2003 - 2004
September 2, 2004
Owners of pro hockey team shouldn't shortchange city
A deal is a deal. Taxpayers shouldn't have to shoulder a $200,000 debt owed to the city by the former owners of the Greensboro Generals.
The Greensboro City Council on Tuesday will discuss how to pay off the Greensboro Coliseum's debt from fiscal year 2003-04. This is not a new topic. The coliseum loses money every year, a deficit typically covered by property and sales tax revenues.
But this year there's a twist: The coliseum's debt is about $1 million more than projected, in part because of the city's ill-advised attempt to bail out the now-defunct Greensboro Generals hockey team.
That amount includes the $200,000 the team's owners had promised to pay the city toward expenses if it agreed to temporarily take over management of the Generals last season. The contract was signed Sept. 29, 2003, by coliseum Managing Director Matt Brown and Bill Black, chairman of the board of Generals Brigade, an LLC formed to help find new owners to keep the financially troubled franchise afloat.
The city held up its end of the bargain - at a significant loss to taxpayers. The owners, however, have not. In fact, the city has yet to see a penny of that pledge.
Note that LLC stands for "limited liability company," so it remains to be seen whether Black, a prominent Greensboro businessman, and his partners legally can be held accountable for the debt.
Ethically, however, the owners should pay up. Otherwise, taxpayers will be left to foot the bill.
Neither Black nor Don Brady, another Greensboro businessman and partner in the Generals Brigade, returned phone calls Wednesday inquiring about their intentions. In the past they have attributed their failed effort to raise the $200,000 to the News & Record's coverage of the hockey deal (a classic case of blaming the messenger) and a pending court case involving the team.
But the LLC has raised at least $25,000, according to company documents, so it has assets to begin paying the city what it owes.
As for the City Council, it should do all it can to start collecting. And the next time a great deal like the Generals comes along, it should refrain from putting the taxpayers' money on such thin ice.