Sunday, December 30, 2007

NY Times: Israel Baseball League $1 million in debt; Baras and league unlikely to return in 2008; Ex-commish leads talks to form new league

It only took six months, but a paid professional sportswriter is doing his job and finally breaking some news in the soap opera saga of the Israel Baseball League. Murray Chass of the New York Times, last heard from back in November when he ran a column on the resignations of the IBL commissioner and advisers-- three days after Our Man Elli in Israel broke the news here (of course he didn't credit Elli or Tabloid Baby)-- brings us up to date on the future of baseball in Israel, along with the revelations that:

* The IBL is a whopping one million dollars in debt;

* Boston bagel baron Larry Baras will most likely not be running baseball in Israel next summer;

* Former US ambassador to Israel Dan Kurtzer, who quit as IBL commissioner the day after we revealed the federal securities fraud lawsuit against Baras, is working to bring all the sides together to clean up the mess the IBL left behind, and form a new, solid league.

Chass writes:

Seeking Common Ground
It’s an old Jewish joke told by Jews among Jews: Put three Jews on a committee, and they’ll have four different opinions.
That’s where baseball in Israel seems to be right now. There’s last summer’s league, there’s a new league that has been announced, there’s an independent businessman who isn’t thrilled with either one and there’s a group of former advisers to the original league who want to resolve the mess and emerge with one strong, viable league.
The mediators include Dan Kurtzer, a former United States ambassador to Israel and commissioner of the Israel Baseball League; Marvin Goldklang, a limited Yankees partner and owner of several minor league teams; and Andrew Zimbalist, a Smith College economics professor.
They hope to get everyone together for a meeting in New York next month.
“Everybody thought the league was a wonderful concept, but serious divisions developed,” Goldklang said. “We have tried to develop an approach under which those who are interested in continuing the league can come together and support a common approach based on a much sounder business plan.”
The Israel Baseball League is about $1 million in debt. Its founder, Larry Baras, the Boston bagel entrepreneur, isn’t likely to be able to operate the league next summer. Jeffrey Rosen, who was Baras’s first investor, has announced the creation of the Israel Professional Baseball League.
That’s exactly what the Goldklang group wants to avoid, starting a new league without settling the chaos left by the original.
Further muddying matters is the relationship between Rosen and Jeffrey Royer, a Canadian investor in the original league and a general partner of the Arizona Diamondbacks. Royer and Rosen are reluctant to meet for their own reasons.
Along with the Goldklang group, Buddy Lewis, whose Nokona Athletics Goods contributed the league’s equipment last summer, wants to see the problems resolved.
“Everybody believes that the notion of baseball in Israel is fantastic and it can be a reality,” Lewis said. “It only means everybody pulling on one rope.”

Watch this space for more, as Our Man Elli follows up and separates the wheat from the Chass.

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