Sunday, January 27, 2008

Major league snag for meeting to decide baseball future in Israel: Officials want new league to pay Larry Baras' debts before first pitch is thrown!

Whoever wants to pick up the ball and carry on with professional baseball in Israel will first have to pick up the tab left unpaid by the Israel Baseball League, that’s been run out of the Holy Land because of its staggering debts and wailing wall of silence.

And that just might be the dealbreaker, as the future of professional baseball in Israel is decided far from the Holy Land, at a meeting in New York City on Thursday morning.

The summit will be led by former IBL commissioner (and US Ambassador to Israel and Egypt) Daniel Kurtzer, who quit, along with most of the IBL’s distinguished advisory board, the day after Our Man Elli in Israel revealed that the debt-ridden IBL founder Larry Baras was facing a federal lawsuit charging IBL-related securities fraud (that and the fact that Baras wouldn’t release any financial information-- as in showing where all the money went), and attended by potential investors in Israel’s baseball future.

Yesterday we told you that Israel’s governing body for baseball, The Israel Association of Baseball canceled its contract with Baras and his embattled IBL, citing “its unpaid bills from the 2007 season, and the clear inability… to produce a baseball league in Israel in 2008.”

And that’s the twist. Will the successors to Larry Baras have to pay his debts? We spoke with Elli Wohlgelernter to get the latest.

TABLOID BABY: Do you realize it's five months to the day that we ran your original exposé on the IBL's first season?

OUR MAN ELLI: Who'd have thought it would lead to this?

Not us. So?

So, we’ll know everything this Thursday. January 31st at The Penn Club in Manhattan. With five months to go until an Opening Day-- if there's gonna be an Opening Day-- the main principals are going to meet.

Do you think they’re going to serve Unholey Bagels?


At the meeting. You know, the Baras bagels at the heart of the lawsuit.

Should I hang up now?

All right. We’re serious. We know Kurtzer will be there. Who else?

Marvin Goldklang will be there. He’s minority share-holder of the New York Yankees and former member of the Advisory Board of the IBL; Marty Appel, the Yankee PR legend who was the head of public relations for the IBL; Jeff Rosen—- he was an IBL investor and head of the new Israel Professional Baseball League; Michael Rollhaus, a former IBL investor of the IBL and current IPBL investor; Jeffrey Royer, IBL investor and a general partner of the Arizona Diamondbacks; and Martin Berger, the president and COO of the IBL. He’ll be representing the IBL.

Should be quite a meeting.

Oh, yeah.

What do they hope to accomplish?

Marty Appel released a statement saying they’re discussing the future of baseball in Israel with current and potential investors, and that they hope to play ball this summer. Sounds like they’re looking to pick up the pieces and get a new league rolling.

The official statement released by Martin Appel:

“It is a meeting to discuss the future of baseball in Israel involving a number of current and potential investors, as well as people who have experience and advice to contribute. It is not an IBL meeting, although issues related to the IBL's experience will be discussed. It is an in-person meeting, not a teleconference. All the participants are hopeful that professional baseball will return to Israel this summer.”

So what’s this with the new league being forced to pay the vendors and players that the IBL stiffed?

Yeah, the main issue is dealing with the enormous debt. Look, like I told you yesterday, there’s a general sense that in principle at least, any new league-- most likely the Israel Professional Baseball League shouldn’t be forced to pay Baras’ bills, but on a practical level, they’re going to have to offer some kind of partial relief.

We thought the IAB is demanding it.

They are. Peter Kurz, the IAB’s secretary-general told me, and here’s the quote: “Our policy is that whoever wants to run pro baseball and wants our licensing has to pay the debts of the IBL.” And also, remember on a PR level, this whole enterprise will be getting bad press, as others catch up to what we've been reporting. The word “failure” will be appearing in every story about baseball in Israel with the same frequency that the word “change” appears in every speech by a US candidate for president.

At least they’ll finally be getting some press.


So how much of a debt are we talking about?

My sources tell me that in Israel alone, it’s $420,000, spread out among at least twenty-three people and places, including Kfar Hayarok, where the players stayed, the bus transportation company— it goes on from there. And that doesn’t include expenses in the United States, where the IBL is based, let alone the money still owed to Berger and Dan Duquette, the league’s baseball operations director.

So Thursday’s meeting is the day before February, five months before the season should start. A little late for 0-8, no?

It's late. Very late in the game, true enough, and while the game of baseball has no clock, the business of baseball certainly does. But the good thing is that the people coming to the meeting are honest men with their heart in the right place-– they all are looking for way to make baseball happen in Israel in 2008.

Throw in the word “change” and you’ll sound like one of those presidential candidates. Very inspiring.

Hey. It is inspiring. Kurtz told me, quote, “We’re definitely trying to bring all the parties together so that there is baseball in 2008.” He also said the number of kids now playing baseball in Israel is up 30 to 40 percent.

Again, I quote: “If they can come together in any way, we are interested in meeting with them and moving forward with them. I’m optimistic there will be pro baseball in Israel this summer.”

Think the meeting will succeed?

As one participant told me: “Well, if the former Ambassador to Egypt and to Israel can't bring about some small accord here…” We’ll know more at the end of the week.

We’ll be waiting.

Right. And one more thing. Those pictures you ran yesterday, supposedly showing people mourning the death of baseball in Israel— very bad taste. There’s real suffering here that you can’t imagine back there in Los Angeles.

Hey, we have to remind people they’re getting their news from Tabloid Baby. If they want taste, they can go to the New York Times or Jerusalem Post—oh right, they can't get their news from those places, because they’re following us a week or so later...

Settle down, Beavis.

One more thing in this end— any truth to the rumour that after they’re done taking testimony on steroids from Roger Clemens, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform is planning to take testimony on fraud from Larry Baras?

Good night.

Stay tuned...


Anonymous said...

I can understand the need to pay the debt before starting up baseball again. But it seems to me that for this to happen, an outside auditor must account for what money came into the IBL and what was spent & where.

Also, what will Larry's role be in all of this.

Anonymous said...

Since the IBL has lost its'
certification to play baseball in Israel, why are any of its' former participants being allowed to discuss ANY future for baseball there? Any future, moving forward, needs to show a "good-faith effort" to "clean house"!
The ONLY interest ANY of these men have (Berger, Goldklang, Kurtzer, Duquette, Appel, etc) have, is $$$ at the end of the "tunnel"! They were administrators of the IBL and should be held as accountable as Larry Baras! Why are they getting a "pass"? I'm sure Mr Berger is aware of certain phrases concerning the "ignorance of the Law", or in this case, "turning his back" on what was occurring at the time! YOU'RE NOT ABSOLVED, SIR! I'm sure the "wise-men" of the IAB will eventually see through the masquerade, and make the right decision as to who should be in-charge of the new Professional League in Israel!

Anonymous said...

It seems to be that all involved in managing the IBL were irresponsible at best a crooked at worst. For the future of baseball in Israel it really doesn't matter which one, it would seem like they should not be involved i a new baseball league in Israel in ANY way! I would also question whether they should be employed in a management capacity in any other venture.
The failure of the financing of the IBL is not the issue here. The lack of financial recordingkeeping and controls is at the core of any new business. These men seem to be poor business people at the least. Keep them away from business, please!

Anonymous said...

"KUDOS" to the previous two "blogs"!

Anonymous said...

Will Larry attend the meeting?
Will Martin open up the IBL books?
Why is Dukette attending?
Did he know of Larry's shadey dealings?
Come to think of it,did these other guys know what Larry was or wasn't doing?Were they on the board for the fun of it?
Why didn't they stop him before the season started?
Now they have all the answers?

Anonymous said...

I find Larry's registering of 6 LLC's interesting. There is a reason behind all his actions. Can anyone shed some light on why this might have been done? Obviously with a LLC there is limited personal liability for debts etc, but why 6?

Anonymous said...

To the last posting:
SIX Corporations for SIX Teams!
He can sell individual franchises that way! If for some reason there is a problem with any ONE of them, he folds the TEAM (Corp.) and NOT the entire League!
Guaranteed, someone told him to do it that way! He's NOT that "slick" on his own!

Anonymous said...

Is that an honest way of doing things?

Anonymous said...

Of course it's honest. Every major and minor league team in the U.S. is a separate corporation.

Anonymous said...

To the last post......
TRUE, every Professional team is a separate Corporation, but they already have ownership! The IBL, under Larry Baras, was investor supported, and NOT able to make it's own individual decisions. What was good or bad for one, effected the entire League!

Anonymous said...

The only reason that the scum bag made 6 LLCs was to shield him from pissed off creditors or investors.

Anonymous said...

If the meeting fails to produce a positive outcome will Larry be suicidal?

Anonymous said...

Absolutely not. That's what he and his supporters would like you to believe. I would not be surprised if he doesn't claim health issues to get some sympathy. Larry loves to play the role of the poor victim who was just trying to do the right thing and single-handedly bring baseball to Israel. He always goes after the "sympathy angle"

At every turn, Larry has had a chance to come clean and chose not to. The reality is he is one tough guy who will make sure that his self interest is a priority. My guess is that he will be paid off before any one else sees any money.

Anonymous said...

Guess what? Money is still coming in to the IBL and guess who is in total control of it??? The answer is Larry Baras. He will steal whatever he can.
Now that the meeting was a colossal failure, people can proceed without baseball in Israel.The debts are debts and the memories are memories.
Has anyone heard of what the outcome of that long awaited meeting was?