We reported 10 days ago that Canadian outdoor co-op, MEC, was to be sold off to a Los Angeles-based private equity firm. In the days since news dropped that MEC’s board had agreed to sell the brand, which came as a shock to its more than 5 million members, thousands of MEC members have engaged in a fight to prevent the sale and to keep the co-op in the hands of its members.
More than $100,000 has been raised by several thousand members as part of a Save MEC campaign, in an effort to fund legal fees to block the sale. The group is hoping to get an extension of at least two weeks to postpone a legal hearing that could cement the acquisition of MEC by Kingswood Capital Management.
Kevin Harding, of Save MEC, wrote a letter to Kingswood and posted it online last week.
“An American private equity firm with five employees cannot buy a five million-member Canadian co-operative whose owners refuse to sell,” he wrote.
“Kingswood has acknowledged that as member-owners, we are in control of what happens next. We never agreed to sell our co-op. Our response is simple: We reject your buyout.”
The situation has been further complicated over the weekend as Kingswood announced the hiring of Jay Taylor, the CEO of LALO Tactical, to be MEC’s president and COO. LALO makes boots for the US military and police forces, with military imagery featuring heavily in their ads. The San Diego-based brand says it was founded “to serve the needs of Special Operations Forces.”
The announcement of Taylor’s hiring comes on the heels of Kingswood writing an open letter to MEC members, explaining that they have no interest in changing the culture of MEC, and that they plan to continue honoring MEC’s values and will listen to the member’s interests.
Members of Save MEC were incensed at the idea that Kingswood would bring in the CEO of a tactical company, which, they say, flies in the face of the values the co-op was founded on, and threatens to change the culture of a brand focused on inclusion and environmental stewardship. The imagery used on MEC’s website discussing the co-op’s history, for example, look like something out of a Grateful Dead photo shoot, with hand-painted VW microbuses and long-haired campers hitting the trail.
“It’s shocking to me,” said Jackie Pierre, MEC customer from Vancouver for a decade and a Save MEC member, as reported by CBC. “This is so far from what [MEC] is known for originally.”
Save MEC are hoping to extend the date for an acquisition hearing long enough to develop a counter offer to present to MEC’s creditors. The group may find out as early as today if their request will be granted.