Jon Acuff Resignation from Dave Ramsey Team Raises Questions

Jon Acuff and Dave Ramsey Split by a Chasm on Ramsey Website

This is a custom image for MSL. A screen shot of the actual page on Dave Ramsey’s website is below.

Today, Jon Acuff resigned from the Dave Ramsey team. In a post on his Facebook page, Acuff explained several potential reasons that were not behind his resignation. Still, there is no explanation why he did resign. In response to the resignation, Dave Ramsey’s team has apparently shut down all digital assets associated with Acuff. The actions by Ramsey’s organization and the lack of transparency from either man raise questions in the Christian business, personal finance and leadership communities.

Jon Acuff’s Disclaimers

In the Facebook post announcing his resignation, Jon Acuff explained his time with the Dave Ramsey team was the, “three greatest years of our professional life” (including his wife Jenny). He then went on to explain several motivations that were not behind his decision, including:

1. This was not an integrity or moral issue. 2. This was not about money. 3. This was not about another opportunity.

Still, there was no explanation what was behind their decision. Taken alone, one could argue that Acuff doesn’t owe anyone an explanation. However, as a public figure in the Christian community and a thought leader in the entrepreneurial space, his actions, especially surrounding key business decisions, beg analysis.

Dave Ramsey’s Reaction

In response, Dave Ramsey’s organization seems to have made a deliberate effort to shutdown all of Jon Acuff’s digital presence within their control. Specifically, Jon’s most prominent sites (Stuff Christians Like and JonAcuff.com) now point to a Dave Ramsey page that reads, “Regrettably, Jon Acuff has resigned from the Dave Ramsey team. This takes us as much by surprise as it does you. We wish Jon all the best.”

Screen shot of Dave Ramsey's Page

Actual screen capture of Dave Ramsey’s website at time of original post.

In his Facebook post referenced above, Jon addressed the shutting down of these sites, saying, “…Stuff Christians Like will return. It takes time to pull together content and blog pages and everything else that is associated with a transfer. Dave has very kindly stressed to me his desire to make that happen as fast as possible.” It is true that website transitions can take time. However, in amicable transitions websites can (and typically do) remain up and operating as normal throughout such a transition. It’s entirely up to the owner of the assets (in this, Dave Ramsey, apparently) whether or not these assets remain active, if the recipient requests as much. This reaction from the Ramsey organization is not typical. While their notice ended politely with, “We wish Jon all the best”, their actions speak otherwise. After all, how does disabling the most popular sites attributed to Jon suggest you wish them “all the best”? Was it within their right to shut these down? Assuming ownership of these assets was transitioned to the Ramsey organization when Jon joined, yes. Was it appropriate from a man professing Christian values in business? My opinion is no. This, of course, assumes Jon did not instruct Dave and team to shut down the sites until they are transferred, either. If he did, I hope he make this very clear.

My Hopes

First and foremost, I hope there are no serious health or life-threatening issues behind Jon and Jenny’s decision. Second, I hope the Dave Ramsey organization’s decision to shutdown all of Acuff’s digital presence in their control was a mistake that is quickly remedied. Or, that Jon requested these actions be taken by Dave and company – I just can’t see the logic in that, either. I also hope both men are more transparent moving forward. Many will argue that Jon and Dave are not obligated to tell us anything and those folks would be right. There is no obligation. Still, the abrupt decision by Jon to leave combined with the abrupt decision by Dave to shutdown the assets seems uncharacteristic of what I expect from leaders I follow. I hope this settles out on both sides for the sake of these two great leaders and the people who follow them. For now though, we’re left with nothing but questions. Question: What do you think? Were the actions by these two men appropriate given what little we know of the circumstances?

Messages from Jon and Dave

Jon Acuff’s Facebook Posts regarding the decision he and his wife, Jenny, made to leave the Dave Ramsey team:

Friday, September 20, 2013 at 1:02 PM

Hey guys, I’m working on an explanation of today right now. I’ll post it on my Facebook page later today. Thanks

Friday, September 20, 2013 at 2:27 PM

Hey guys,

After the three greatest years of our professional life, Jenny and I decided to resign from the Dave Ramsey team today.

I need to stress a few things:

1. This was not an integrity or moral issue. I have not broken any moral clause or anything like that. Furthermore, Dave Ramsey and the entire team there are the most integrity-driven group I have ever worked for.

2. This was not about money. Dave paid me more than I have ever been paid in my entire life. In addition, he was unabashedly generous with his platform, team and influence.

 3. This was not about another opportunity. I don’t have a literary agent or a speaking agent or a publishing deal on the table. I don’t have anything else that drew me away from the company or created a wedge.

 4. Stuff Christians Like will return. It takes time to pull together content and blog pages and everything else that is associated with a transfer. Dave has very kindly stressed to me his desire to make that happen as fast as possible.

This was one of the hardest decisions Jenny and I have ever made, but we’ve got a community of people here in Nashville who love us and are walking with us.

It’s scary and difficult, but God is not small.

Thanks for being our friend,

Jon and Jenny

Dave Ramsey’s message regarding the resignation:

Regrettably, Jon Acuff has resigned from the Dave Ramsey team.

 This takes us as much by surprise as it does you. We wish Jon all the best.

Sites and pages that are no longer available and redirect to Dave Ramsey’s message:

  • JonAcuff.com
  • Stuff Christian’s Like
  • Jon Acuff’s Speaker page on DaverRamsey.com

Other digital assets that appear to be disabled:

  • Start Conference website
  • Post that welcomed Jon Acuff to the Dave Ramsey team
  • Sara

    Its commentary like yours dear sir that stirs up strife and division. Creating a stir over something that Dave’s team has some underlying message other than we wish him the best. :(

    • http://modernservantleader.com/ Ben Lichtenwalner

      Thanks for sharing your opinion, Sara. I appreciate that some people will have that view.

    • chad

      Sara, the problem with that is that Acuff gives advice on quitting your job and following your dream. Those are personal things that thousands have followed Jons advice on. I think it is within the realm of decorum to expect an explanation from Jon. How is it ok for him to give advice on quitting then when he quits it seems to go against his bestselling advice. This seems a little hypocritical. I think we all want to believe that whatever happened was above board, but this silence males it difficult. I believe Jon, more than Dave, owes us an explanation. He is in serious danger of losing all credibility.

  • JOlsen

    Agree. The words were kind, but the actions were anything but. Badly done, and speaks worse for Lampo than for Jon. Taking down sites as popular as SCL and jonacuff.com will result in a loss of audience for Jon. Lampo/DR must know that, and they did it anyway.

    • http://modernservantleader.com/ Ben Lichtenwalner

      Thanks for sharing, J. I agree. Assuming Jon did not request the sites be disabled, Lampo’s actions do not match their words.

      • FrugalAnnie

        Let’s think about this some more — as a business owner, if I didn’t agree with the direction of a company or a decision my business partner made — I wouldn’t be promoting their information either. You can wish someone the best, but that doesn’t mean you have to pave the road for them. Dave’s always been direct and doesn’t sugar coat things … and that’s a huge reason I highly respect him and his organizations.

        • http://modernservantleader.com/ Ben Lichtenwalner

          I definitely like that attribute of Dave as well. Too often we sugar coat things rather than provide certainty and clarity. Yet, for me, this is not about a direction. There’s no reason the assets couldn’t simply be clearly disassociated with Dave but still remain available, right?

        • JOlsen

          Annie, Dave could have removed the links on his domains and severed the relationship that way. Taking down SCL and JonAcuff.com was unnecessary. They could have “frozen” the content and had an orderly transition. They chose not to. Again I say, badly done, and not in the spirit of Colossians 3:12-4.

          • http://thenonessentials.blogspot.com/ Sean Chandler

            Sorry I’m late to this.

            After providing Acuff a platform on which he was able to sell out a conference and produce two best sellers and investing $100,000s into promotion, I’m not so sure it’s unkind, unforgiving, or unloving to stop hosting said persons blog when they tell you they want to leave your organization.

            Dave doesn’t owe Jon even more than he’s already given him. I’m not sure why Dave would be required to pay to host several high traffic blogs as free promotion to someone who just left his organization at a really bad time (for Dave….great for Acuff).

    • http://thenonessentials.blogspot.com/ Sean Chandler

      Sorry for joining late.

      How is it worse for Lampo? Acuff used Ramsey’s platform and resources (specifically lots of money and millions of listener) to get a sell out conference and two best sellers. Ramsey was obviously viewing Acuff as part of the future of the organization. Right after finishing his hit conference, Acuff says he wants to leave the organization.

      So Ramsey wasted years and lots of money heading down a path which went know where. Acuff rode the ride to far great fame and exposer…but Ramsey is the bad guy for not continuing to pay to host the high traffic blogs of someone who said they wanted to leave the organization very suddenly.

      Sure Acuff will lose some of his audience due to the transition…of course, the reason he has so much to lose is because Ramsey helped greatly expand his platform.

  • http://hereiblog.com/ Mark Lamprecht

    The whole situation is odd. As I understand Acuff’s story, Ramsey gave him his big break. (I have a few more observations about that, but….) Anyway, we may never know why they parted ways. Maybe both parties feel it’s best to leave whatever happened behind closed doors stay behind those doors. And I get that.

    I would not fault either party for keeping their business – their business. However, if the public is never told, it will be an irony that often happens with celebrities. They share past trials that happened on the way to stardom and seem to seek opportunity at every turn. Yet, when something happens “within the family” during their high point, some stay quiet. But maybe we will be told and there will be lessons in this separation for all us all to learn.

    • http://modernservantleader.com/ Ben Lichtenwalner

      Good points, Mark.

  • Beth

    I have 2 thoughts:
    1.Perhaps it’s as simple as vision. When you’re no longer on board or you develop your own, you may have to start driving your own bus.
    2. Great leaders develop their people, and I believe it should be with the HOPE and expectation that one day they will leave the nest and go out into the world to blaze trails and develop others. The way Jon has been “cut off” is distressing. Certainly not high-minded. I’ll remain in curiosity. Both men have had an impact on my life and that is what I will choose to focus on.
    Great thought provoking post!

    • http://modernservantleader.com/ Ben Lichtenwalner

      Thanks Beth – and I agree. Both men have had a great (and overall positive) impact on my life as well. Long term, that is where my focus will be as well.

  • FrugalAnnie

    I personally completely understand why Dave may have “cut-off” links to Jon’s items. First off — if Jon is going to practice what he preaches in “Quitter” – you don’t leave a job (especially one you’ve proclaimed to be a ‘dream’) without something else to go to. I find it also distressing and unprofessional that not much notice was given to the Ramsey team so they could work with Jon to create a transition plan. Even if there were a medical issue, there’s ways to present information that is much less drastic and does not come off as a rash decision. I’m disappointed in Acuff, but I have to be honest — never really been a fan of his, so I do not see this as a major loss to the organization. There’s more to this story.

    • http://modernservantleader.com/ Ben Lichtenwalner

      Thanks for sharing, Annie. You make some good points. Do we know for certain though, that more notice was not given?

      • Abe

        A week before at the Start Conference they were selling tickets to next year’s conference. If there was more noticed, they wouldn’t have done this.

    • Lampoon

      Annie, you need to understand something about the Lampo Group: Once they decide you’re done (whether you say it or they think it), you are ushered out post haste. I would NOT be disappointed in Jon. The disappoint almost ALWAYS has to do with Dave when it comes to allowing people to leave well.

      Also, I wouldn’t be terribly surprised if someone from there is playing damage control on the internet and in social media.

      • JOlsen

        Lampoon, thanks for your insight. Not surprising, given Dave’s personality. Sad though, but not the first time, regretfully, I’ve seen a personality driven ministry/ business doing human relations poorly. Worst case I’ve seen? Layoffs on 9/11, and yes, THAT 9/11.

      • M

        Not true.

      • joe

        The only damage control in this situation needs to come from Jon. If I pump millions into promoting you, putting you on THE NEW YORK TIMES bestseller list, making you the future of my company, flying your family in a private jet to greet you on stage at Catalyst, etc, etc, etc, etc, then you better believe I’d usher you out “post haste” if you suddenly resigned after all that over what…maybe content ownership? Can Jon not read a contract? How can you not expect Dave to send Jon on his merry way after putting all of the resources of 300 people and a bunch of money into him?
        Sorry, but Jon comes out looking like a hypocrite no matter how you slice this.

  • Nick

    I think many people want to know the details because you have one guy who deals with Entreleadership and another guy who does Quitter. It’s a great textbook example.

    It’s not about being nosy. If Jon had only done SCL and left Dave Ramsey, there would be much less curiosity. He’s convinced people to leave their jobs to pursue their dream jobs, those people are confused right now. He would solicit people’s Quitter stories.

    • http://modernservantleader.com/ Ben Lichtenwalner

      Great point, Nick. Thanks for sharing.

  • Joe Buckland

    Like others, the actions of this past Friday seem very out of the norm for both parties.

    Jon often stressed that those who wish to become a Quitter and to do so
    successfully it’s so important to have a plan. A road map. A guide to
    what’s next in regard to steps that need to be taken to assure growth
    instead of implosion.

    Yet in Jon’s public explanation of leaving, he writes “This was not
    about another opportunity. I don’t have a literary agent or a speaking
    agent or a publishing deal on the table. I don’t have anything else that
    drew me away from the company or created a wedge.”

    Apparently, he broke his own rule? The rule that says have a plan.
    Don’t leave the world of being cubicle-bound to outward bound without
    having a plan to avoid committing financial and marital hara-kiri along
    the way.

    Jon also noted in explaining what didn’t happen that this was not an integrity or moral issue. “I have not broken any moral clause or anything like that. Furthermore, Dave Ramsey and the entire team there are the most integrity-driven group I have ever worked for.”

    While Jon writes in a hard manner about his side of the integrity or
    morals issue, the Ramsey side of the equation is softer in emphasis.

    One can be driven by integrity and still miss the mark. I know
    personally of people who despite lot’s of talk and even deep desire to
    exude integrity from their pores sometimes fail to measure up and
    deliver. But even with the sometimes critical eye I have they would be
    what I call “integrity driven”. There is desire. Results may vary.

    It was both Dave and Jon who made very public how they joined together
    and continued in a, at least from perception, tight relationship from
    the beginning with mutual admiration flowing back and forth between each
    party as well as leveraging the dollars along the way. Or maybe that
    was all it was. The dollar potential that drove the public mutual
    admiration society?

    What I’ve learned in life is that almost every company or public figure that’s very much in the public eye tends to have what I refer to as a Wizard of Oz effect. There is lot’s of flash, pomp and illusion. But all are driven by a a give the public what they want man or woman performing out front but in reality they are behind a curtain pulling levers and twisting valves with the hopes we won’t see how human they really are. Pay no attention to the man or woman behind the curtain. Pay attention only to the bigger theme and not the details.

    Was the public mutual admiration a part of the Oz effects? What was seen wasn’t really what we and they were getting? Or is something like any of the above what Acuff ran into and he decided he could no longer tolerate it? Did he finally pull the curtain aside and found he didn’t like what he really saw?

    Or is he just one of those types that seems to be going on just fine only to be holding back a flame out that could no longer be contained even while working in his dream job? Remember he quit 8 jobs in 8 years. He was with Ramsey for 3 years. Maybe he was overdue?

    Or was the dream job really a nightmare in some way that finally had to end?
    Remember, dreams can be both pleasurable and joyous or nightmares. Jon never disclosed which end of spectrum the dream job was.

    In the real world, none of this adds up. It makes no sense. But it’s going to be difficult for either party to part with the truth. Ramsey can’t be seen as dissing a once top level piece of his franchise. Even if truthful, it goes against so many of his teachings. Acuff will need the Ramsey legacy to leverage his next gig(s). Abuse that, and many churches and values organizations will think again before booking him. It’s going to be an interesting dance for these two in the immediate future.

    • http://modernservantleader.com/ Ben Lichtenwalner

      Wow, thank you for the great insights, Joe. I agree – many public figures have someone – or many people – pulling levers and making things work “behind the curtain”. This is why many celebrities refer to themselves – and their names – as “brands” or “images”.

      Thanks again for sharing all this with us.

  • Holli

    The haste with which the Ramsey team has been turning Jon Acuff into a non-person on their site feels lawyer-driven to me. The fact that Jon says Stuff Christians Like will be back — but *doesn’t* mention any of his other works since joining the Dave Ramsey team is, I think, telling. Jon is getting back on the intellectual property that he created before joining Dave, and nothing he created after joining Dave.

    I’m betting some IP lawyers ordered Jon’s stuff to be taken down. I don’t think this is about illness (you don’t resign abruptly over illness, you don’t cast someone into the outer darkness because they’re ill). I don’t think it’s about Jon wanting to do something new and exciting. I think it’s about who owns the content Jon has been creating.

    • http://modernservantleader.com/ Ben Lichtenwalner

      Yeah, I don’t doubt there could be IP concerns / lawyers behind this – but that doesn’t excuse it in my opinion.

      • http://thenonessentials.blogspot.com/ Sean Chandler

        I know I’m joining in late. Somehow I missed that this took place until today.

        I guess I don’t know why anything needs to be excused on Ramsey’s part.

        On the surface (which this is all speculation)…it looks like Jon Acuff used Ramsey’s influence and platform to get a couple of best-sellers and a hit conference. Then a week after his conference is confirmed a hit, he resigns to go at things alone. Which given the content of the conference seems to undermine his message. From that perspective, it would seem that promptly removing Acuff’s material is intended for punitive purposes.

        However, if you look at Ramsey’s business strategy over the last several years, it’s very clear he is in the process of replacing himself. He has no immediate plans to retire, but he knows for his company and message to continue for additional decades, it can’t be all about him. The two most prominent people in this next generation were Rachel Cruze (his daughter) and Jon Acuff (who’s books are/were constantly pushed on Ramsey’s show). In just the last 2 months, Ramsey released his follow up to FPU, The Legacy Journey. In it Acuff has a prominent role. Why? Because Ramsey knows he can’t be the only face of the organization for much longer.

        IF (and this is a big “If”) my theories are correct, Acuff has setback Ramsey’s long term strategy back years, and caused Ramsey to waste a significant amount of time and funds towards developing and promoting someone who isn’t the companies future. Thus he has to cut ties as quickly as possible to lessen the damage caused by heading down the wrong path.

        All things considered, Acuff comes off much more suspicious than Ramsey to me.

  • Kelly

    It appears to me that if I were forced to choose who is right an who is wrong here, it is important to begin with defining, “who was wronged.” Starting there, we are at a loss when we look at the two men. Simply, we do not-and may never-have enough information to be able to judge that between the two men. The good thing is that this aspect of it is not our business or our responsibility. That is why employment laws are what they are and contracts work the way they do. For example, we do not even know any specifics of the hiring contract, do we? Nor should we.

    I think the bottom line here is that there is a sense that the one wronged may be the fans and the people who have been influenced. That seems to be the heart behind what is written here by Ben. That aspect I will agree with. What we need to be careful about is judging between these men without information. Perhaps judging both for lack of information is fair. However, a point needs to be stressed that my grandfather always drilled home for me, “Never judge a man until you have walked a mile in his moccasins.” While I may know a lot about what these men teach, while I many know a lot about employment situations or even employment law, I still do not know the motivations or the reactionary nature behind this situation. So, I will will limit my disappointment in both men to how I feel wronged as a follower of their teaching.

  • mark684

    I think Jon used the entire Dave Ramsey platform to get behind him and prop him up so he could become a big time author, then leave. If I was Dave, I would be pissed because there’s no telling how much money he spent on Jon Acuff. Quitter indeed!

  • Bill

    Great
    Conversation. Thank you. I do think we are owed an explanation. Credibility is
    on the line for both parties.

    Jon at the start conference with his speakers and in his book stated we are, in
    process, and this isn’t a made or TV movie that had the tough times and then
    magically all is well. That was the message…Meeting people where they are at.
    Being brutally realistic about our present circumstance. Realville.

    The Ramsey group has never sugar coated anything. Dave has been very honest
    with his past and gives us all hope that life has to be honest and strait
    forward.

    In spite of the fact that both men have had a huge impact on my life, It causes
    me to question their authenticity and trust for the product they are marketing.
    I don’t want to think this way but the seed of doubt has been planted. Both
    parties entire careers are based of the people who believe in them and are
    promoting them. I have been silent in the last week, not sure how to talk about
    this great conference that I attended and Oh yeah. It is no more because ???.

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  • Missie

    I’d like to add a few other things to this discussion. My husband is a ghost writer and has connections all over the country. He has written best sellers for several big names and understands a great deal about the publishing industry. Something that most people don’t know is that anyone with half a brain and a good idea can become a best seller…. IF they have access to the right people to help them and loads and loads of money – hundreds of thousands of dollars.

    Take Jon Acuff for instance. He was writing used car ads, on his eight job in eight years when Dave Ramsey picked him up. Sure, Jon turns over his intellectual property, but in return, he gets a beast of a machine behind him. Suddenly he has all the marketing money he needs because Dave wants Jon to be a multi best-seller fast. Jon wrote the books, but he had Dave’s money and media connections all over the country to market his books – things he could quite possibly never have had on his own in his lifetime.

    Jon had a sell-out Start conference and ticket sales for the next one are already being sold. Yes, Jon is a phenomenal speaker (that’s why Dave picked him up!) but he also has all of Dave’s event people making these conferences happen. He has all of Dave’s marketing machine getting the word out. He has all of Dave’s media connections to get his face out there. And he has all of Dave’s marketing money MAKING him a big name because that’s Dave’s plan. And Jon is really, really good – everything seems great.

    I don’t know why Jon left. I do have a few insights into the publishing biz because of what my husband does. I can tell you that Jon probably signed a “non-compete”, which is not only typical for corporate deals, it’s almost unheard of not to have one. Who knows how long it lasts?

    I don’t see Dave as some jerk who has shut down Jon’s websites for selfish reasons. I see the Dave Ramsey business as the one that jetted Jon to a significantly higher career level, not only with Jon’s books and speaking engagements, but also in using Dave’s web team to make Jon’s site a much more visually appealing place to visit. It was Jon’s choice to turn his intellectual property over to Dave to become a part of Dave’s awesome org (if he did that), it was Jon’s choice to sign a non-compete agreement (if he did that). If Jon suddenly walks away from all that with no explanation (at least to us), let’s give the Dave Ramsey team a little benefit of the doubt. Actually, I don’t even see it as giving Dave Ramsey the benefit of the doubt. I see it as purely common sense to realize Jon’s sites are going to be down for awhile. Just my opinion. Thanks!

  • Guest

    I believe this is exactly right. Anyone notice that Jon left the week after the Start conference? So he takes advantage of the entire Ramsey machine to promote his brand and get him to the New York Times bestseller list and then leaves the week after his largest conference?

    Besides, the guy built his rep on being a “quitter,” having 8 jobs in 8 years and finally landing his “dream job,” and then he leaves his dream job after just a couple of years. So what is it…like 9 jobs in 11 years now? To me, sounds like he needs to learn how to finish what he “starts.”

    The sad thing is that whatever he’s starts doing next, you know it won’t last. That’s his normal pattern and it really affects his credibility. Anyone who stops and thinks about it for a second would realize that. Very sad.

    • Ruth

      This is some really unkind speculation. Whatever the circumstances, this was clearly not a decision Jon (and his family) made lightly.

      • http://thenonessentials.blogspot.com/ Sean Chandler

        The assumed motives are a bit unkind, but the basic facts stand on their own. Joined with a much bigger brand. Sold books on the story that he’d learned how to start. After his biggest event, he very suddenly returned to his previous pattern of quitting.

        There are a number of possible explanations which would be entirely valid. He just hasn’t offered any. I’m not given to speculation, but on the surface it doesn’t put him in the best light given the message he’s been spreading.

  • http://www.lightenupgear.com/ Erik Carlson

    Admittedly, I haven’t been following this story until today…but no one really knows what Jon Acuff’s contract looked like. Could it be possible that Acuff actually owns the content and correlating domain names and his leaving prompted the legal action to remove the content?

    I DO know that the Ramsey site is missing some valuable SEO content…plus it made Dave’s site more of a “destination site”.

    Acuff’s tribe is loyal and they will follow him no matter where he goes…

  • DM

    Who cares. Let them be. It’s non of our business.

  • Aaron

    The reason for Jon Acuff’s abrupt resignation from the Dave Ramsey company is obvious…and all of you are missing the point.
    RACHEL CRUZE…

  • David

    A great gossip article. Well, I don’t know what happened but what if…and if that is true then don’t you think…Well, bless their heart.