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Bad News for Acumen.

Stockholders in Acumen Brands Inc., the one-time Fayetteville startup phenomenon, received bad, but probably not unexpected, news in the mail.

General Atlantic, a private equity firm, told investors in a letter received Jan. 8 that their shares were valueless. Former Acumen CEO John James and a former Acumen executive who asked to be anonymous confirmed the receipt of the letter and that all stockholders were told their shares were worthless.

James said he couldn't give details about the letter because he merely skimmed it before throwing it away. In the past, James has declined to say what ownership percentage he has retained in Acumen, although he apparently would have to have some if he received the notification.

James and Terry Turpin co-founded Acumen Brands in 2009, and the company rose to prominence on the strength of such brands as Country Outfitter, which sold country wear and boots, and Scrub Shopper, which sold medical wear. The pinnacle of Acumen's rise was when General Atlantic invested $83 million and took a 60 percent ownership stake in 2013.

Turpin, when contacted by Arkansas Business on Thursday, said he could not comment on the letter stockholders received. Turpin was COO of Acumen but became CEO when James left the company in 2014.

"I really can't comment on that right now," Turpin said. "I'd love to be able to but, at this point, I can't. I'm not trying to be difficult. I'm under some obligations where I can't comment on things."

James resigned from the company to focus on his startup support company Hayseed Ventures but remained a member of Acumen's board of directors until 2016.

Acumen's fortunes soon soured after the General Atlantic investment, though information about its problems has been hard to pin down on the record.

Acumen sold Scrub Shopper to James in 2016; he operates it under the Hayseed Ventures umbrella. It sold Country Outfitter, its customer list and social media assets to a subsidiary of Boot Barn Holdings Inc. for $1.8 million in June 2017.

Turpin said Thursday that Acumen had also sold its country lifestyle website One Country to a undisclosed private investor at the same time it sold Country Outfitter.

"It was [to] a different group of investor," Turpin said. "I can't reveal that one."

At the height of Acumen's success, the company moved into a 200,000-SF facility on North Shiloh Drive in Fayetteville where, officials said in 2014, they were filling 7,500 orders a week for its online brands. The lease for Acumen's 76,000 SF headquarters across the street was taken over by Kimbel Mechanical Services in May 2017.

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Title Annotation:WHISPERS; resignation of John James at Acumen Brands Inc.
Publication:Arkansas Business
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 15, 2018
Words:447
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