SBD/Issue 150/Facilities & Venues

SMA Bankruptcy Trustee Charging For Return Of Memorabilia

After the Sports Museum of America (SmA) last month declared Chapter 7 bankruptcy, its assets were seized and "may face the auction block" if not claimed promptly, which "doesn't sit well with many of the athletes and organizations that lent the items with the understanding they'd eventually be returned," according to Reed Albergotti of the WALL STREET JOURNAL. Roy Babitt, the court-appointed trustee overseeing the return of the items, in a court document before bankruptcy proceedings began said that "some memorabilia had been sent back to the wrong owners." Babitt said that in order to "make sure no more mistakes are made," 2-5 hours of attorney work are "required per item to confirm proper ownership." Babitt noted that these legal costs "should be covered by the owners, not the museum's creditors." The National Soccer HOF "lent out several items" to the SmA, including a ball signed by the U.S. women's national soccer team that won the '99 World Cup, all of which would cost "$1,500 to get back -- a significant expense for the non-profit museum." Soccer HOF Dir of Museum & Archives Jack Huckel: "We're being held up." Other items to be claimed include WPS FC Gold Pride F Brandi Chastain's sports bra from the '99 World Cup, skateboarder Tony Hawk's childhood skateboard, Richard Petty Motorsports co-Owner Richard Petty's trademark sunglasses, a gold medal won by late U.S. Olympian Jesse Owens, yellow jerseys worn by cyclists Lance Armstrong and Greg LeMond in the Tour de France and a hockey jersey worn by former U.S. Olympian Mike Eruzione. Hawk wrote on his Twitter page, "The court wants $1,500 to give me my stuff back" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 4/23).

STEEP PRICE TO PAY: In N.Y., Richard Sandomir notes Babitt "has asked a federal bankruptcy court judge to charge fees to those who provided [SmA] with artifacts that start at $250 per item and rise to $2,500 for more than 20 pieces, plus $750 for every 10 items above 20." Babitt's lawyer, Schuyler Carroll, said that the fees "apply to the artifacts' owners who go through the trustee; others can consult their own lawyers." Heisman Trophy Trust President William Dockery: "I don't know how he has the audacity to demand a fee so people can go down and get their own property. Why doesn't the trustee cut his fees?" Sandomir notes the deadline to "file objections to the fees" is tomorrow at 4:00pm ET and a hearing "will be held Wednesday before Judge Robert D. Drain of the Federal Bankruptcy Court in Manhattan" (NYTIMES.com, 4/22).

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