney’s Office either.

Is Craig Tractenberg willing to put Sterling Partners at risk to satisfy an old grudge?

Has Craig Tractenberg been carrying a grudge for three years against UnhappyFranchisee.Com?

Did think that Sterling Partners and School of Rock would afford him the opportunity to get revenge on the site that called him out three years ago… all the while generating tens of thousands in billings?

I don’t know anything about the outcomes of “Super Lawyer” Craig Tractenberg’s other client representations.

But when it comes to UnhappyFranchisee.Com, he’s 2-for2 in delivering big invoices and bad press for his clients.

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)

Open Letter to Rick Elfman and Sterling Partners

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

* All references to Primohoagies is regarding Nick Papanier, Sr., not Jr.



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,

One thought on “Is STERLING PARTNERS Funding a Craig Tractenberg Vendetta?

  • Upon publishing this post, I once again gave Rick Elfman of Sterling Partners the opportunity to do the right thing. As of this moment I have not had a single response from the company that seems determined to create a costly and embarrassing situation for its stakeholders.


    Here’s today’s post:

    I am truly puzzled as to why Sterling Partners /School of Rock would give Craig Tractenberg the go ahead to make such a brazen and misguided threat against me.. and then remain silent when I called your collective bluff. When he threatened to release my divorce records as if he really had something good – then admitted that he had the wrong Sean Kelly – it occurred to me that he may have told you that he had a lot of embarrassing stuff on me when the dirt he dug up was on the wrong Sean Kelly.

    I grew up on the North Shore – born in Wilmette, raised in Glencoe. Graduated from New Trier. Still have a lot of ties on the North shore. Been happily married 36 years to the same woman. Raised 5 kids. Have three grandkids. Never been arrested. No DUIs. No outstanding warrants. No stints in rehab. Had a bankruptcy 10 years ago that’s public knowledge. Am proud of my lawsuits and have no problem publicizing each, since I stood up to bullies, never gave and inch, and have never lost.

    In case you were basing your decision to come after me on the wrong information, and in the event that you were unaware that Craig Tractenberg may feel that I publicly humiliated him three years ago when he tried to threaten me re: Primohoagies, I thought I’d give you one more chance to do the right thing, withdraw your threat of a smear campaign and a meritless lawsuit, and apologize.

    Anyway, I truly hope you’ll realize that there’s a teaching moment at hand. Sooner or later you are going to learn that a disrespectful and bullying approach toward web publishers AND franchise owners might not always blow up in your face, but when it does it will blow up in a big way.

    And when it comes to admitting when you are wrong, silence is not golden… it makes things worse.

    All the best,


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