Bankrupt Man Buys a Pro Soccer Team, Then Disappears
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Bankrupt Man Buys Soccer Team - But How?

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Pop quiz: What should you do if you have no real estate, no assets, and owe $73,000 to the federal government?

Probably not buy a professional sports team, right? Some people, in fact, would probably consider filing bankruptcy.

But not everyone fits the mold. While reportedly under these exact circumstances, Mike Sidebottom decided to buy a professional soccer team.

According to the Virginian-Pilot, Sidebottom responded to an ad in the Wall Street Journal placed by then-owner Jerry McDonnell that touted a professional soccer team to be sold for the bargain price of $1.

He offered to buy the team, even though a year earlier he'd filed for bankruptcy himself, since he couldn't afford a lawyer.

By all accounts a charming man, Sidebottom delighted McDonnell right away and promised great improvements for the Virginia Beach Mariners, who were then in significant debt.

Sidebottom supposedly claimed to be the representative of a company called International Sports Partners-his company, he said, would effectively be supporting the Mariners and their current debt.

Not long after the business deal was closed, though, the truth came out: no such company actually existed, there was no money to save the failing team, and Sidebottom's given address was nothing more than a UPS mailbox.

The team, which had seen several owners since its creation in 1994, was struggling but hopeful, the Virginian-Pilot reports. In 1998, a sports complex was built, providing them with a new playing venue. They were in debt, but excited by the energy and enthusiasm Sidebottom showed.

Not surprisingly, the team collapsed.

The circumstances of this case are almost comically unusual, but they beg some serious questions. Why didn't anyone do a background check on Sidebottom? Was McDonnell so won over by Sidebottom's charm that he didn't think to verify his claims? Didn't the league have procedural regulations?

Dailypress.com reports that Sidebottom has recently gone missing, while attempting to postpone a lawsuit brought against him by McDonnell. Since his only known "address" is actually a UPS mailbox, odds are long that he'll be tracked down.

While McDonnell may not have intentionally targeted buyers who were eligible to file bankruptcy, the appeal of a seemingly low-cost luxury is certainly understandable. And familiar. The newspaper spot advertising a professional sports team available for only a dollar sounds an awful lot like mail solicitations for credit cards sent to recent bankruptcy filers.

And who can forget the foreclosure rescue scammers who promise to provide relief for weary homeowners and then essentially steal their houses?

Though Sidebottom's case has a decidedly bizarre humor to it, the reality of his situation-and of the situation of many people facing bankruptcy-is no laughing matter.

While not purchasing a professional sports team may be an obvious step for those facing financial trouble, other schemes and scams are less obviously dangerous-and equally as tempting.


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