Wednesday, July 9, 2008

"Dan, talk to us!" A reader has some questions for the Israel Baseball League's "in-coming president"

Did you get a load of that comment
on our last post about
the Israel Baseball League?

Our continuing coverage of the IBL saga may have cost us a few regular readers, but the new readers from around the world and all walks of life from the world of competitive eating to the corridors of corporate power, have more than made up for it. And nothing makes it more worthwhile than the fact that this little tabloid, T&A and media watchdog website has become the clearinghouse for all things Israel baseball and the center of spirited debate. Whether it's the teasing of 0007 or the anonymous comments from IBL players, the comments are all terrific. But every once in a while, someone posts a comment that's so... well, long... it deserves a larger forum.

No, in light of our earlier report from Our Man Elli in Israel, this reader has some simple yet serious questions for the IBL's "in-coming president" Dan Rootenberg. We only wish he wasn't Anonymous:

Wednesday, July 9, 2008 12:26:00 PM PDT:

Dan Rootenberg is a seasoned businessman. He runs a well-regarded physical therapy practice in NYC and makes a good living. It's not anyone who can throw down $25K in a fledgling baseball league, right?

Dan also loves baseball and has been immersed in it for years. He is one of many that would like to see pro ball take hold in Israel. He may be one of the few in that group that can actually contribute to making it happen.

There are questions out there though that are still unanswered. Some have been posed on this blog about who else besides players are being paid.

Paying some of the players is a good start. Understandably, Dan has a strong allegiance to the players having been one of them. Yet, one might well wonder how it was determined which players get paid first...the ones Dan wants to come back (apparently that is a qualification based on the latest Elli post)? the ones who are owed the most (some were owed $500, others supposedly as much as $1500, maybe even $2000 for the full summer fo 2007)? What about the managers? Some time ago, it was noted that at least 2 of the managers were owed a lot of money. Have they been paid? And all the vendors? The overall number was reportedly over $1 million. That leads to other questions.

Like, what about the financials from last year. For Dan to accept the reins of this enterprise and for him to be able to engage new vendors, one would think that the accurate financial statements for last year now exist and were prepared by a certified, licensed financial professional of unquestionable reputation; as well, it would make sense that a statement about new funding would have to be in place. After all, he has now reportedly sent out a bunch of checks to players. So, what about the source of the funding for the venture Dan is looking to head up this summer. Who are the new investors? Were they vetted and, if so how? Are the rumored investor problems that have appeared accurate or a nasty rumor? What's up with Solomont? Is he another Larry Baras? Do birds of a feather...? With all the distrust flowing from last year's experience, why not firmly dispell the rumor if the latter is true?

And who are the new vendors? Have they been paid even before the debts were paid to the 2007 vendors, without whom last year might not have happened. And if the financials for 2007 have been done, why haven't they been summarized for the public to create a better sense of trust going forward. Even more importantly, why is it that original investors have not received any financials yet although they were entitled to them in early April.

Then there is the decertification by the IAB for the IBL's breach of contract, as stated in the IAB's letter that made it's way to the public. Where is a joint statement from the IBL and the IAB that they've ironed out their differences, if in fact they have done so?

It would be great to see a full press release providing meaningful answers to these questions and would go a long way towards creating a broader base of trust based on a transparency that was non-existent with the 2007 leadership (when their attempts at transparency later proved to either shade the truth or simply be false).

Lastly, here, word is getting around that the documentary Holyland Hardball is stirring up (significant?) interest in new investors, perhaps with the assistance of this Boston-based investment firm Elli heard about. However, the video, while apparently very well done, only documents the creation of the IBL through its opening day. It does not address the major league problems of last summer's then brand new league...from the lack of a the IBL website-reported "marquis"playing field at Sportek Park upon our arrival and it's hasty, sub-par construction to the sub-par room and board to the near work stoppage in mid-July (which would have been the end of the IBL only shortly after it started) to the broader financial problems that almost led to the travel agent pulling the return flight tickets of league players and personnel and did lead to bounced checks (that have reportedly had serious impact on some league participants) and unpaid debts of over a million dollars.

Which begs the question, what broader disclosure about the inaugural/only season is being made to the prospective investors who are being lured in with the Holyland Hardball film? What promises, if any, are being made and what is truly behind those promises that will ensure that they can be kept. Or, are the people who were more prominent last year but seem to be almost publicly invisible right now up to what some, and perhaps many, would say are the same questionable business practices?

This is pointedly not a suggestion that Dan Rootenberg would be involved in this type of behavior; rather, it is a question of what information does he have about how the now silent leadership behind the scenes is going about their business. Remember that Mr. Baras' investment firm quit on him last winter after they discovered he'd been less than honest with them, having failed to mention to them his being sued for securities fraud in Boston Federal Court.

All of these are very valid questions given the debacle that was year one. No doubt the players made the league the success that it was. And no doubt, the founder and his close allies quickly ran that success into the ground.

Baseball is a magical sport. It is intoxicating to player and fan alike. Find a bunch of like-minded people with some bats, gloves and a ball, a large grassy area and a baseball game can break out almost anywhere.

But a professional baseball league is a whole different world. And speaking of worlds, doing business in Israel is a far different world in many ways than doing business in other places. Everyone I know wants a professional league to take hold and grow in Israel. That means making the Israelis fans, making the Israel vendors happy and really selling the game to the local population. It means having a meaningful PR and advertising strategy. It means having a field development plan. It means connecting with a feeder system of talent that will build the talent level and status of the league in the baseball world.

All the power to Dan if he has a real plan for getting pro baseball to stick in Israel. One wonders whether a three week long tournament, some clinics and playing catch, without much more on the league's part, can accomplish that goal. It would seem to be appropriate to hear some more from him (and, perhaps, the others in the current IBL hierarchy) about his/their plan of action, particularly given the unfortunate prior history of the IBL. Hey, if it sounds good and has some teeth to it, it might well interest investors he never knew had in interest in funding this attempt at reincarnating the original venture.

Ball's in your glove, Dan. Talk to us.

1 comment:

oneloveswinter said...

Perhaps we should consider the fact that even a first year law student would know enough to advise against answering many of these questions due to litigation, either pending or anticipated.

The writer of this post clearly was very personally involved in the IBL last summer. It is a shame that he does not just pick up the phone and call Dan directly with whatever it is that is really bothering him.