One week after taking over as interim CEO of Fan Fest Events and Walker Stalker Con following the resignation of creator James Frazier, Michael DeVault on Thursday announced he has stepped down from that position. DeVault’s resignation comes days after The Walking Dead star Khary Payton announced he would no longer be attending the company’s last-remaining Walking Dead-themed convention, Walker Stalker Con Atlanta, for its planned return over Halloween weekend 2020. Payton also confirmed multiple co-stars withdrew from attending the convention in the future, including Norman Reedus, Danai Gurira and Melissa McBride. In a tweet, Payton said it was “time to shut this sh-t down” and added the hashtag “sick of it.”
“Effective at 6:21 pm tonight, I resigned as interim CEO of Walker Stalker Convention LLC and all subsidiary properties,” DeVault wrote in a now-deleted update to his Facebook page. “I will be taking a few days off from social media and will not be accepting phone calls or texts.”
📢📢ALERT📢📢October 31, 2019
Dozens of past and present Walking Dead stars have severed ties with the convention in the past few days. Payton’s co-star Angel Theory in June said the Tennessee-based company failed to pay its celebrity guests, explaining their departure from future events.
Frazier’s resignation came three days after the end of a Walker Stalker Con Atlanta described as “problematic.” It was there Theory, who is deaf, was reportedly “verbally assaulted” by a security guard after an argument was sparked over Theory’s service dog.
Theory’s co-star Nadine Marissa detailed the “very disturbing” situation on Instagram Live, where Marissa said a situation with the “really abrasive” security guard could have been eased with the presence of an American Sign Language interpreter.
Marissa said the convention failed to provide an interpreter for Theory and other attendees in need of those services. She then reported attendees who had paid to see Marissa and other celebrity guests criticized the convention for its lack of accessibility.
“It became too much and beyond my capabilities,” Frazier wrote in an Oct. 23 Facebook post. “Today, I’m turning it over to new leadership and stepping down. I will no longer have any decisions in the direction of the company and it’s daily management. I will make sure that they are up to speed on each and every issue and make myself available to assist them in any way that would help them succeed.”
DeVault later said Fan Fest / Walker Stalker was “plotting a course of success moving forward.”
“Rumors of this company’s demise are greatly exaggerated,” he said in an update. “There is a tremendous future in store for Fan Fest events.”
On Monday, in the wake of Payton’s tweet, DeVault put a pause on Fan Fest and Walker Stalker ticket sales “in order to give myself and our management team the time we need to answer several pressing questions and to plot our path forward.”
“To be clear: *we have a path forward.* There is a future, a bright one,” DeVault wrote in an update published through the Walker Stalker Facebook page Oct. 28. “We are simply taking a moment to determine the best steps to take as we assess all aspects of the company’s functions.”
In the name of “transparency,” DeVault said the convention hoped to resume ticket sales by Friday.
Tennessee’s News4 on Tuesday reported the Better Business Bureau has received 95 complaints about the company. According to News4, events were not as advertised, and attendees who paid for photo ops were not refunded when some celebrity guests were no-shows.
In its story, News4 said DeVault declined to speak on camera because of the outlet’s past coverage regarding the company.
“Earlier this week, I made the decision to suspend temporarily ticket sales for all future Fan Fest Events. This step enables the new management to compile a complete picture of the company as we negotiate with multiple investors,” DeVault said in a statement. “Until those negotiations are complete, I will have no further comment.”
“From BBB’s perspective, that doesn’t necessarily solve the problem. Simply because we’re aware of Mr. DeVault’s background in terms of other events that he’s been involved with that have also had similar problems,” Robyn Householder, President and CEO of the Better Business Bureau, told News4. “One of the things that we saw happened in the past with Galacticon is that particular celebrities were promoted to be participating in the event, which of course is what drives consumers to buy those tickets and then at the last minute, those actors were canceled.”
In his resignation letter published to the Walker Stalker Facebook on Oct. 23, Frazier said the company’s short-term goals were “to complete the outstanding refunds and pay off the other debts of the company. But more importantly, the goal is to restore faith in the company and return the events to the level of quality once received and expected.”
On Oct. 24, DeVault announced he would be accepting a salary of $1 per year “until all refunds have been made, debts have been settled, and the convention’s future is secured.”
In a letter published to Facebook, DeVault promised “transparency in the progress and process of refunds,” offering an ordered and numbered list of refunds that would be accompanied by a weekly update. DeVault also laid out plans for a “Friends and Fans Congress” to improve the Fan Fest and Walker Stalker experience and promised to “work diligently with talent, their agents, and vendors to ensure their future participation in Walker Stalker Con and Fan Fest Events.”0comments
It’s unclear how DeVault’s resignation impacts those plans.