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Cresanti to leave IFA amid franchise industry financial crisis

CEO since 2015 will step down in March; IFA cites economic impact of pandemic


Nov. 19, 2020
By William Ehart

In yet another manifestation of the havoc the COVID-19 pandemic is wreaking on certain industries and associations, the International Franchise Association announced Thursday afternoon that highly regarded CEO Robert Cresanti would leave when his contract expires on March 31.

Further, following Cresanti's departure, IFA will go without a CEO for “the foreseeable future,” the board said in a statement. Instead certain executive board members will carry on management of the group.

“The (pandemic) has caused severe economic consequences for many sectors of the franchise business model, from restaurants and hotels to hair salons and health and fitness clubs and many others,” the IFA statement said.

“According to FRANdata, more than 1.4 million franchise jobs were lost, and more than 32,000 franchise businesses have closed,” it said.

Cresanti’s latest reported take-home pay was $871,938; IFA revenue was $18 million in the year ending Oct. 31, 2018.

In the announcement, Cresanti said the association “had to take painful” measures.

“I am proud of the many advocacy-related accomplishments at IFA during my tenure, notably ensuring franchises were maximally eligible for financial relief in the CARES Act, reversing the harmful joint employer rule and enacting tax reform that saved franchise owners billions of dollars,” Cresanti said in a statement.

“Furthermore, IFA hosted its largest-ever Convention earlier this year and our member engagement is higher than ever. Even as the association had to take painful but important steps to streamline the association and ensure its financial viability during the pandemic, the mission to protect, promote and enhance the franchise business model continues to be achieved,” he said. “The IFA staff is unmatched and has delivered for our members throughout this incredibly challenging time.”

In a letter to the board, Cresanti said that “after much consideration and consultation” he has decided to seek new opportunities in 2021.

“There have been difficult, heart-wrenching cuts required to align our resources appropriately in the wake of the pandemic,” he wrote. “These difficulties will continue with a smaller IFA, but there is now light at the end of the tunnel.”

Cresanti joined IFA as its chief lobbyist in 2014 and was promoted to CEO in 2015.

Board members praised Cresanti’s leadership in the statement.

“I want to express my thanks to Robert for his strong record of disciplined policy and financial leadership of the IFA,” said board chair Catherine Monson, CEO of FASTSIGNS International.

“Under Robert’s direction, IFA has marked key legislative and regulatory victories from tax reform to labor law challenges. As CEO, he more than doubled our reserves while growing revenue each year and significantly lowering the overall expenses of the association.

“Robert changed an organizationally challenged association into a modern, financially responsible and technologically current business. He leaves an extraordinarily talented and strong leadership staff at the helm,” Monson said.