Former CEO issues scathing statement after Myrtle Beach call center closes


On Friday, a Myrtle Beach call center closed its doors, leaving 52 people without work only 10 days before Christmas.

Less than two months ago, in October, Greenwood Hall customer relationship management firm announced that it would be bringing more than 300 jobs to Horry County.

CEO of the Myrtle Beach Regional Economic Development Corporation Josh Kay said area leaders had worked for three years to recruit Greenwood Hall to the area.

At the time of the Myrtle Beach announcement, the company's CEO, Bill Bradfield, said Greenwood Hall was committed to investing $1.4 million into the area.

But, between then and now, something must have changed.

Following the announcement of the closure, ABC15's Madeline Montgomery spoke with those who worked at the center.

They said they were completely blindsided by the closure. Some said they were worried about going without a paycheck, especially during the holiday season.

ABC15 News reached out to Greenwood Hall and Bradfield for comment on the closure, but we have received no response.

Friday night, the former CEO and co-founder for Greenwood Hall, John Hall, released a scathing statement about the situation.

In the statement, he said that the Myrtle Beach closure wasn't the first of its kind--he also mentioned a recent closure in Texas.

Even so, he said, "it is difficult to understand how a company with sustainable contracts [...] could just close overnight."

Hall claims that in the year prior to his departure from Greenwood Hall, the company was growing and succeeding.

Since his departure though, Hall said Greenwood Hall "has damaged or lost long-standing client relationships that equated to half of Greenwood Hall's revenue."

Hall suggested that Greenwood Hall was aware that it was "losing clients over the past few days," and current company leadership "should have been aware that others were likely to be lost well before the decision was made to commence operations in South Carolina on December 8."

Ultimately, Hall's statement created more questions than it provided answers.

ABC15 News dug into public records to learn more.

We investigated Greenwood Hall and found that the company is headquartered in California, but operates facilities in Arizona and Texas.

The company had only recently expanded to include the Myrtle Beach call center.

Greenwood Hall operates a facility in Bryan, Texas, which was similar to the call center in Myrtle Beach

Around July 6, employees at the Texas facility reached out to a local news station, KBTX, to report that many of them weren't being paid and, those who were, often had to deal with bouncing paychecks.

When KBTX reached out to then-CEO Hall on July 17, he denied that the company was aware of any payroll issues.

However, the news station says it obtained internal emails that showed that the company was struggling financially.

In a memo dated July 6, KBTX reported that Hall said "we lost some important clients and long-standing team members. We have struggled to meet some of our most basic obligations. Things became even more challenging when large clients were late in paying. This week, we had two clients, whose payments were expected a month ago. One of these client’s payments equaled and entire payroll. While the payment is expected tomorrow or Monday, the delay has been more than challenging."

When confronted by KBTX about employee's claims that they had not been properly paid, a Greenwood Hall representative said the company was "running business as usual," according to KBTX.

Then, on July 18, KBTX reported that the Texas center had suddenly let 60 employees go.

A week after the layoffs, on July 25, then-CEO Hall resigned from Greenwood Hall, according to filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

An item filed with the SEC shows that Greenwood Hall leaders said Hall's resignation came "within the 30-day period following the Board's notice to Mr. Hall of his gross negligence in the performance of his duties."

The item also states that the "resignation of Mr. Hall was not due to any disagreements relating to the operations, policies or practices of the Company."

In Hall's resignation letter, which was also filed with the SEC, Hall said the company had been experiencing "major cash flow issues for much of 2017" and, with "lack of support of the Company" to better the situation, he felt he "had no choice but to resign."

At the time of his resignation, Hall also identified a payroll issue--he said the company owed him nearly $400,000 in unpaid expenses and debts that he said Greenwood Hall owed him, plus his salary from June and July of 2017, KBTX reported.

We have reached out to Hall for comment on his knowledge of Greenwood Hall's expansion into Myrtle Beach.

In an email, Hall said Myrtle Beach was a good choice for Greenwood Hall when the company was doing well.

Yes and while I was CEO, this was something I wanted to see happen as well. We worked with a number of institutions and students in South Carolina. Based on the available labor pool and technology being a focus in the Horry County area, we thought it made a lot of sense to locate there, however, we never planned to abandon our Texas employees or facility at the time. Prior to my departure, we were expanding as we had just signed a multi-million dollar contract with one of the largest community college systems in the country. So, a location in South Carolina was thought of as a great place to expand. And the folks at HGTC and Myrtle Beach were very supportive of that.

Hall said he could not comment on the precise circumstances under which the Myrtle Beach office opened, as that occurred after he left the company.

I cannot speak for why the Company made the decision to open in Myrtle Beach the way it did and when it did, as the decision was made long after my resignation and was executed by my successor. Based on the information I have heard from employees, clients, and company officials over the past several months, however, the Company had lost large accounts and was on the verge of losing others (see my statement). Last month, company officials and investors contacted me practically begging me to help find investors and move the Company forward. They also wanted me to return to help lead the Company forward. At the time, I was told the Company was days away from having to close its doors. When I inquired about the media reports on how the Company planned to facilitate the move to Horry based on the media reports I saw in late October, I was told the Company did not know how it was going to pull the move off. In response to Company’s request for help, I put together a plan and procured an investor who was prepared to make up to a $ 2 million investment. Ultimately, the Company was not interested in moving forward. The background information I received at the time was personal interests of various parties associated with the Company stood in the way. All of this said, the move to Myrtle Beach is not one I would have made without the support of an investor and business expansion.

Hall said, while he has been in communication with some company officials since he left Greenwood Hall, he has not been in contact with Bradfield since July.

We reached out to Bradfield for comment on the company's decision to close the Myrtle Beach center, as well as a response to Hall's statements.

We will continue to update this story as we uncover more information.

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