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The Gathering Spot members consider cancellation amid leadership confusion
An “unauthorized” email and the apparent ousting of a co-founder sparked confusion among members of the private club.
An “unauthorized” email set off a wave of confusion among members of The Gathering Spot, a members-only club aimed toward Black professionals. This week, it was reported that The Gathering Spot co-founder and CFO T'Keel (TK) Petersen was fired and replaced with Mike McCloskey, leading to discontented and confused posts on social media. Members and other concerned individuals were upset that a white man appeared to be taking over the role of the Black co-founder, who was seemingly pushed out.
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Titled “Announcing New Leadership,” the email, purportedly from The Gathering Spot’s membership services, announced this week that Mike McCloskey was named chief financial officer of the organization. McCloskey, the former chief financial officer of the Atlanta-based healthcare company Trella Health, will report to Ryan Glover, the co-founder and CEO of Greenwood, the parent company of The Gathering Spot.
“Mike comes to Greenwood and TGS after a wealth of experience from other organizations. All local club general managers will report directly to him and work together to continue to drive value for members of the community,” the email, which went unsigned, read.
Greenwood, a digital banking services platform founded for Black and Latino communities, acquired The Gathering Spot in 2022. Rapper Killer Mike, entertainment executive Ryan Glover, tech entrepreneur Paul Judge, and former Atlanta mayor Andrew Young cofounded the company in 2020.
Members have started to vent on social media, where some have said they were either considering canceling membership or had already done so.
“I’m a founding member of The Gathering Spot LA. I love it there, am there all the time. Having said that, if TGS isn’t committed to having Black people in key leadership positions, I’m not sure I see the point,” tweeted Van Lathan. “If I find out they’re doing Ryan and TK dirty, I’m canceling my The Gathering Spot membership,” another person wrote on Twitter.
“What trips me out is that this new white guy is about to be over all of the club managers that push the culture. They have to report to this person, and that is going to have an impact on programming and events. We have an election cycle coming up,” Jennifer Matthews, a chartering member at the Atlanta location, said. “It’s bigger than any one person getting ousted. It’s more about what happens to the culture of The Gathering Spot.” Matthews is one of several members who’ve said they were considering cancellation.
The Gathering Spot hosts panels, functions as a co-working space, and offers community service events. Guests from President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris to Drake and LeBron James have visited. The club was also credited with having played a role in turning Georgia blue, hosting programs aimed at increasing voter turnout and mobilizing residents to support Senators Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff in 2020. The Gathering Spot has physical locations in Atlanta, Washington, and Los Angeles, and has smaller hubs called “Connected Cities” in Chicago, Detroit, Houston, New York City, and Charlotte, offering events for members in those cities.
“I can’t think of another place that has been this prominent. They’ve hosted presidents, rappers, athletes, social media influencers, and actors. Everybody — from Obama to Joe Biden, from Drake to LeBron James — has done an event at The Gathering Spot,” said Big Homie Kodaq, a media personality in Atlanta.
Leaders on The Gathering Spot's Atlanta Community Board, a body that serves as a liaison between the club’s leadership and members, held an emergency meeting to discuss the leadership changes. The eight members of that board are planning on canceling their memberships because The Gathering Spot is “no longer about community,” said Nikki Porcher, founder of the Atlanta-based nonprofit Buy From A Black Woman and board member. Porcher said her organization will be seeking new partners for its events.
Anthony Wilson, founder of Atlanta-based education nonprofit Equity in Education and board member, also said his organization will no longer be associated with The Gathering Spot.
“Equity in Education is grateful for the home The Gathering Spot gave us under the leadership of Ryan Wilson and TK Petersen. We will no longer be present under any other leadership,” said Wilson, ending his message with #TheGreatvalueSpot.
Petersen’s apparent removal has brought to light the internal strife happening behind the scenes with Greenwood and The Gathering Spot.
A lawsuit filed in February alleges Greenwood failed to make the proper payments agreed upon to acquire The Gathering Spot. Greenwood has “engaged in intentional misconduct to knowingly breach the Parties’ purchase agreement,” the complaint read. (Dennis Byron of Hip Hop Enquirer obtained the full complaint, which can be read here.)
Ryan Wilson, co-founder and CEO of The Gathering Spot, declined to comment, citing the ongoing legal dispute.
Glover, in an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, denied the allegations and claimed The Gathering Spot’s founders “made false accounting statements about TGS’s valuation at the time of the 2022 acquisition.”
In a new email sent to some members late Friday night, The Gathering Spot apologized to members for an “unauthorized email” that “provided incorrect information.”
“You may have seen some inaccurate reports on social media recently about team changes. We also are aware that some of you received an unauthorized email that was sent from a Gathering Spot email address that provided incorrect information,” the email read. “As you may have noticed, the email did not follow our standard brand style for official communication with the TGS community.
“We apologize for this disgruntled message with inaccurate information, which became a source of further media reporting. We apologize for any inconvenience caused by this incident and are working on improving our security and control to ensure this does not occur in the future,” the email stated.
The email also detailed more information about Petersen’s departure and McCloskey’s hiring. It read that Petersen’s last day as chief operating officer will be July 31, and he will remain recognized as a co-founder of The Gathering Spot and shareholder in Greenwood.
It also read that Greenwood has been searching for a chief financial officer since 2021, a role that McCloskey will fill. “There have been inaccurate reports that Mike is a replacement for TK. That is absolutely false,” the email stated. “The Chief Financial Officer role for Greenwood has been an open role for a year before The Gathering Spot acquisition. These are two different roles, within two different companies in our family, with two different sets of responsibilities.”
At the end of the email, The Gathering Spot noted that its leadership team is over 75% Black.
The club later posted the email statement online, which led to more responses from concerned members.
Jennifer Matthews is hoping The Gathering Spot leadership will send more details as to what happened. “I've toyed with the idea of canceling my membership altogether,” she said.
“I do think members deserve more of an in-depth email of what happened because people have canceled their membership based on the initial message that was sent on Thursday,” she continued. “I do believe that members need more transparency on what this Greenwood partnership really is and how it impacts TGS members moving forward.”
A current member of The Gathering Spot, who is considering ending membership, voiced concerns regarding transparency. “The original email stated club operations and general managers would report directly to Mike. That isn’t the role of a CFO,” the person said on condition of anonymity.
“We’re still canceling,” another member said when asked about the email. “It’s still bullshit. It’s a PR front.”
Other members aren’t convinced Petersen would have voluntarily left The Gathering Spot quietly. “TK wouldn't just leave The Gathering Spot, so he's a co-founder. Of course, when somebody acquires your company, there's nothing wrong with that. But when you acquire a company, don't pay me for it, and then fire me,” then there’s a problem, said a founding member of the Atlanta club who knows Petersen.
“None of it's adding up. So I tend to believe that silence speaks volumes.”
Greenwood and The Gathering Spot did not respond to a request for comment.