Judgment claim prompts National’s bankruptcy filin

A contract between former National Sports Collectors Convention manager Bob Byer and Athlete Business Network regarding operation of the National’s autograph pavilion was not only the reason behind Byer’s termination as manager of the National in 2005; it ended up being the driving factor behind the NSCC’s decision to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

Athlete Business Network won a judgment against the National for $569,576 that was based on a contract signed between ABN and Byer in 2005 that gave ABN control of the autograph pavilion for three years. But according to NSCC president Etta Hersh, no one at the NSCC knew anything about the deal until reading about it in a hobby publication.

“Bob Byer was terminated for breaching his contract, and part of that breach was the fact he wrote that contract (with ABN) without the approval of the NSCC or our attorneys,” said Hersh. “We had no idea what was in that contract, but we discovered it had been written for several years. All contracts had to be approved by the board, and so his actions were in violation of his contract.”

Hersh said had Byer asked the board to review the contract, the terms would not have been approved. “There’s no way it would have been approved,” she said.

After working with TracerCode as the organizer of the National’s autograph pavilion in 2003 and 2004, Byer told the NSCC board that he would oversee the autograph portion of the show for the 2005 event in Chicago. Byer signed what Hersh said was a personal contract with ABN to handle operations of that area.

“When we asked for copies of that contract, we were told it was none of our business,” Hersh said.

The National won an arbitration hearing against Byer late last year for $53,000, but never collected on that claim because Byer filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. ABN also won a judgment against Byer for more than $600,000. Because they could not collect from Byer, they transferred their claim to the NSCC board and a court agreed.

ABN’s $569,579 claim is among more than $1.8 million in liabilities listed in the National’s bankruptcy claim. The largest claim is $900,000 by Show Management International, the firm that currently is licensed to run the National, but Hersh pointed out that claim is known as an “executory” claim, meaning it’s the value of services still to be provided by the National. Of the National’s listed liabilities, $1.2 million are for executory claims, and include such entites as the Donald E. Stephens Center, site of next year’s show in Rosemont, Ill., and the I-X Center in Cleveland, which will host the 2009 show.

Hersh said that while the bankruptcy filing was unfortunate, exhibitors should not be concerned about the future of the show and said everything is going according to schedule in terms of reserving exhibitor space for next year.

“Anyone who selected a booth for next year’s show at the lottery in Cleveland will receive their contracts and invoices next month,” she said.

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