The owner of the now-defunct Alliance of American Football Spring League now not only wants to be off the hook in bankruptcy proceedings, but has filed to try to get his entire $70 million investment back.
However, we’ve learned, that it’s not going to be easy for either one.
First, the story was broken Tuesday afternoon by sports business writer Daniel Kaplan of the Athletic, who learned from sources about the court filing on behalf of Thomas Dundon, billionaire owner of the Carolina Hurricanes, that he wants his investment back:
— daniel kaplan (@KaplanSportsBiz) June 25, 2019
According to Kaplan, Dundon argues in the legal filing that the AAF led by Charlie Ebersol and former NFL executive Bill Polian lied to him about the actual debt of the league to the tune of an additional $13 million that they had not disclosed. He further alleged that the actual price tag to keep the league in business for year one was closer to $120 million not the $70 million that he was attempting to keep the league afloat with in February and March.
As we have written repeatedly, the AAF shut down on April 2nd, eight weeks into its inaugural season, with Steve Spurrier’s Orlando Apollos having the best record and being the odds-on favorite to win the first championship.
As part of the bankruptcy proceedings, the University of Central Florida, and Spectrum Stadium on their campus, are still seeking to get payment on over $1 million for use of their facility in February and March for Apollos home games.
A source with knowledge of what Ebersol, Polian and the AAF intend to continue to argue told F.F.I. recently, that Dundon is going to have great difficulty convincing the bankruptcy court that he isn’t responsible for the debts.
This is for several obvious reasons.
Most prominently, because Dundon assumed all of the operational costs of the Spring league, when he announced himself as the Chairman of the Board in early February, including making payroll.
Second, he repeatedly gave interviews publicly stating that he intended to infuse up to total of $250 million into the league to keep it afloat for three seasons. Thus, indicating that he clearly had money and plan to pay debts, to do so.
Thirdly, it’s also well known that Dundon had the ability to buy the Carolina Hurricanes in January of 2018, and therefore, obviously, has tens of millions of dollars in cash flow at his disposal to begin paying off AAF creditors.
There are also multiple lawsuits pending against Ebersol, Dundon and the AAF on behalf of former coaches players and employees, as well. More than 1,000 full-time people were put out of work less than four months into their employment, when Dundon shut the league down.
Time for concern after XFL TV ratings declined again last week?
For the second consecutive week, the XFL televison ratings continued to slide in the wrong direction. And, the troubling part is that if the trend continues, the XFL will have no leverage for sponsors and revenue to keep it going long term.
First, here are the specifics on the bad viewership news: According to Showbuzzdaily.com all four XFL broadcasts last Saturday and Sunday afternoon had lower ratings in their slot than the previous week.
That includes the Tampa Bay Vipers home debut against Houston, which was the early game on ABC Saturday. And, while that window had 400,000 less viewers than week 2, the bigger concern is ABC has lost almost 40% of the audience from the 3.3 million average that watched their Week one debut game on Saturday afternoon.
The ratings downward trend is following the same pattern as last Spring’s Alliance of American Football, where the ratings dwindled to under a million fans for broadcasts by week five and eventually the league shut down after just eight weeks. This was in part because of concerns on how the AAF could make any revenue, through television in specific, if they had very little audience for the end of year one and to sell off of for year two.
Now, WWE owner Vince McMahon, who folded the XFL the first time in 2001 in large part because the television audience plummeted over the course of the first month or so of its existence and never recovered, has the same issue in 2020.
And, as we wrote previously, this audience decline while negative is far less McMahon’s original XFL and it’s first season of 2001. That’s when, it debuted on its first Saturday night on NBC with a massive 10.1 rating, which translated 18 years ago to more than 9.5 viewers on network TV. A Smashing success.
However, the XFL’s ratings plummeted starting the following week and had fewer than 25% of that opening night audience just a month later with the games still being shown on a Saturday night coveted slot on NBC. It doomed the league from a P.R. and sponsor standpoint and McMahon pulled the plug.
Now, in 2020, McMahon reportedly has money to burn and is apparently prepared to lose hundreds of millions of dollars in year one. So, even if the XFL TV ratings continue come down significantly, it will not spell the end of the XFL (like it did nearly 20 years ago) after just a single season.
At least, that’s what we think.
Vipers better but drop third straight game in home opener
Although their play was improved offensively, in the end it wasn’t enough for the Tampa Bay Vipers after they dropped their third straight XFL game to start the season 34 – 27 to Houston Saturday afternoon in Tampa.
Roughnecks quarterback P.J. Walker threw for three touchdowns and ran for another, as Houston scored early in the fourth quarter to go up by seven and held off the Viper the rest of the way.
The Vipers offense came to life after they had failed to score in the offensive touchdown in either of their first two games. Both of which were losses on the road. Quarterback Taylor Cornelius, subbing for starter Aaron Murray who missed his second straight game with an injured foot, once again had modest numbers 16-31 for 193 yards 1 TD, 1 INT.
However, he did pull the game even at 18 – 18 at the half after scoring on a one yard QB sneak and Tampa Bay got the two-point conversion.
Still, the former Oklahoma State quarterbacks day was inconsistent and the home crowd at Raymond James Stadium began to chant the name “Flowers, Flowers” for former USF Star Quarterback Quinton Flowers, who played sparingly for the third straight game in a reserve role.
Flowers got Tampa Bay’s first offensive TD on the young season with a seven yard run in the first quarter, but only played QB sparingly in the game, again. He was just 4-6 for 57 yards passing with 29 yards on six attempts on the ground.
Meanwhile, the former Temple star Walker found receiver Cam Phillips for the third of their three touchdown hookups from 17 yards out to give Houston a 34 – 27 lead with just over 10 minutes to play. Phillips devastated Jerry Glanville’s Vipers defense for 194 yards receiving on eight catches with the three TDs.
The Vipers look like they were going to have a chance to re-tie the game when Cornelius (above) completed a pass to his top target on the day, Jaylen Tolliver, at the two-yard line. However just like a week ago in Seattle when a critical fourth quarter drive stalled and Tampa Bay came away with no points in a 17 – 9 lost the Dragons, the Vipers got no points after Cornelius threw incomplete on second, third and fourth downs.
Many in the crowd and observers in the media were curious, as to why coach Marc Trestman didn’t go to Flowers as the dual threat running QB to at least try something different on one of those plays? Flowers even questioned why he did not play more after the game to the media.
The Vipers got the ball one final time, but Cornelius was picked off near midfield with just over a minute left to seal the defeat.
The Vipers played the first spring professional football game in Tampa, since the closing of the USFL 1985 season. That’s when Steve Spurrier’s Tampa Bay Bandits were a popular item at Old Tampa Stadium. Saturday’s home opener drew and announced crowd of 18,117.
However it’s little consolation for former Bears and CFL coach Trestman and his team, as they remain winless on the season. The L.A. Wildcats playing Sunday are the other 0-2 team in the league, currently.
And, you have to wonder whether Trestman will be forced to go to Flowers for the start when they host the D.C. Defenders next week.