Monday, March 23, 2009

Ottawa baseball: Former owners sue city, Can-Am commish

Who needs fiction when you have the former owners of Ottawa's minor-league baseball team.

Long story short, the team's former owners, the Zipperheads, are suing anyone and everyone over their losses from last season and not one Ottawa media outlet has clued in. Far be it to suggest Rob Hall, Rick Anderson, et al., in lieu of going away in anger, should just go away. Their statement of claim, which is a matter of public record, goes so far to claim Can-Am League commish Miles Wolff and the City of Ottawa actually conspired to cause them to lose the $1.4 million they claimed to lose last summer.
33. In the 2008 season, Momentous funded the baseball club and its operations to the extent of some $1 million. In addition, Momentous loaned personnel and equipment to Rapidz Baseball while continuing to carry them on its payroll and inventory. During the course of the 2008 season, Rapidz Baseball incurred an indebtedness in excess of $1.4 million.

34. The likelihood of operational costs leading to a deficit in this range was known to the City and Wolff, but was not disclosed by either of them to the plaintiffs.
So, the Ontario courts are to believe that Wolff has spent the better part of two years trying to put a team in a market to purposely lose money. That is asinine on its face. Read that twice. Wolff and the city knew how much the owners would stand to lose? That's akin to me telling you how much money you'll have in your checking account at the end of this year without knowing anything about your spending habits.

Good friend Carl Kiiffner is pretty succinct:
If he 'knew' that baseball in Ottawa was a 'losing proposition' in excess of $1 million dollars, why did Miles Wolff try so hard to bring the Can-Am League here in the first place?
It just goes on and on through their statement of claim, that they were supposedly set up by the city and their commissioner. Sorry, gentle sirs, it does not pass muster, unlike the hot dogs at the ballpark last summer, which were so superb they barely needed mustard (how did you make the buns so crispy?).

This part of the SoC deserves a good slathering of soy sauce:
"They realised, by the magnitude of the losses, that the representations and warranties made by Wolff and joined in by the City were patently false. To overcome the effect of this breach, the plaintiffs sought the agreed upon negotiation with the City of a long term lease at commercially reasonable rates.
Translation for the legalese-impaired: "We were so mad at being lied to that we decided the only way out was to get into bed with this city for 30 years." (Mental note: Do not hire these guys to provide counselling to battered spouses.)

Anyway, the real proof, like Carl says, will be what the Zipperheads got in writing from Wolff and the city. The heart of the matter is that, despite Ottawa being a fickle market for teams other than hockey, Wolff put a ton of personal and sweat equity into bringing baseball back in 2009 with the Ottawa Voyageurs. The municipal government in Ottawa was only too eager to welcome it back, in stark contrast to some of the near tooth-pulling it took in fall 2007/winter 2008

At the end of the day, this post is being written so readers know what was meant by saying in January that the former owner "was pulling a Horn Chen." This goes a little bit beyond merely trying to hoard that team's former nickname.

To the media, this has nothing to do with the Voyageurs, which is essentially an expansion team which play out of the same ballpark (the Vees' Nest, as it shall henceforth be known). There is going to be pro ball in Ottawa in 2009.

The upshot is no one ever said it would be easy to preserve pro baseball in Ottawa and safeguard the Lynx legacy. With friends of baseball like the Zipperheads, who needs enemies.

Kennedy, the moon landings, Area 51 and… the RapidZ? (Carl Kiiffner, the unofficial Ottawa Voyageurs blog)
Clean break from last season's Hall hole (Jan. 27, 2009)


Anonymous said...

More and more, Hall sounds like a churlish, bratty little child - if he can't have his toy to play with, he'll make sure that no one else can either.

What a putz.

Anonymous said...

You have to wounder is in trouble in terms of going under.I may be wrong but if his company was doing well you would think he would move on and keep going on with his job.But this makes it seem that may be in trouble.

Anonymous said...

Are they public? Can you short the stock? Netflix has tumbled recently......

Anonymous said...

I doubt Zip is in trouble. They are virtually the only company of its kind in Canada. I don't think they are public. Good business to be in, lots of growth, almost recession proof.

The problem is Hall thinking he was buying into a major league franchise, spending more than he should have considering what he was buying into and in its first year. Now he just wants to recoup his loses.

Steph D said...

Actually, I would not be surprised if Zip was in trouble. Both Blockbuster & Rogers have introduced similar online systems, though they have the added benefit of in-store access as well.

But to me, it sounds more like they got their toy, thinking it was going to be lots of fun. It turned out to be way more work than anticipated, and costs were mounting, they wanted out, and are now trying everything they can to recoup whatever's left. That lawsuit drips of desperation.