Trouble Brewing in Tampa Bay

The Tampa Bay Rowdies made headlines late last week when the team announced that they had fired head coach Thomas Rongen due to the team’s slow start to the fall season. Now the Tampa Bay Rowdies are back in the headlines with news that may make Rongen feel like he dodged a bullet.

A potentially damaging lawsuit against Bill Edwards , the owner of the Tampa Bay Rowdies, Mortgage Investors Corps (MIC). It  went from bad to worse when the plaintiffs alleged that Edwards “looted” tens of millions of dollars from the company. The plaintiffs in this case, the US Department of Justice and two mortgage companies, alleged in a court filing last week that Edwards made the financial moves in attempt to shield the money should he and his company lose the law suit. Edwards’ attorney described the allegation as “baseless.”

What’s important to note here is that if Edwards’ MIC does lose, it could be forced to pay an estimated $173 million. If Edwards, or MIC, is not able to pay that amount then he could have to sell some assets. Two of which could be downtown staples, the Sundial shopping plaza and the Tampa Bay Rowdies.

The lawsuit in question, which was first filed with the U.S. District Court in Atlanta back in 2006, alleges that Edwards’ MIC overcharged veterans and defrauded the government. Edwards name was just recently added to the suit by the plaintiffs.

In June a judge ordered that MIC handover the 2013 and 2014 financial records. Upon reviewing these records the plaintiff’s lawyers discovered that the company’s assets had fallen by 87% over the last three years.

In 2013 MIC made a large payment to shareholders. A payment so large that it was more than MIC listed as total assets in the previous year. Edwards, who is the largest shareholder, received 78% of that payout. The law suit alleges that Edwards did this so that the money would be “beyond the reach of the United States” and could not be seized.

As previously stated, if MIC is ordered by the court to pay restitutions and the company does not have the funds to cover the debt, then the government could seek reimbursement from Edwards himself. This could be potentially bad news for the Edwards owned Tampa Bay Rowdies.  Edwards, however, seems to be confident that he will eventually win this case. He said, “As with any large business, Mortgage Investors Corporation has been involved in civil lawsuits over the years. This is one of them. I cannot comment on ongoing litigation other than to say that I am confident we will ultimately prevail, and that this suit will not impact my other business endeavors.”

Fans of the Rowdies are undoubtedly nervous about the future of their team; not only because of the recent coaching and technical director change, but because of lawsuit against team owner Bill Edwards. A loss by Bill Edwards and MIC in the courtroom could potentially be the ultimate and final for the Tampa Bay Rowdies.