Money woes don't dampen Speros spirits Undaunted by bills, ex-Stallions owner tries a new game

'Bold new venture'

Weekend workshops don't impress creditors

February 26, 1997|By Jon Morgan | Jon Morgan,SUN STAFF Kevin Eck contributed to this article.

He's being pursued by creditors in two countries who claim his failed companies haven't paid their bills. But that's no reason for Jim Speros not to share a little money-making wisdom with friends.

The former owner of the Baltimore Stallions, 1995 champions of the Canadian Football League, is holding an invitation-only workshop on his latest "bold new venture."

In a letter dated Feb. 11 and sent to former Stallions supporters -- he calls them "team members" -- Speros does not specify what his latest venture is. But, he says, "Here's a hint: the information superhighway is the next great wave of opportunity in this country -- and we have an incredible way to take full advantage of it -- for you and me!"

Recipients are invited to attend one of four workshops to be held at three area hotels on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Some of his team members would prefer to discuss past ventures with Speros.

"I think it's ludicrous he would even have the nerve to come back into town, much less with this 'bold proposal,' " said Patrick Walsh, owner of the Computer Station of Timonium Inc., which provided some computer equipment to the team.

Walsh said his company went to court and won a judgement ordering the Stallions to pay $2,084.65. So far he's only received promises, Walsh said. And an invitation to the workshops.

When last seen in Baltimore, Speros was complaining about the city luring the NFL back to town and demanding aid for his Stallions. When the money failed to materialize, in early 1996, he loaded the Stallions' gear into moving vans bound for Montreal.

Angry creditors left behind clamored for payment. One of them, Baltimore City, has negotiated a settlement, accepting just $50,000 of the $500,000 it claims the Stallions owe.

The agreement goes before the city's Board of Estimates today for approval.

In a written explanation of the settlement prepared for the board, the city's attorneys say they reviewed the Stallions' records and found no assets worth pursuing further.

Other local creditors are still waiting. Nine of them who are owed collectively in excess of $50,000 are considering various legal avenues to get their money, said their attorney, Melvyn J. Weinstock Jr.

Bruce Solilo, the owner of Northern Space Broadcasting of Regina, Saskatchewan, said he has not been able to get his calls returned from the team or from its agents. He said he is owed $18,000 for mobile broadcasting services that he provided the Stallions.

Events have not gone much better in Montreal. The team was renamed the Alouettes and played a season, but drew an average of only 11,000 fans to its games and never received more than $2 million in government aid that Speros said he was promised by provincial and city leaders. And an expected cash infusion from co-investors never came through.

Creditors complained of unpaid bills. The CFL revoked the Alouettes' franchise in December and paychecks to employees stopped.

The CFL has lined up a new team owner, New York investment banker Robert Wetenhall, and hopes to keep the team alive in the struggling league, which has withdrawn from its disastrous U.S. expansion.

But Speros threatened to hold up the stadium lease in Montreal if the franchise's new owners didn't pay at least some of the pre-existing debt.

The team's stadium owner has petitioned the team into bankruptcy. Speros hopes to have it emerge with a new owner and partial payments acceptable to creditors.

"I don't think the creditors, at the end of the day, will get more than 30 cents on the dollar, but they wouldn't have gotten that if Jim hadn't stepped up," said Mitch Garber, an attorney from the Toronto area who is representing Speros.

In a telephone interview from Montreal yesterday, Speros said the deal should be completed by the end of the week.

As for his Baltimore-area creditors, Speros said the Stallions provided some equipment to the Alouettes and could, as a creditor, receive up to $30,000 from the Montreal settlement.

That would be distributed to local creditors, he said. The city's $50,000 settlement is coming from other sources, he said.

"I would love to be able to clean my bill up in Baltimore. I never ran from anybody," he said. "I'm going to try and get as much money for my creditors as possible."

His new venture -- the one he will be highlighting at the workshops this weekend -- is with Metrocall Direct, a direct-marketing arm of Metrocall, a large provider of telecommunications services.

He has signed on as a spokesman to help recruit customers and sales representatives, which he will be doing this weekend.

Speros' early business achievements were impressive. He is a former NFL strength coach who became a commercial real estate broker in the Washington area, then branched into restaurant franchises and founded his own real estate firm -- all before the age of 35.

"I can't blame Speros. He made a lot of promises he didn't keep, but I think he made those promises in good faith," said George Wall, coordinator of student services for Montreal's John Abbott College, where the Alouettes held training camp, but didn't pay their rent.

Solilo, of Northern Space Broadcasting, said he wouldn't attend any seminars by Speros.

"From a business sense, he was running the organization and making the calls, so I put him at fault. But there were other circumstances, too, with the CFL that might have been outside his control," Solilo said.

Pub Date: 2/26/97

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