The destruction of Jumpolin, the East Austin piñata shop that was demolished overnight last month, continues to make waves. The story blew up to national proportions shortly after the Lejarazu family, which owned the shop, first found the ruins of their store on the corner at which it had previously resided. The building had been bought by Jordan French and Darius Fisher of F&F Real Estate Ventures, two Austin entrepreneurs with both real estate holdings and tech industry businesses, who had the building demolished despite the fact that three years remained on Jumpolin’s lease.
French quickly became the face of the PR counteroffensive launched by F&F, insisting that the family was delinquent on their rent (the Lejarazus later released video of themselves paying their rent, a precaution that the Austin Chronicle reports they took after F&F had claimed they were in default). French also insinuated that the Jumpolin owners may have been selling drugs on the premises and gave a bizarre interview in which he compared the business owners to cockroaches.
And then on Thursday, his position as CEO of Status Labs, the SEO and reputation-management company he co-founded, was terminated. According to a press release from Status Labs media director Sarah Pendley:
Status Labs announces that Jordan French has resigned as Chief Executive Officer, effective immediately, and will no longer be involved in the operation of the business.
The company’s employees asked French to resign after reviewing actions taken outside of his role at Status Labs that do not represent the values of the company.
Status Labs’ employees have chosen to demonstrate their commitment to the Austin community by regularly volunteering as a company at Austin nonprofits. The first volunteer outing will be serving members of Austin’s homeless community at Caritas on March 30th, 2015.
While no replacement for French has been named, Status Labs is currently reviewing candidates for the role.
In an open letter posted on the company’s website, the company’s employees stated that, “While our former CEO’s inexcusable actions were performed outside of his role at Status Labs, we would still like to extend our sincere regrets and apologies to the Lejarazu family and to our fellow Austinites. We feel that the actions taken and the insensitive comments made by Jordan were way out of line with our values and beliefs.”
We stand by our New York City-based president, Darius Fisher, who, as a passive investor in F&F Real Estate Ventures, was unaware of the extreme measures Jordan enacted in his effort to evict Jumpolin.”
It appeared, after the destruction of Jumpolin, that the demolition was scheduled in order to facilitate a SXSW day party. That backfired quickly. After community activists made sure that the party’s sponsor, New York-based party planning service Splash, knew the circumstances under which the lot had become available to them, Splash relocated the event to a different lot near the Austin Convention Center.
Still, the fact that French has been forced out of the company that he helped create, a company where he served as CEO, is a major development here—and it appears indicative of a shift in the power balance between community activists and those that are quickly replacing the longtime residents of East Austin. The fact is, few involved in companies accused of being bad neighbors in gentrifying communities have faced consequences for misbehavior. That his resignation accompanies an announcement from Status Labs about their company-wide participation in volunteer days for local nonprofits is similarly encouraging: it’s possible for new business and companies to be good neighbors and positive members of the communities they’re entering, and we can only hope that Status Labs sets an example for others.