Jump to content

Hamilton Thunder - this is too funny


Recommended Posts

I do not believe in gloating about the misfortune of others, but obviously things are not on the up and up in this case. If people try to pull scams, they deserve whatever they get.

You need to be a subscriber to view it online so here it is:

* * * * * * * * *

Bankruptcy Haunts Downtown Booster

By Steve Buist

The Hamilton Spectator

(Tue., Oct 4, 2005)

He lives in a spacious 4,800 square foot house in Woodbridge, drove a luxury Mercedes, has no assets, and $2 million in debts.

And he may or may not be the owner of the Hamilton Thunder, the city's semi-professional soccer team. For Italo Ferrari, a local businessman who divides his passions between soccer and the revival of Hamilton's downtown, these are the key elements at the heart of an unresolved bankruptcy case that has been swirling around him for the past five years.

Ferrari, the public face of both the Hamilton City Centre and the Hamilton Thunder, has been stuck in a $2 million personal bankruptcy case since April 2000.

Ferrari, 58, is the general manager of Fercan Developments Inc., which owns the Hamilton City Centre (formerly Eaton Centre) and the CIBC building at King and James streets.

A Spectator investigation of the unresolved bankruptcy case raises questions about the ownership of the Thunder soccer team, and Ferrari's possible relationship with an Ontario corporation called Hamilton Thunder Soccer Club Inc.

Establishing who owns the soccer team is significant because it could represent a potential asset for creditors if Ferrari is a partial or full owner of the Thunder. (***My note: HAHAHA "potential asset" - sorry but that's funny)

It also raises questions about where the money has come from to fund the team's operations over the past four years and whether Ferrari's creditors had any claim to the money.

Improperly declaring or distributing assets as an undischarged bankrupt would contravene Canada's Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act.

Ferrari indicated to The Spectator that he is not, and has never been, an owner or part owner of the Hamilton Thunder.

"I would jeopardize my bankruptcy proceedings with taking on (an) ownership position with the Hamilton Thunder," said Ferrari. "My role with the club is to give Hamilton a professional soccer presense."

The colourful Ferrari has long been known in Hamilton for his two main passions -- helping find ways to revive the downtown core and trying to make Hamilton a soccer hotbed.

Ferrari, through Fercan Developments, has explored a number of initiatives to revitalize the Hamilton City Centre, including call centres and municipal government offices. He even pitched the former Eaton Centre in 2002 as a possible replacement for Hamilton's aging City Hall.

In 2001, Ferrari participated in a Spectator civic leaders' roundtable discussion on the state of Hamilton's downtown.

But Ferrari, who has been portrayed in the media as the owner of the Thunder since its inception in 2002, may be even more passionate about soccer.

In the Thunder's first season, Ferrari reportedly burst into the team's dressing room at halftime of one game, fired the coach on the spot and suspended 10 players.

While the Thunder has performed consistently well on the field over four seasons, newspaper reports suggest that the team has lost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Undaunted, Ferrari said in 2003 that he was going to attempt to bring Hamilton a franchise in the North American A-League, even though it might cost as much as $1 million.

Ferrari and the team are now in the midst of a dispute with the City of Hamilton over $26,000 in unpaid rent for playing fields.

Ferrari has told the trustee in charge of his bankruptcy case that he is not the owner of the Thunder, which didn't come into existence until two years after Ferrari filed for bankruptcy.

"I did meet with Mr. Ferrari, he was asked specifically if he was the owner of the soccer team and he replied to us verbally that no he was not," said trustee Diane Hessel of Perry Krieger & Associates.

"He does not deny that he is greatly involved in the soccer team, but he states he is not the owner of the club."

Ferrari declined to indicate who owns the Thunder.

"The investors at this time do not want their names made public," Ferrari responded to The Spectator.

Hessel said that Ferrari's bankruptcy remains in limbo until some outstanding information is received. She declined to divulge the nature of the information.

"There have been some communications with the estate creditors and the bankrupt and we're still waiting for clarification on information before we'll go forward," said Hessel.

Ferrari's bankruptcy filing in 2000 listed no assets and $1,999,444 in debts.

It marked the second time that Ferrari has filed for personal bankruptcy.

Ferrari also filed for bankruptcy in 1985, listing debts of $750,000 and assets of $170,000. He received an absolute discharge from that bankruptcy in 1986.

In Ferrari's latest bankruptcy, the largest creditor listed is Fernando Maio of Mississauga, who was owed $750,000. It's not known what the debt represented and Maio did not respond to an interview request by The Spectator.

Ferrari also listed about $665,000 in debts owed to the federal tax agency.

He also owed more than $11,000 to King's Court, a menswear store in Toronto's Yorkville fashion district.

In June and July 2001, the trustee overseeing Ferrari's case filed two reports in court noting that the creditors had expressed opposition to Ferrari's discharge from bankruptcy.

The creditors complained that Ferrari's income was artificially low because he wasn't taking into account benefits he was receiving courtesy of his employer.

Ferrari was provided with a 4,800 square-foot house in Woodbridge and a 1999 Mercedes at a combined rental cost of $1,900 per month, which was being deducted from his wages.

The trustee reported that the house had been purchased for $660,000 by a numbered company and that a $495,000 mortgage on the property had been guaranteed by Vince De Rosa. Corporate documents show De Rosa is the president and sole director of Fercan Developments.

The trustee noted that the monthly lease cost for the vehicle alone was $1,186. The average monthly rental cost for a house of similar description was determined to be $3,750.

"It would appear that Mr. Ferrari is receiving an after-tax benefit of approximately $3,000 per month," said the trustee's report. "(This would) indicate that Mr. Ferrari should have been paying between $1,444 and $2,165 per month for the benefit of his creditors during the term of his bankruptcy."

The trustee requested that Ferrari pay between $69,000 and $104,000 into his estate before being granted a discharge from bankruptcy.

"Because this is still under review, I cannot comment," Ferrari told The Spectator.

Ferrari indicated to The Spectator that he has never had an ownership position, either directly or indirectly, in Fercan Developments.

Fercan Developments was also the owner of the former Molson brewery property in Barrie at the time of a highly-publicized OPP raid in January 2004 when more than 20,000 marijuana plants were seized.

Neither Fercan or its principals were charged in connection with the raid.

Police were shocked at the scope and sophistication of the pot-growing operation.

Inside, they found hidden cameras, high-tech irrigation systems and dormitory-style living quarters with laundry facilities and games rooms. Marijuana plants were even being grown inside former beer vats.

A couple of days after the police raid, Ferrari said Fercan was simply the landlord renting out the property.

"We don't know who comes and who goes," Ferrari said at the time.

Nine men were charged following the raid, and seven were ultimately convicted last November and sentenced to terms ranging from two years to five years.

Ferrari was thrust back into the news last month when the City of Hamilton barred the Thunder team from using its playing facilities until slightly more than $26,000 in unpaid rent arrears were settled.

The city has indicated that the arrears include the past two seasons.

The team is playing the remainder of its home games in Vaughan.

On the field, the Thunder has enjoyed success this season, finishing the regular season in second place in the Western Conference of the Canadian Professional Soccer League with a record of nine wins, five losses and eight ties.

Ferrari has been portrayed as the team's owner in media reports since he announced his intention in 2001 to bring a CPSL franchise to Hamilton.

When the Thunder's rent arrears became public in late August, Ferrari said that the team's players are paid about $20,000 per month in total, but that attendance has averaged about 200 fans per game. Tickets cost $10 for adults, $5 for students and seniors, and children under 12 accompanied by an adult are free.

In a March 2002 Spectator article, Ferrari said he had invested $600,000 in his team.

A year later, a Spectator article said the Thunder finished its first season $486,000 in debt and that Ferrari had put another $500,000 into the team for its second season.

Ferrari indicated that he has never put his own money into the soccer team.

"But due to my love of the City of Hamilton, I have tried to help owners (unsuccessfully) by raising funds for the club," Ferrari noted. "Unfortunately, the sponsorship funds that were raised were inadequate to sustain this team in Hamilton."

There have been 27 Spectator articles since November 2001 that have referred to Ferrari as the owner of the Hamilton Thunder. He has never raised any objections with the newspaper about his depiction as the team's owner.

"Why would I challenge an organization that buys ink by the barrel when the credibility of the sport and the team would suffer by correcting ... your associates?" Ferrari noted.

A July 2004 news release on the Canadian Professional Soccer League's website also refers to Ferrari as the owner of the Thunder.

One former coach of the Hamilton Thunder said that as far as he was aware, there was never any mystery about the team's ownership.

"My understanding was that there were three owners (including Ferrari)," said Duncan Wilde, now coach of the Oakville team in the Canadian Professional Soccer League.

"I've never been told anything different than that."

Bill Fenwick, the city's director of culture and recreation, has been involved in the rent-dispute negotiations with the Thunder. He was asked who he believed to be the team's owner.

"As far as I know, Italo Ferrari," said Fenwick. "I've never been informed of anything different."

Ferrari indicated that he has simply been acting as a representative of the owners "in good and bad times."

The city's playing field rental agreement for the Thunder is actually signed with an Ontario corporation called Hamilton Thunder Soccer Club Inc.

The company was incorporated on March 8, 2002, with a registered address of the Hamilton City Centre on James Street North. The Thunder soccer team began play two months later.

A check of Ontario corporate records recently showed that Ferrari is one of two directors of the company and has been since its incorporation.

According to Ontario's Corporations Act, no person is allowed to be a director of a corporation while they are an undischarged bankrupt.

Ferrari said his name was listed as a director of the company in error. He also indicated that he is not a shareholder of the company, either directly or indirectly.

The trustee in Ferrari's bankruptcy case indicated that no court dates have been set for a discharge hearing and there are no further discussions planned in the near future.



Link to comment
Share on other sites

quote:Originally posted by Winnipeg Fury

Could it be any more pathetic ?

Even the Lynx owners admit they own the team. [:P]

What I want to know is who did he piss off? This was on the front page (or at least the beginning of the story was). I don't think it's regular newspaper practise to print about personal bankruptcies, nor on the front page, nor to investigate. He is only the manager of the company that owns a couple major downtown properties, so it's not like he some high-profile Hamilton-Donald Trump or something.


"But due to my love of the City of Hamilton, I have tried to help owners (unsuccessfully) by raising funds for the club," Ferrari noted. "Unfortunately, the sponsorship funds that were raised were inadequate to sustain this team in Hamilton."

"Inadequate to sustain this team in Hamilton" - I guess that means it's over for the Thunder?


"Why would I challenge an organization that buys ink by the barrel when the credibility of the sport and the team would suffer by correcting ... your associates?" Ferrari noted.

"Buys ink by the barrel"? What does that mean? But yeah, of course, saying who the real owners are would be a real huge blow to the, ahem, credibility of the Thunder.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Guest HamiltonSteelers

Alot of the information in the article read like it was compiled from previous articles and someone pieced it together. They painted a solid picture though: Owner with no money, dodging bankruptcy rules, living the high-life, owes people money, etc. The funny thing about the article is that it started on the front page and said turn to A7. You couldn't miss the rest of it since it was ALL of A7.


After the debacle of this season (which was more pronounced than last season), I can't be surprised. You don't have to be a detective or a financial analyst to see that the writing was on the wall. Speaking with many other people directly or indirectly involved with the club, it seems like the ship sunk sooner than he had hoped for or planned. I believe he was looking for a reduction in stadium rental agreement.

Part of his business model for the club (aside from, you know, not paying anyone) was hoping to sell his talent to Europe. He might have been on to something had the club paid the wages of the players to stick around long enough to do so. Not to say the entire team was teeming with talent, but a handful of them could make it with the second and third division sides of Europe.

From talking to him, he comes across as sincere, and if it wasn't for knowing hard facts that he believes you don't know about, you'd believe him. In talking to him, he discussed the stadium situation and told me that the city charges him $1000 per game for use... insurance, lights, minimal security, scoreboard. He said he wanted a reduction on rent because the Ti-Cats (who play RIGHT NEXT DOOR for those of you who don't know) pay $1200 and get a larger stadium, more security, ambulance, police, etc. The Ti-Cats put a pile of money into the Ivor Wynne for the new scoreboard, renovating the locker rooms, etc. Now I don't know what rent goes for beyond the TiCats, but I'd have to say that the Cats may be over-charged themselves. I think the Thunder painted the changerooms and the dugouts once, but that's as far as I can see.

Ferrari is dodging the obvious punishments that await him. I wonder when his legal team will turn on him for writing all of those NSF cheques?

On a separate level, Ferrari has always treated us (the BHTC) very well. Free tickets, use of the PA, hooked us up with a 50/50 draw and chipped in a few quid of his own for us. I realize that we help with the game experience and that is something he cannot artificially induce (not that it wouldn't stop the PA announcer from trying) so it was in his best interest to keep us around.

I am actually pleased that the A-League/USL never let him in. Perhaps another day.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

quote:Originally posted by Richard

What a pity the game of soccer ends up being dragged into this kind of sordid sage.

hahahaha. I'm sure it'll survive. Considering Chelsea is owned by a huge Russian mafia type....

And considering the lack of attention the sport in Canada gets in the media due to the lack of success by our national teams and our 3 minor league pro clubs- at this point any attention gained is a boast.

Link to comment
Share on other sites


This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

  • Create New...