Greenwood, Gathering Spot dispute among founders spills into open

(Left to Right) Ryan Glover, Ryan Wilson TK Petersen and Paul Judge in May 2022 announced the acquisition of The Gathering Spot, a Black networking hub, by digital banking platform Greenwood.

Credit: Greenwood/The Gathering Spot

Credit: Greenwood/The Gathering Spot

(Left to Right) Ryan Glover, Ryan Wilson TK Petersen and Paul Judge in May 2022 announced the acquisition of The Gathering Spot, a Black networking hub, by digital banking platform Greenwood.

An escalating dispute between the Atlanta founders of a professional networking club and the fintech company that bought it last year has spilled into the open, stirring concerns about the high-profile partnership aimed at helping Black entrepreneurs.

The Gathering Spot, acquired by Greenwood, announced Saturday that T’Keel “TK” Petersen would cease to be the club’s chief operating officer at the end of the month.

Petersen and Ryan Wilson, who co-founded The Gathering Spot, or TGS, earlier this year sued Greenwood, accusing the fintech company of not paying them money they were owed. Greenwood’s prominent founders include tech investor Paul Judge, entertainment executive Ryan Glover, Ambassador Andrew Young and the rapper Michael Render, known as Killer Mike.

The departure of Petersen coincided with news that Greenwood had hired Mike McCloskey as Greenwood’s chief financial officer. Some social media postings in recent days highlighted that Petersen is Black and McCloskey is white, upsetting some TGS members.

“I could join any social or co-working space in Los Angeles I want to. I joined this one because it was Black owned, Black run, and Black Black,” former TMZ personality Van Lathan, who identified himself as a founding member of TGS’s Los Angeles location, wrote in an Instagram post Friday.

“Firing a founder and adding a white dude to the C-suite is at cross purposes with everything I joined for,” Lathan added.

Both Wilson and Petersen declined to comment for this article, citing a lawsuit they have filed against Greenwood in Fulton County Superior Court. The lawsuit alleges Greenwood engaged in intentional misconduct and withheld a $5 million earn-out payment tied to TGS reaching a $15 million revenue target.

Greenwood denies the allegations. Glover and Judge, in weekend interviews with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, said there are questions about the accuracy of TGS’s financials. In a June court filing, Greenwood alleged that Wilson and Petersen made “false and misleading statements” affecting TGS’s valuation at the time of the 2022 acquisition.

Glover, in a separate written statement, said the TGS business is not profitable and that TGS’ Los Angeles location lost over $2 million last year. He said Greenwood has already paid more than $40 million in cash, stock and assumed liabilities.

Petersen, along with fellow Georgetown University graduate Wilson, opened TGS’s flagship location in 2015 at the Northyards building complex, just west of downtown Atlanta. The networking club, aimed at Black professionals, generated buzz by promising a “motivated and diverse community of professionals, creatives and entrepreneurs,” an all-day work environment with additional benefits such as special event access, concierge services, a full-service restaurant and bar, and integrated technology.

When Greenwood announced its acquisition of TGS in May of last year the fintech company said it shared “the same mission of empowering minorities towards entrepreneurship, career advancement, financial freedom, and wealth building.” The announcement also claimed a combined community of more than 1 million people, to whom it would offer custom content and banking services.

Greenwood paid $50 million to acquire TGS, according to a transcript of a July court hearing. Half of that amount was in the form of Greenwood stock. TGS’s attorney expressed concern at the hearing that Greenwood was “bleeding money” and that TGS founders wouldn’t be paid.

Greenwood, which was founded in 2020, offers Mastercard-branded debit cards, savings accounts and other services to customers, and markets itself as a digital platform for Black and Latino individuals and business owners. Banking services are provided to Greenwood customers by Coastal Community Bank, based in Everett, Washington.

In addition to Atlanta and Los Angeles, TGS also has a physical location in Washington, D.C. and virtual memberships in New York, Chicago, Charlotte, and other cities. TGS members have included film director Will Packer and actor and producer Issa Rae. President Joe Biden, basketball star LeBron James and other prominent figures have visited TGS locations.

Joey Womack, founder of Atlanta-based Goodie Nation, a tech-focused community of diverse founders and social entrepreneurs, has worked with both Greenwood and TGS’s founders. Womack released a statement on LinkedIn on Sunday expressing concern about developments.

“The recent news of leadership changes have hurt, shocked, angered, and disappointed many people — myself included,” he wrote. “I’ve seen and heard a lot of speculation, accusations, and spirited statements over the last several days. This makes me feel as if the community that has been carefully cultivated over the past 12-15 years is fracturing, and this deeply troubles me.”

Editor’s note: This story was updated to more accurately reflect Glover and Judge’s interview comments about TGS’s financials, separate from what Greenwood alleged in a court filing.