LAKEWOOD RANCH – A multimillion-dollar investment deal for Major League Football, the new professional football league set to commence its first season here this month, has fallen through.
Major League Football, which has operated in Lakewood Ranch since August 2015, alleged Monday that Clairemont Private Investment Group, the Texas-based firm that had pledged to invest $20 million in the upstart league by Feb. 1, has breached its agreement.
“It is hard to understand the egregious conduct on the part of Robert Queen Jr., Clairemont’s chairman, who provided us with repeated assurances that Clairemont would timely close on the agreement,” Major League Football President Wes Chandler said in a statement Monday.
“Robert Queen Jr. was fully aware that the league is effectively ‘turnkey’ right now with coaches, players, staff, equipment, stadium leases and TV contracts all in hand.”
Major League Football Senior Executive Vice President Frank Murtha said the executive team learned on Friday that expected funds would not come through on time, and said the company does not yet know if the firm will honor its agreement at all.
“They certainly did not transmit the money on the date they were required to,” said Murtha, of the Clairemont Investment firm. “We’re attempting to ascertain more details.”
Major League Football, Murtha said, is prepared to sue Clairemont Investments for breaking the agreement. In September, the company announced Clairemont Investments has agreed to fund its efforts to a tune of $15 million. But the deal was rescinded that fall at the request of the investor, and the league’s revenue consisted of funds gleaned from registration fees of player tryouts held in the fall.
The replacement deal, in which Major League Football was to receive $20 million from the Clairemont Private Investment Group in exchange for various stock options and the ability to open up a Missouri City, Texas, franchise in the future, was set to close on Feb. 1.
“If they don’t comply within a relative short time, we will pursue legal action,” Murtha said.
Major League Football was formed in 2014 by a group of individuals with ties to the NFL who wanted to form a professional football league active in the spring and summer. The league, which is supposed to operate in eight cities that have yet to be announced, held player tryouts last fall and a player draft in late January.
College players such as former South Carolina quarterback Stephen Garcia and former Oregon quarterback Darron Thomas have already signed on to the league, while former National Football League head coach and current ESPN analyst Herm Edwards and former NFL quarterback Marc Bulger have committed to advisory roles.
It recently announced a two-year television deal with American Sports Network. More than 800 players and coaches are expected to participate in a pre-season training camp at Premier Sports Campus.
A news release said the company is “in active conversations with backup fund managers, investment banking firms and private individuals” for alternative funding. Murtha said the league has backup finance plans that can be “accelerated,” but that the training camp, which was set to begin on Feb. 20, would likely be delayed.
In April 2015, Major League Football accepted a $147,000 economic incentive package from the Manatee County Commission to move to Lakewood Ranch and create 49 jobs at its corporate headquarters. Sports commissions from both Sarasota and Manatee Counties have committed a combined $35,000 in tourist tax dollars to Major League Football’s training camp.
Both Manatee County and the two sports commissions are protected by performance clauses in their deals with Major League Football. The county does not pay investment grants for jobs not created, and the sports commissions dole out dollars only if Premier Sports Campus fulfills 80 percent of the 22,400 hotel room nights as committed.
But booking the hotel nights this summer took a concerted effort from both Sarasota and Manatee county officials, who had to collaborate with hoteliers to find available rooms in-season in the first place.
Murtha said the league is reaching out to hotels and Premier Sports Campus to see about alternative dates for training camp.
By Katy Bergen, republished with permission Sarasota Herald-Tribune www.heraldtribune.com