Johnny Unitas files for bankruptcy

February 26, 1991|By Michelle Singletary | Michelle Singletary,Evening Sun Staff

John C. Unitas, the former Baltimore Colt quarterback, has filed for Chapter 11 reorganization in U.S. Bankruptcy Court.

Unitas and his wife, Sandra, filed for protection from creditors on Friday. A Chapter 11 filing allows an individual or corporation to continue operating while in bankruptcy.

Unitas' attorney, James R. Wooten, said today the bankruptcy was filed to avoid the possibility that Unitas' personal assets would be seized to pay debts, including auctioning his house in Baltimore County, attaching his personal bank accounts and garnishing his salary.

Wooten said Signet Bank was attempting to collect on nearly $4 million in failed loans made to Unitas and several partners in the mid-'80s for the purchase of a circuit board manufacturing company. The loans were personally guaranteed, Wooten said.

Unitas' bankruptcy petition does not list his assets or debts. Wooten said it will take time to sort out the information, which will be filed at a later date.

Unitas is out of town and could not be reached for comment.

Wooten said the filing will allow Unitas to pay his debts in an orderly fashion without risking his home and other personal assets.

Unitas' petition lists as the largest creditors the Maryland Industrial Development Financing Authority, the Trustee Loan Guarantee Program of Baltimore City, the mayor and City Council and the Baltimore Economic Development Corp. Amounts owed were not stated.

In 1984 Unitas and his partners, J. Clark Powers and John Mass, received help from the city and state to guarantee loans to buy National Circuits Inc. The maker of printed circuit boards for computer, automotive and telecommunications uses was located in Reisterstown.

The partnership, called the Maryland Circuit Boards Corp., was formed specifically to purchase NCI. Union Trust, which subsequently merged with Signet, lent the partnership $3.5 million to buy the company.

In approaching the city and state for help, the partnership said it planned to expand the company to about 120 jobs and relocate the plant. In June 1985, NCI moved to Seton Business Park.

Wooten said NCI eventually failed and its assets were sold to another firm, Atlantic Electronics Inc., which is still operating the business in Seton. He said Unitas draws a salary from Atlantic as a consultant for sales.

Neither Powers not Mass could be reached for comment.

MIDFA in 1984 agreed to guarantee $2 million worth of the $3.5 million that the partnership borrowed to buy NCI, according to Curt Matthews, a spokesman for the state's financing programs. Matthews said the state has had to pay Signet $430,000 as a result of the partial guarantee on the $2 million loan.

Baltimore City provided a guarantee on $1.5 million of the loan. A spokesman for the city's Trustee Loan Guarantee Program could not be reached for comment.

In 1986, the partnership received a partial guarantee from the city's Board of Estimates for a $300,000 short-term operating loan.

MIDFA guaranteed 50 percent of the operating loan, which is in default, Matthews said. The state had to make good on its guarantee for $155,000, which included administrative costs, Matthews said.

Both state payments were made to the bank within the past nine months, Matthews said.

In 1986, BEDCO loaned the partnership $200,000 for working capital. That loan is now in default, according to a spokesperson for BEDCO, who declined to say when the default occurred.

Recently, Unitas, who retired from football in 1974, has been listed as part of an investment team headed by Bart Starr, former Green Bay Packer quarterback, that is interested in buying a National Football League team if Baltimore is selected to receive a new franchise. The league has indicated it hopes to add two teams by the 1993 season.

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