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Volume 21 No. 2


Editor's note: This story is revised from the print edition.

Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Cole Hamels, Brooklyn Nets guard Jason Terry and Philadelphia Eagles tight end Brent Celek are among a dozen current or former athletes listed as creditors in the Chapter 7 bankruptcy filing this month of prominent sports financial adviser Billy Crafton.

Crafton and his company, Martin Kelly Capital Management, each filed Chapter 7 bankruptcy petitions in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in San Diego on Sept. 4. Crafton and his company each listed estimated liabilities of between $50 million and $100 million.

Crafton listed estimated assets of $100,000 to $500,000. Martin Kelly Capital Management listed estimated assets of zero to $50,000. Both bankruptcy petitions listed the estimated number of creditors at between one and 49 and both include the dozen current or former professional athletes.

Mitts, Feeley had sued Billy Crafton and his firm.
Eleven of those athletes, including Hamels, Terry, Celek, former NFL quarterback A.J. Feeley and his wife, soccer player Heather Mitts, had filed lawsuits, arbitrations or both against Crafton and his company, seeking damages for financial losses they claim to have suffered when Crafton was their financial adviser. Free agent NHL defenseman Mike Commodore, who was listed as a creditor and was a client of Crafton, is not believed to have filed any legal action against Crafton or his company.

A Chapter 7 bankruptcy filing initially stays all court and other legal actions against the debtor. A party to the filing, however, can seek relief from the stay from the bankruptcy court.

One of the former athletes listed as a creditor, former NFL tight end Aaron Shea, who is now the Cleveland Browns’ director of player engagement, filed a motion in Crafton’s and Martin Kelly’s bankruptcy cases, seeking a court order that would allow Shea to proceed with an arbitration against Crafton and his company.

Crafton and Martin Kelly Capital Management were parties to an arbitration hearing that was set to begin two business days after both filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, according to the Shea’s motions in the bankruptcy filings. Neither Shea nor his attorneys returned phone calls for this story.

Andrew Smith, a Philadelphia attorney who represents five of the athletes suing Crafton and Martin Kelly Capital Management, said he intends to file a similar motion in the case.

“We fully intend to continue to pursue our claims against Mr. Crafton and his company,” Smith said. “We will be seeking relief from the automatic stay and intend to pursue all means of financial recovery, either through his bankruptcy, his insurance policies or any personal assets we are able to locate.”

The trio of banks that managed the San Francisco 49ers’ stadium financing will do so for the Minnesota Vikings, as well, finance sources said.

The Vikings will seek to borrow up to $250 million using Goldman Sachs, U.S. Bank and Bank of America as lead lenders, the sources said.

Goldman Sachs, U.S. Bank and Bank of America will be lead lenders on the 65,000-seat stadium, set to open in 2016.
Image by: HKS
The Vikings declined to comment.

The 49ers borrowed close to $1 billion for their Santa Clara, Calif., stadium opening next year, and the financing has been a huge success based on the large number of banks involved in that loan syndication.

It is not unusual for one bank to be involved in the top financing of different venues, but it is somewhat unusual to see the same three banks work together to bid and win business for such high-profile stadium financings.

Recently, local Minnesota authorities have questioned and investigated whether the Vikings and their owners, the Wilf family, could afford their commitments to the new venue after the Wilfs lost a bitter court case in New Jersey that could expose them to a large damage bill. The investigation found they could afford it, though little of their own equity will go to the new stadium. The coming bank debt, combined with the $200 million the NFL approved in March for the team under the league’s stadium financing program, would largely account for the $477 million the club is obligated to spend for the $975 million project. Of the remaining $498 million, $348 million will come from the state of Minnesota and $150 million from Minneapolis.

Hiring banks is not normally a sensitive subject, but while Steve Poppen, the Vikings chief financial officer, and Mark Wilf, the team president, each called back when contacted about the financing hires, neither would comment in any way on whether the club was moving forward now in financing the stadium.

The three financial institutions did not reply for comment.

The 1.6 million-square-foot stadium is scheduled to open in 2016 and seat 65,000. It would be capable of expanding to 73,000 if it was selected to host a Super Bowl.