Energy Standard GM Jean-Francois Salessy Exits ‘Fake Movie,’ Resigns In Angry Letter

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Photo Courtesy: Mine Kasapoglu/ISL

Energy Standard GM Jean-Francois Salessy Exits ‘Fake Movie,’ Resigns In Angry Letter

Energy Standard’s Jean-Francois Salessy announced via an open letter to Konstantin Grigorishin that he is stepping down as the ISL team’s general manager.

The letter was sent Sunday afternoon, in which Salessy recounts the founding of the Energy Standard team, based in Paris and named after the company led by Grigorishin. Salessy, who entered the position as the agent of Florent Manaudou, expressed dismay at his efforts on the business side that met with difficulty at the hands of Grigorishin, who is also the International Swimming League’s founder.

It has, in Salessy’s words, limited him to becoming, “a general without power.” He recounts decisions made on personnel, including resistance to integrating French swimmers into a French team, and Salessy’s exclusion from the hotel for general managers at the Budapest bubble.

Energy Standard won the competition in 2019 and is into next week’s final.

The letter, in full (lightly edited for clarity):


If I choose the form of an open letter to express myself today, it is in the hope of allowing others to open their eyes to your functioning and way of thinking, so that they will avoid similar disappointments.

I met you alone face to face in March 2019 in Antalya for the first and last time under this format.

You asked me on this occasion to become the General Manager of the ” ENERGY STANDARD ” team; (your company’s name) the only team to bear the name of a company – in which Florent MANAUDOU, an athlete for whom I am the agent, had just been integrated.

The creation of a professional league in a sclerotic and dusty sport was attractive. I was convinced that you would ask me to choose between my role as swimmer’s agent and management’s role of elite swimmers, which delighted me with the human and sporting perspectives. The salary conditions that you clearly offer me that day also suited my expectation. I still believe in a sense of honour and the face of the word.

I was happy to be back in the position I held for 7 years – and with a certain success – within the Cercle des Nageurs de Marseille The new experience allowed me to Work again with one of my ex-coach James GIBSON under management of Romain BARNIER.

During too many months I tried to take a position that James was carrying out fully without me, under your direct authority and with a dedication that I thought was linked to British pragmatism and phlegm. My mission was therefore reduced to find sponsors, the swimmers’ cenacle, the fuel of ISL, being your reserve area.

During the last years now, the only agreement we reach, not without difficulty, was to included the word PARIS to ENERGY STANDARD franchise name and this, in order to create a real club spirit, a “fan base” as a collective competition and a team confrontation implies. The main objective was also to attract french partners.

I looked for (and found) accommodation facilities in Paris to provide Paris identity critical to attract partners, I found accommodations and facilities in Paris fully sponsored, I hired a consultant (paid on my own budget thinking I was being paid) to prepare the magic events in Trocadero-Champ de Mars or in the most prestigious stadiums in France, I financed a dedicated website for the franchise on my own budget, I triggered the rebrodcast ISL season 1 on a Free to air french channel and I leveraged all media networks by publishing press articles, organizing press conferences ant tv networking. By away, once again, I dedicated my personnel relationship with movie makers finalizing a documentary with florent partners PUMA group exclusively mainly shot during ISL competition and broadcasting on AMAZON PRIME and BEIN SPORT.

All the effort has been damaged by your poor press statements like constant criticism on Olympic Games. I still remember ” The Olympic Games belong to the past “.

At the same time, I tried to integrate French swimmers into the Team to provide credibility and reality to our french franchise. Each of my proposal did not suit your “in-house coach”: “Beryl Gastaldello is unmanageable, Mélanie HENIQUE is not polyvalent enough, we don’t need Charlotte BONNET etc.”. ENERGY STANDARD PARIS has only one French swimmer to date. As emblematic as he is, am I the only one to find this situation ridiculous? At the end, I understood too late I’ve been hired only because I am Florent MANAUDOU’s agent.

However, my personal case remains secondary. This is illustrating the fact that ISL is an icebergs with an attractive visible part and an immersed dark side.

I must admit that you put a lot of energy into building a competition format, an attractive audiovisual product, and only taking care of the main actors of the film with prize money : the swimmers and their coaches who were underpaid until then.

The swimmers’ agents, GMs, service providers, technicians and support staff are just extras in this movie, replaceable at will, therefore malleable at will. Therefore picky agents and too overly curious journalists are not welcome. You don’t pay the GMs, the administrative staff and the suppliers who can in any case be replaced in a perpetual turnover.

« Only the rich get credit »

Your Billionaire’s status prevents the candid and passionate to ask you for guarantees, for legal contracts (my case among others), and from worrying about a minimum of formalism.

In the no man’s land of international competitions, with sclerotic authorities, nobody wonders the way to define the ISL matches’ schedule (thanks to ENERGY STANDARD), how the draw is organized (thanks to ENERGY STANDARD), how the budgets of each team are determined (thanks to ENERGY STANDARD) since you fully owned the League. Is it fair to impose a salary cap, when bonus money is only aligned on the team’s ranking ?

Fairness and financial transparency have to be the basics, mainly when you criticize other competition format.

I am a sports enthusiast and I could have been volunteer to join ISL project if it had been made clear to me from the beginning. But until now I reserve my charitable actions so that the poor are less poor and not so that the rich can afford beautiful toys.

I hate manipulation and if creating a swimmers’ union (“The Alliance” (!) led by the nice and devoted Matt BIONDI) is laudable. Such initiative can be managed and organized only out of private interests to be able to discuss fairly with authorities like the IOC, FINA but also…ISL.

ISL is boat without governance but with only one shareholder and generals without powers.

You can argue that I have not found any sponsors (I have found some for others in the meantime by the way). No one has found any for you, could be in France, Europe, USA or elsewhere. It is therefore easier to incriminate sellers than the product itself. An age-old process.

Being the only GM excluded of Swimmers’ hotel, I prefer to laugh.

I no longer wish to be part of your fake movie.

I am coming back to France. For once we have a joint posture: it won’t change anything.

I love sport, I love swimmers, I admire them.

But the dice are loaded, and ultimately it’s insulting those champions.

I never got any answers to the emails I sent you.

I therefore exonerate you from answering this letter. You will be too busy talking about pré-modernity – your dada- by taking the swimmers to witness one by one in the lobby of your hotel.

Excuse me, but for me, all of this, is more like the Middle Ages.

Jean-François SALESSY

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3 years ago

The ISL concept is an interesting one but when he writes that payments from October 31 have not been made nor prize money awarded, it makes it seem a little sketchy. Also, this raises the question of why isn’t there a “Swimmer’s Alliance” similar to a player’s union in the NFL or NBA?? Yes, pay is supposed to be equal for everyone but as the league develops, that would be one way to ensure longevity between athletes, GMs, and executives.

Jane McCarren
3 years ago

How are the preliminary matches drawn? How come London never swam against Energy at all in the 10 preliminary ‘league’ matches. (They met for the first time in semi 1.) London never swam against Toronto at all either, I don’t think.

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