Thursday, July 10, 2008

URGENT UPDATE: Our Man Elli says IBL execs are in meeting over issues that could end plans for Israel Baseball League's 2008 mini-season

Will the new and improved Israel Baseball League return on July 27th for a four-team, 20-game, three week, momentum-keeping second season? Well, it could go either way, because right now there's a big meeting going on among the IBL brass, while those long-awaited paychecks to the players have either gone missing in the mail service-- or bounced! the news is big and breaking, and we found out when the phone rang in our Los Angeles office and Jerusalem was on the line!

Tabloid Baby: Hello?

Our Man Elli in Israel: You near a keyboard?

Whoa. You're calling us?

I don't have time. This is big news.

Then shoot.

As we speak, there is a decision-making meeting going on right now among the top IBL executives, including Baras, Solomont, Berger, Rootenberg and maybe Baran as well.

All in the same room?

Some in person, some on the conference call.

What’s on the agenda?

Are you kidding me? You’re not following this story? What, are you too busy posting about a has-been like Olivia Newton-John?

It's a great mystery, the story about her missing boyfriend. And hey, we're not Baseball Baby. Today we got 20,000 hits alone for Lara Logan's swimsuit photos. So why the big meeting?

Pay attention. I’ll say it slowly: M-O-N-E-Y.

Let me guess: They don't have any.

They don’t have enough, and it doesn’t look like they will. At this point they've got too many problems raising money, and Solomont hasn't been willing to put in much of his own. The impression is that he's acting more as a promoter trying to raise most of the money from others. And remember those six LLCs (limited liability companies) we wrote about way back when that were formed as entities in Delaware? Well, you can now add a seventh.

It seems that Solomont and (IBL founder) Larry Baras formed a new one on May 29 called New Israel Baseball Partners, and it's that corporation that's trying to raise money for the new season.

And that’s probably why Solomont was humming to himself on Twitter the next day:

Humming "Take me out to the ball game", and soon you will know why :)
06:27 PM May 30, 2008

A seventh LLC? Good place for a plug for The Seventh Python!

Why the seventh LLC?

Apparently it’s to prevent IBL creditors from being able to sue if the debts to them aren't paid. And it does suggest that they dont intend to pay off all the IBL's debts. Meanwhile, Solomont has apparently been distributing some sort of investment proposal summary designed to attract investors. And it’s not clear if it contains full disclosure of the IBL's problems.

What they think they can hide all that’s happened in the last year? Investors are gonna pony up without due diligence?

That or just blame me for all their problems.

So that’s it? Season’s over-- before it began... as we'd reported?

Not yet. But we might know before Shabbat rolls in tomorrow afternoon.

C'mon! We all want baseball in Israel this summer! Don't we, guys?

(holds up phone to office)

TB office workers: "Israel baseball, Oy! Oy! Oy!"

Something, or someone's got to save them!

Hey, it's still conceivable that Solomont could decide to write the check himself for this season. He probably could afford to front the money it would cost to operate this year, probably a few hundred thousand, take the risk he can raise the money between this year and next.

It could come down to whether he truly believes in the idea of professional baseball in Israel, in which case he'd write the check. Or he could be approaching things more as a promoter, hoping to put together a deal with mother people’s money, and then be able to control the league himself without a great deal of financial risk.

Sounds like the perfect guy to head that outfit. What's your considerable gut tell you?

We’ll know after the meeting, when Rootenberg gets back to me on the 20 questions I sent him last week.

Update: Hero or Puppet?

They're trying to make him the puppet. They're stalling him.

Are Solomont and Baras Jesse Jackson to his Obama, ready to rip his nuts off?

Look, if they don't open their books to him and give him access to information a president ought to have, he’ll walk. And then what will they say?

I don't know.

There is a lot of money owed, and a lot of people getting ripped off. But if Rootenberg walks-- oy gut! The black eye the IBL will receive would probably be too enormous to overcome. Even if Solomont does put up the money, how would they explain Rootenberg leaving? Because he'll tell the truth about not being shown the books, and then the IBL will be hammered for perpetuating the fraud.

Dude, this is Doomsday scenario. But go on, please.

Then Baras/Berger/Solomont will probably announce that time was too short to start up a league on the professional level they would want in 2008, and that they're actively at work on plans for a full season in 2009 and thereafter. They’ll make enough promises to enough people-- creditors, the IAB-- to keep open the possibility that they could return in 2009.

That's a longshot, but it would be their attempt to "freeze" the IAB from working with anyone else, and give them time to raise enough money to demonstrate "progress," although probably not enough to really operate a league.

Then the scenario repeats itself next year.

'Oy' is right. What about the players?

You ready for this? Sources tell me that some players haven't received the checks. And others have bounced. It doesn't seem as if payment was deliberately stopped on any of them, but more a case in which those who cashed them first were lucky.

Are you saying it’s all a fraudulent operation?

I report, you decide.


Now go post this.


Click. Brrrr....

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