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ECS Founders Club Refunds

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Unread postby bougiehoolie » Thu Mar 17, 2016 7:50:01 pm

All -

Earlier today, we sent out an email regarding the Founders Club / Sounders Community Trust and the refunds that ECS would be processing for anyone who purchased through our organization at $125. Continuing our efforts to be more transparent as an organization, we wanted to share the email here for everyone to see.

Dear ECS Founders Club and Community Trust Member:

As an ECS Member that purchased your Founders Club membership(s) through the ECS Partnership with Seattle Sounders FC, we write to you today with an update about the Founders Club and Sounders Community Trust. By now, you may have already heard directly from the Club regarding your membership and other news about the Sounders Community Trust, but we wanted to make sure to reach each and every one of you directly.

The Founders Club memberships that were sold in the fall and winter of 2014, and coincided with the creation of S2, were intended to raise funds for a capital improvement project at Starfire, specifically a West Stand. Along with several perks for being a Founders Club member, one also gained membership into the Sounders Community Trust (SCT). The SCT would ultimately own a percentage share of the Sounders/S2, and operate as a charity for soccer-centric projects around the region, driven by the ideal of one member, one vote. As announced at the end of season business meeting in 2015, that capital improvement project has now been set aside while the Sounders contemplate whether Starfire should remain their long-term home - completely understandable, given the Sounders’ goals and scale.

Throughout 2015, ECS leadership took a number of questions from you, our members, asking what was happening with the SCT, Starfire, and the capital improvements plan. With two of our leadership members, Shawn Wheeler and Kyle Boyd on the SCT Board, we had every bit of confidence that the Board would be able to turn a corner and succeed at a challenging task in American sports - gaining ownership of the club that we all love, and pushing forward a number of the goals that we, as an organization, “bought into” the Founders Club, S2 and the SCT for.

In January of 2016, after great deliberation and the backing of the ECS Board, we formally requested to take custody of the $50,000 invested on our group’s behalf. After further discussions with the Sounders front office and the SCT, we ultimately made a formal request to Sounders majority owner Adrian Hanauer in late February to have our $50,000 investment returned to ECS and its members.

As you have likely already heard from the Club (or from news made public today), every Founders Club member is having his or her investment refunded to them. For those of you who purchased yours for $125 through the Emerald City Supporters, we will be processing those refunds directly.

Emerald City Supporters is still fully committed to fan ownership, and the idea of the community trust is an admirable one that we will certainly continue to evaluate how to best be a part of. We are pleased that the Sounders have kept their commitment to providing the SCT a share of the Club, and that all Founders Club and SCT membership benefits will continue to be in full effect moving forward. Additionally, we thank Shawn and Kyle for their tireless work towards bringing fan ownership to life for Sounders supporters. We know getting an organization off the ground is a challenging one, and their ongoing passion for what fan ownership and what the Community Trust should, and could be, is just as strong today as it was when S2 was announced.

Thank you for your support of the Sounders on game days and beyond. Should you be interested in further discussion on this topic, please feel free to post questions and comments on the thread in ECS Insider in the forums of the website.

Sincerely,

Heather Satterberg
Tom Biro
ECS Co-presidents


There was one line removed in the middle of the email, linking to a form only available to those that had purchased a membership through ECS.

If anyone has NOT received the email from ECS (we received a number of bounced emails today) and purchased through us for $125, please PM me here or email me at tom@weareecs.com with the email address / name that would have been used for the purchase, and I will make sure you receive the link that we can verify against our purchaser list.

Feel free to post any questions or concerns in the following thread, and we'll do our best to respond to everything.
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Unread postby SeattleCalcio » Thu Mar 17, 2016 9:27:30 pm

Here is the email the club sent, for anyone who wants more information.
Dear Founders Club Member,

We hope you're looking forward to another season of Sounders FC 2, and we continue to be grateful for your support and investment in the future of our club. As an original purchaser of a Founders Club Membership, we have some important news to share with you.

When S2 launched in October 2014, we created the Founders Club in partnership with the Sounders Community Trust as a way for fans to invest in the future of S2. Membership funds would funnel directly into a capital improvement project at Starfire Sports, the home training ground of Sounders FC, S2 and the club's Academy teams. During the course of S2's inaugural season in 2015, we opted to hold plans for Starfire capital improvements while we evaluated the overall footprint of the facility and the long-term plan for all aspects of our soccer operations. We remain in the evaluation process today, and are committed to making the best decision for the club's future.

Without a definitive timeline for using the original Founders Club funds, Sounders FC has decided to give Founders Club Members their money back. What does this mean for you? Most importantly, you are still a Founders Club Member in the Sounders Community Trust. All of your benefits - including legacy pricing for season tickets - remain the same. You can find out more information about the Trust and your membership at http://secure-web.cisco.com/1AnI_-J8nhm ... yTrust.org.

All refunds will be issued to the original purchaser in the full amount paid, and will be mailed by April 15, 2016. We encourage you to reach out to your account representative if your mailing address or contact information has changed.

We value you. We thank you for "Owning the 2" and invite you to continue to do so. If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to contact your account representative or call us at 877-657-4625.

Sincerely,

Adrian Hanauer
Majority Owner, Seattle Sounders FC
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Unread postby bougiehoolie » Thu Mar 17, 2016 9:33:25 pm

For those looking for more information on what went down, here's a Fanpost on Sounder at Heart that I just published tonight. The full text is below.

Full Disclosure: ECS' part in the Founders Club / SCT refund

[NOTE: some of you may know me, others may not. My name is Tom Biro, and I'm ECS Co-president and communications lead. There's a lot of random discussion floating around about what has been going on with the SCT, Founders Club, and ECS' investment, and it felt wise to throw some clarity in the mix. Thanks for reading.]

For 2016 and beyond, Heather Satterberg and I, as ECS Co-presidents, set a goal to be more transparent with our members and the community in what we do as an organization. There was no impetus to do so other than it seemed like the right thing to do. As part of that effort, we thought it prudent to share our point of view on the news this week that Seattle Sounders FC would be refunding the monies paid into the Founders Club, as associated with the start of S2. So here goes:

Throughout 2015, many of us in ECS Leadership were asked, typically very casually, "what was up" with the Sounders Community Trust (SCT) and our investment in S2 back in 2014. These questions escalated quite a bit after the news in mid-November 2015 that there was some hesitancy to improve the facilities at Starfire for a variety of reasons, including the possibility that the Sounders could move elsewhere at some point in the near/mid future.

Following these activities, after a discussion with members of ECS Leadership and our Board of Directors about our organization's next steps, Heather and I requested to attend the January SCT Board Meeting, which was immediately granted. On Tuesday, January 19, we attended the meeting, and formally requested that the SCT place the $50,250 ECS and its members invested through Founders Club memberships (ECS was able to offer its members a membership for $125, with the other $125 being invested by the organization itself) into a separate account that ECS would have custodianship over. We stated that we would provide account access, statements, and other information that the SCT or Club would want at any time. At that point, our intention was merely to protect the interests of our membership, given that the SCT had not progressed to the levels we had expected after 12+ months of existence. We understand there is a lot of work to be done to form a charitable organization, but did not have sufficient faith the Board was able to make this happen in a timely manner, without outside pressure.

While it was discussed that Heather and I would leave the room during any voting by the SCT Board, a vote did not take place that evening on the "custodianship" of the investment made by ECS and its members. Additionally, during that meeting, we were informed that all funds that the Founders Club members had invested were still in the hands of SSFC, in escrow, effectively. Heather and I gave the SCT until the end of February to provide us with a response to our request for custodianship of the funds.

Later that week, Heather and I met with Taylor Graham, SSFC Sr. Director of Business Operations and Maya Mendoza-Exstrom, SSFC General Counsel, to share our point of view on the situation, concerns about the SCT's progress, and gain any additional clarity into the news that the Club was actually still holding the Founders Club / SCT funds. As of that point, members of the SCT Board had already spoken with Taylor, Maya and others, and had requested the transfer of the funds to the SCT - something that I personally suggested they do during the Board Meeting earlier that week.

In early February, we caught wind that there was a potential story being written about progress with the SCT, and shared that information with Paul Cox and the SCT Board, along with the Sounders. We also stated that we may not have been in control of the timeline at this juncture, with it only being a bit more than a week into the month. We were informed that day, February 11, that the Board would be meeting again the following week to discuss our request, and that additional discussions continued to be happening on various items such as the Memorandum of Understanding with the Club, bylaws, etc. and that progress was being made on that front, which was positive.

Shortly thereafter, we were contacted by Richard Farley and Nos Audietis about recording an interview about the SCT and ECS' investment.

Six days later, on February 17, Heather and I approached the ECS Board for its approval to formally request, through the Sounders, that the $50,250 investment be returned to our organization and its membership. The accelerated pace was partially due to ongoing public discussions about what was happening with the SCT, the inbound request to do an interview with Nos Audietis, and our concerns that the funds would not be used for what they were originally intended, and what our membership wanted them to be used for - capital improvements at Starfire.

On February 18, Heather, ECS co-founder Sean McConnell and I had a meeting with Bart Wiley, Taylor Graham and Adrian Hanauer at Fuel (most of us got salads, by the way) to discuss a number of matters that were outstanding. Typically, ECS meets with the front office in some capacity approximately once a month or thereabouts to discuss various issues, and this was not a "special session" regarding the SCT by any means. In this meeting, we talked about bag sizes in the stadium, new security policies, dynamic pricing and a few other small topics, and closed with the SCT. At that time, we presented a formal letter requesting our funds be returned to us.

Bluntly, Heather and I felt extremely bad about even having to do so. Shawn Wheeler and Kyle Boyd, members of our ECS Leadership team and SCT Board members, had been pouring their hearts into fan ownership and what the SCT could, and should be. Additionally, having this conversation after a relatively productive conversation with the FO was one of the harder things I've done as a supporter.

Adrian shared the letter with the necessary parties at the Club, and that was that.

That night, Heather and I did an interview with Richard Farley for Nos Audietis, the contents of which will presumably arise at some point in the near future. It was hard to do. We shared what we could, and tried to be as constructive as possible while making it clear that any actions we took were on behalf of our membership. We want fan ownership. We love our club. At no point did we want to abandon ship, so to speak, even though it may have appeared that's what we were doing. We were challenging the wants of some of our most vocal supporters and leaders in Shawn and Kyle, both of whom I respect immensely and enjoy the friendship of.

It had to be done.

On February 29, Heather and I were informed by Paul Cox that the Board had voted to not put the funds in the hands of ECS. Of note is that at this time, Shawn and Kyle were now "conflicted" out of voting on decisions regarding ECS. To be fair, I don't really have an issue with this, but it was a bit amusing, to say the least, that this "conflict" only appeared at this juncture.

On March 1, we were informed by Maya Mendoza that ECS, and the entire Founders Club membership, would have its funds returned. She also shared that nothing would change, from the ownership stake of 20% to the USL Board of Governors seat for the SCT, and everything in between. Since that point, we expressed our concern that what we had originally invested for - the fan ownership, a say in what the Club actually does, something beyond a committee and glad handing - might go away. At every turn, we were told that nothing would change. Of course, nothing is official until an MOU is signed, but we took them at their word.

Which leads us to Wednesday, March 16. In the early afternoon, I went to SSFC HQ to secure the funds for ECS and its members, and begin the process of returning said funds to our membership. Face to face, I spoke with Taylor and Maya about our concerns moving forward, and asked about the benefits and abilities at the core of the investment in the first place. Again, she reiterated that none of this would change, and that it was unfair for monies originally intended for a capital project to be held or used for something else.

None of this has been easy, for anyone involved. On a personal level, I've been extremely frustrated with how things went with the SCT and its progress towards becoming the charitable organization it intends to be. My hope is that it will move forward and challenge the status quo as far as Club ownership in this country (read: it's terrible), and that Shawn Wheeler and Kyle Boyd will chose to stay on as Board members, and look to be elected as Board members once the membership is able to do so. They are, when it comes to fan ownership, some of the best representation that ECS could ask for.

With that, in the spirit of full disclosure, here is the full text of the email we sent to our members who purchased Founders Club through ECS, with a link redacted to ensure data integrity.


[letter removed as it's posted above in this thread]
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Unread postby jacktackular » Fri Mar 25, 2016 8:48:24 am

will there be an email sent when the store credit refunds are issued?
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Unread postby bougiehoolie » Fri Mar 25, 2016 12:55:45 pm

jacktackular wrote:will there be an email sent when the store credit refunds are issued?


Good question. We should do that, let me speak with the tech / shop crew and get a solid response there so not to speak out of turn.
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Unread postby futbolgirl » Tue Mar 29, 2016 1:14:28 pm

Hi friends, yesterday we sent a follow up email to all those who we had yet to hear from. And, we have now received responses from 138 out of 201 members. If you haven't heard from us yet, please email ecs@weareecs.com, and we will forward the info to you. Thanks!
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Unread postby beerbaron » Wed Mar 30, 2016 3:28:13 pm

Is there an estimated time for those that will want the refund via check?
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Unread postby futbolgirl » Wed Mar 30, 2016 3:57:58 pm

beerbaron wrote:Is there an estimated time for those that will want the refund via check?

We are hoping to do a single check run, but there are still about 60 people who have yet to fill in the form and verify their mailing address, and whether they want a check or store credit. We are doing another push via the newsletter, social media, and from the capo stand this weekend, and then we'll call it.
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Unread postby beerbaron » Wed Mar 30, 2016 4:14:06 pm

Thanks for the quick response.
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Unread postby squagel » Fri Apr 15, 2016 3:03:16 pm

futbolgirl wrote:
beerbaron wrote:Is there an estimated time for those that will want the refund via check?

We are hoping to do a single check run, but there are still about 60 people who have yet to fill in the form and verify their mailing address, and whether they want a check or store credit. We are doing another push via the newsletter, social media, and from the capo stand this weekend, and then we'll call it.


Any updates?
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Unread postby bougiehoolie » Fri Apr 15, 2016 3:14:05 pm

squagel wrote:
futbolgirl wrote:
beerbaron wrote:Is there an estimated time for those that will want the refund via check?

We are hoping to do a single check run, but there are still about 60 people who have yet to fill in the form and verify their mailing address, and whether they want a check or store credit. We are doing another push via the newsletter, social media, and from the capo stand this weekend, and then we'll call it.


Any updates?


Yes, sorry didn't update here, after doing so on social. We shipped emails for anyone requesting store credit earlier today, and are in the middle of processing checks that need to be mailed. We expect people will start receiving them by the end of next week or thereabouts. There are still a handful of people that did not yet respond to our requests for confirmation of addresses, etc., and we were attempting to do as many as possible concurrently.

Please let us know if you don't see something in the next week or so!
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Unread postby squagel » Fri Apr 15, 2016 3:19:58 pm

Thanks!
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Unread postby jacktackular » Mon Apr 18, 2016 10:58:51 am

Got my coupon code for the refund...thanks all!

I have a few questions about spending it...

is it possible to use part of it now and part of it later? or do I need to spend it all at one time? Will I be able to use this on the next mentality order?

thanks again
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Unread postby bougiehoolie » Mon Apr 18, 2016 12:02:23 pm

jacktackular wrote:Got my coupon code for the refund...thanks all!

I have a few questions about spending it...

is it possible to use part of it now and part of it later? or do I need to spend it all at one time? Will I be able to use this on the next mentality order?

thanks again


Yes indeed. Just use it again the next time you order something. Also, we're not doing the standard Mentality gear situation this year (yet!), but we will have shirts and other gear coming very soon. Hope that answers your questions!
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Unread postby Llarian » Mon Apr 18, 2016 12:06:39 pm

FWIW, previously Mentality has been run through a vendor that handles payment and drop shipping external to our store, so this credit would not work for Mentality.

Since we don't currently have plans to re-run Mentality, and particularly not with that vendor, it is a moot point for the moment. But it applies to everything from memberships to merch to away tickets to even ECSFC League fees. =)
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