Soles4Souls Refutes Newspaper Charges

NEW YORK — Soles4Souls founder and CEO Wayne Elsey is expected to resign as chairman in July, when the organization begins its new fiscal year.

Elsey, who will remain CEO and retain a seat on the board, said the move had been in the works for months and is intended to avoid any conflicts of interest.

The executive came under fire last week after a scathing story in hometown newspaper The Tennessean raised questions about the charity’s business practices.

The story reported that Soles4Souls in 2009 “embarked on a series of transactions” that included lending Elsey $900,000 to refinance personal real estate holdings, failing to sufficiently list the loans in IRS filings and for making millions of dollars from selling donated used shoes.

Elsey and a team of lawyers and public relations pros spent last week refuting what they claimed were “dozens of misrepresentations” and demanding the newspaper retract the story to avoid having to pursue legal action for defamation.

Elsey said he was concerned about his reputation, as well as backlash from both the public arena and larger footwear industry.

“Things are going to get cleared up shortly. I know that the truth will prevail,” he said.

The editor of The Tennessean, Mark Silverman, declined an interview request, but in an email to Footwear News wrote, “We believe that our coverage speaks for itself.”

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