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San Diego Sockers fold


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Sockers to fold today

By Brent Schrotenboer


December 30, 2004

The long, storied history of the Sockers in San Diego is apparently at an end – again.

The Major Indoor Soccer League is expected to announce today the team will cease operations, euthanizing a franchise that goes back more than a quarter-century. Minority owner David Altomare confirmed he heard the news of the team's folding from head coach Brian Quinn. A player dispersal draft is likely to be held in the next week or two, Altomare said.

The move comes after four weeks of trying to sort through the mess created when owner Raj Kalra bought the team in October but afterward failed to fund it.

The folding "is what we were figuring," Sockers player Nevio Pizzolitto said. "It's disappointing having to rearrange your life."

The league had failed to find a new buyer for a team that likely would have required a $500,000 bailout and still owes thousands of dollars to several creditors. Players are owed payroll since Dec. 1. The team's office staff wasn't paid recently until Altomare decided to foot the bill as a loan to Kalra – in exchange for penny stock collateral.

"But I don't know if it's ever going to get paid back," Altomare said.

The Sockers, who won 10 championships in 11 seasons in their heyday in the 1980s and early '90s, also folded in 1997 only to return in 2001. This time, their chances of resurrection seem unlikely given the team's debt, Altomare said.

Kalra, a penny stock specialist with a checkered business history, had seemingly saved the team from folding earlier this year when Altomare, the previous majority owner, wanted to unload the team and its burdensome debt. The MISL seemed eager to believe in Kalra, too – so much so that the league didn't require him to put up a $400,000 letter of credit to prevent future financial crises.

As a result, players, staffers, creditors and the Sports Arena went unpaid while Kalra kept promising he would fix the situation "in a few days." He never did, following a pattern he has created through the years: business difficulties and unpaid creditors from coast to coast.

Financial reports filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission show Kalra's former company in Georgia, DICUT Inc., increased its accumulated net losses from $54,000 to $7.75 million while he was CEO. DICUT recently had property seized by the county sheriff to help meet a $403,000 judgment against it in a breach-of-contract suit brought by an investment firm. The sale of the property didn't come close to meeting the judgment, a Cobb County Sheriff's Department official said.

In March, Kalra also bought the Vancouver Ravens of the National Lacrosse League only to follow the same pattern. He didn't fund the team, and it has since folded for the 2005 season. Kalra used penny stock for his letter of credit with the NLL.

Kalra also bought the Sockers with penny stock, giving shares to Altomare in exchange for 80 percent of the team.

Kalra did not immediately return a phone message yesterday. Quinn also didn't immediately return a message. MISL Commissioner Steve Ryan hasn't returned messages from the Union-Tribune in three weeks.

With the Sockers out, the MISL is expected to become little more than a regional entity. A planned expansion team in Stockton was expected to cut its costs by entering the league as a travel partner with the Sockers.


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