It's hard to find Canadians who dislike @mec, the venerable, beloved co-operative outdoor store modeled on REI. Millions of us have paid $5 to join the co-op and make it our first port of all for outdoor gear.

It's being sold to a rapacious American Private Equity fund.

No. Really.

It's a sordid and disgusting tale.

About a decade ago, the board started to favour members who had operational experience over traditional board members - drawn from the co-ops rank and file.…

They rammed through by-law changes in '13 that let them:

a) Disqualify potential board candidates from nomination; and

b) Recommend slates of candidates to the membership

This kicked off a spiral of ever-more-rigged elections that changed the co-op's fundamental character.

Board seats started going to people whose experience was in the C-suites of major for-profit corporations; while the executive ranks were filled with merchandisers from failed electronics stores who filled the co-op stores with stupid gadgets.

The co-op underwent disastrous expansion under this new regime, and began to lose money - $23.5m in losses on $462m in sales in 2018/19.

The board ignored members and founders who called on it to return to selling good outdoor gear at good prices:…

And then, in a stroke of absolute malfeasance, they voted to sell the co-op to a US private equity firm called Kingswood Capital Management.…

As a reminder, here's the private equity playbook: buy beloved companies, load them with debt, reduce the quality of their products, liquide their pension funds, collect gigantic "management fees" and walk away, leaving behind wreckage and sorrow.

MEC's board undertook this decision without putting it to the co-op membership - you know, the actual owners of MEC - who could have rescued the co-op with a modest $5-10 fee per member.

It's not clear what will become of the proceeds of the sale (the co-op owns $372m in assets) - I wouldn't be surprised if the board and C-suite of the co-op found a way to take the lion's share in "consulting fees" and similar grifts.

I have served as a board member on a Canadian co-op. This is absolutely illegitimate, reckless conduct and I hope the board is sued over it. I think they acted illegally.

Co-op members ( have started a petition - which has attracted 30,000 signatures in mere days. I signed it.…


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