Monday, November 19, 2007

Another lawsuit clouds Israel's baseball future: Founder of rival league embroiled in ugly legal battle over kid-killing toys

Lawsuits continue to vex the future of professional baseball in Israel.

A week after we revealed the federal lawsuit against Israel Baseball League founder Larry Baras, readers of this site have brought to our attention an even more serious legal action involving one of the leaders of the rival league that was announced this weekend.

The Chicago Tribune reported in May that the MEGA Brands toy company "allege in a lawsuit that (Israel Professional Baseball League leader) Jeffrey and Lawrence Rosen -- the brothers who sold them Rose Art (makers of the Magnetix building sets), then led that division after the merger -- didn't fix the problems with the dangerous toy in part because they didn't want to jeopardize personal multimillion-dollar payouts tied to profit targets.

"Kenny Sweet Jr., a suburban Seattle toddler, died, and at least 27 other children suffered serious intestinal injuries after swallowing tiny magnets that fell out of Magnetix toys.

"In a statement, the Rosen family denied Mega Brands' allegations, saying that 'prior to its acquisition by Mega Brands' the family 'acted in a thorough and responsible manner with regard to the manufacture, safety, quality control and sale of its Magnetix toy products.'

"Four months before Kenny's death in November 2005, Mega Brands bought Rose Art from the Rosen family for $315 million in cash and stock, plus the assumption of $35 million in debt.

"The Rosens said they told Mega Brands before the merger that customers had complained that magnets were falling out, and the family said it disclosed an attorney's claim that a child was injured..."

The Rosens are suing MEGA Brands in United States District Court in the Southern District of New York, contending that it failed to pay them $51 million, as they say the 2005 sale required. MEGA Brands has countered in court that it does not owe the money to the Rosens. Earlier this year, a federal judge sent the case to arbitration.

Jeffrey Rosen was an investor in the Israel Baseball League who joined with player-attorney Alan Gardner and other IBL veterans to start up the rival Israel Professional Baseball League to take the place of the IBL, which saw its commissioner and nine advisory board members bolt last week, days after Tabloid Baby revealed the details of a federal securities fraud lawsuit against founder Baras.

The Boston bagel and baseball visionary had planned keep the IBL afloat with money from the Spectrum Capital Group, but the investment bankers backed out of the deal after Tabloid Baby revealed that the suit alleged that investments in his "Unholey Bagel" company were being used to prop up his sports operation.

The letter announcing the formation of the new IPBL said the new leadership was "made up of participants from the ’07 season, all of whom have a uniquely inside view of what happened and will make sure that it does not happen again."

The accusations within the Rosen toy case are not connected directly with the baseball league, unless one counts dead and seriously injured kids as potential fans, and the spectre of little victims has already stirred up taunts of "blood money" from opponents to the "new leadership"-- just the tip of another ugly and angry battle being waged largely by anonymous commenters on the Tabloid Baby site, which has become the forum for debate and information surrounding the dream of professional baseball in Israel.

The editors of Tabloid Baby have, in fact, nominated Our Man Elli in Israel to be commissioner of the new league.

No comments: