This year there will not be one Chicago Seminars, but two…on the same weekend and in the same city. So what is going on? And should you attend one instead of the other?
Chicago Seminars Civil War…One Weekend, Two Frequent Flyer Events
For over a decade, the Chicago Seminars has been the “original” points and miles gathering and truly represented a labor of love for the event speakers and organizers. I have spoken at a couple of them and found the community there a great treasure. This is a strictly non-profit event: speakers are not paid and any income after travel and logistical expenses are covered is donated to charity.
Gary offered his take this morning and I have a slightly different one. In short, there is a lot going on behind the scenes which has led up to not one, but two Chicago Seminars this year:
- Chicago Seminars (hosted by Stefan Krasowski)
- Chicago Seminars (hosted by Marty Paz, JT Genter, and Chris Moss)
And this year the Chicago Seminars occur on the same weekend as ZorkFest, which I was invited to speak at but regretfully declined because my wife and I will be on vacation on another continent.
I’m not going to overtly take a side in this battle; I find it tragic and I greatly lament that the two sides could not work out an appropriate compromise.
But let me say this. I know Marty Paz and respect him. I know JT Genter and appreciate greatly his work for TPG and now for Award Wallet. And I know Stefan Krasowski more so than anyone else involved and view him as a friend and selfless colleague who loves the miles and points community and has moved forward with a competing event with the best of intentions.
Gary noted debate about who is speaking at what event. Stefan has fully updated the speaker list, based on additions and two declines he later received.
On View From The Wing, JT presented his case on the root of the issue:
But having spoken to Stefan, the situation is more nuanced than the idea that he went AWOL, forcing the other organizers to move on without him. There are legal and contractual issues at play that complicate this and the notion that Stefan essentially was derelict in his duty does not accurately portray what led to the civil war. There are personality issues at play here and there is also confusion over legal rights and remedies. I have not met Chris Moss and therefore will not express an opinion on his role in creating the current situation.
In addition to our verbal conversation, Stefan sent me a written statement, of which I am including excerpts below:
I have sought to not involve others or ask people to take sides in this Chicago Seminars mess. I am not engaging in public attacks. I am continuing with the 2023 event with the team I hired, which does not include this group of three who are now running their own event…
There were lengthy reconciliation attempts, including with a mutually agreed moderator, in which I made offers that were declined and the process failed. I then concluded the event needed to move forward as best it could in the legal process with a new venue…
We look forward to a positive event, not one run out of spite. You will not see me engaging in public attacks.
No matter who might be at fault, the result is two events in one weekend. And I think we can all agree that this is an unfortunate occurrence.
From my perspective, I wish all event organizers and both events all the best…the pie is theoretically big enough for both events, though it is sad that on the same weekend in the same city, there will be two events covering substantially the same topics (and it even appears there will be some overlap in speakers).
In a note to attendees, Stefan thanked the organizers of the competing event for their help in 2022:
As I did at the 2022 event close, I want to publicly recognize Marty, JT, and Chris, who carried a heavy, last-minute load for the 2022 event during my health issues. The 2022 event would not have been the great success it was without them, and indeed, may not have happened at all. JT and Chris, in particular to note, were first-time volunteers at the event, embracing it with enthusiasm. They joined the regulars of a decade of volunteering to pull off 2022.
That trio will now be running their own event the same weekend. While it necessarily represents a fracturing in the community, two different styles with the capacity of two venues will give you all more choice what to attend and expand the charitable capacity at the core of both Chicago Seminars and their new endeavor.
I don’t sense ill-will on the side of Stefan. It is unfortunate that the other side appears to be pressuring event attendees and speakers to ditch Stefan’s event.
My hope is that next year we will see a single event once again.
And my point here is really just to make clear that one side has decided to launch a very public campaign against the other, but there are two sides to the story and there are facts that have not been made public that make this a tragic, yet complex issue.