UPDATED: Tech Maven Winterberg Sues Colleague for T3 Conference Money
(Updates in paragraphs four to six with response from Bruckenstein.)
Bill Winterberg and Joel Bruckenstein have for years been preaching the necessity of technology to help independent advisory practices flourish, but a major rift appears to have opened in their own relationship.
Winterberg earlier this month filed a lawsuit seeking $229,000 that he claims is his 50% share of profits from the 2015 Technology Tools for Today (T3) enterprise conference held last November, k-tcc has learned. The two were cofounders of the event that focuses on executives in the registered investment advisor and financial planning space.
The suit, filed in District Court in the Southern District of Florida on May 12, claims that Winterberg and Bruckenstein had an oral agreement to split the profit, as they had done in 2013 and 2014, but that Bruckenstein has refused to give him any of the money. It cites various emails in which the words revenue split were used.
In an interview on Tuesday, Bruckenstein, who also runs a larger T3 financial technology solution conference for advisors and publishes the “Virtual Office News” newsletter, denied that Winterberg was ever a partner and said the $229,000 figure is overstated and “inaccurate.”
“He was an employee, an independent contractor, and in my opinion, the suit is without merit and we’re going to prove that in court,” Bruckenstein said. “There was no contract.”
Bruckenstein referred additional questions to an attorney.
In a phone interview, Winterberg declined to discuss details of the dispute or to characterize Bruckenstein’s motives.
“I have a huge social media profile [and] I could just crush him,” Winterberg, who has almost 17,000 followers on Twitter, said. “I choose not to because that’s bad and doesn’t help.”
At least one tech vendor said, admiringly, that Winterberg does not play by the same rules that govern industry conferences and trade shows.
“Bill Winterberg has set himself apart from a traditional pay-to-play that…has stifled innovation,” said Justin Wisz, CEO of Vestorly, which sells software aimed at helping advisors automate intereactions with clients and members of their social networks. “Whether this complaint has something to do with that, I don’t know, but Winterberg is definitely different from the rest of the thought leaders out there.”
Wisz said he has no business connections with Winterberg or Bruckenstein.
About 275 people, including top executives from United Capital and Focus Financial Partners, attended the 2015 T3 enterprise conference in Weston, Florida, Winterberg said.
In the lawsuit, Winterberg sites an email from Bruckenstein in which he endorses investing in a website together because it could yield “a larger pie to split.”
Bruckenstein’s T3 conference for advisors held every winter since 2005 has a higher profile than the enterprise one for firm executives. The 2015 annual advisors conference drew around 600 attendees.
Bruckenstein is currently soliciting sponsors for the 2016 enterprise conference, to be held in Las Vegas, without Winterberg’s aid.
“He’s forging ahead alone,” Winterberg said. “He feels it’s successful enough that he can host it again without…me.”