The contract signed by Jackie Robinson with the Montreal Royals in 1945 at the heart of a fraud case
MISE À DAY
The contracts that Jackie Robinson signed with the Brooklyn Dodgers and their Montreal Royals affiliate find themselves at the heart of a fraud lawsuit by the United States Securities Commission (SEC) against the Collector's Coffee Inc. (CCI) website.
Presumed missing for years, the contracts that are now collector's items resurfaced in 2016 and have were unveiled with great fanfare by CCI at. Times Square, New York at the time.
But a decision by Judge Gabriel Gorenstein, handed down on Monday, means that a jury in the Southern District of New York will likely determine who owns these contracts.
The Jackie Robinson Foundation intervened in on this file insisting that the Dodgers had assigned the rights to these contracts to him. CCI investors also gave their point of view by mentioning that the contracts served as collateral for loans that are in default.
< p>This is a very complex file because it involves several stakeholders.
Robinson signed contracts with the Montreal Royals and Dodgers in 1945 and 1947, respectively. It was the second agreement that allowed him to become the first black player in Major League Baseball in the 20th century.
What happened with these contracts is both complex and mysterious. In a ruling of more than 11,000 words, Judge Gorenstein explained that newspaper articles from the 1940s and 1950s suggest that Dodgers managers Walter O'Malley and Branch Richey lent or abandoned the contracts to the Brooklyn archives. for display purposes.
In the 1970s, contracts ended up at the James A. Kelly Institute at St. Francis College in Brooklyn.
In 2009, the Institute director Arthur Konop died and his widow gave his son the key to a safety deposit box containing the contracts. The message “my kids will know what to do with it” accompanied the key.
We have to believe that was not the case since three years later, the Konop family sold the contracts to a company called Gotta Have It Collectibles for the sum of US$750,000 (CA$1.02 million).< /p>
This company then sold the contracts to CCI for two million dollars (CA$2.7 million) and CCI used this acquisition as collateral to obtain a loan of six million dollars (8. C$2M).
The company was supposed to sell the collectibles at auction in 2018, but the sale never took place. Instead, the Dodgers sent a letter to CCI indicating that they were the owners of the contracts and that they wished to have them back by including the Jackie Robinson Foundation in the request.
CCI maintains that the Dodgers are not owners of the contracts, insisting that the team, which has been based in Los Angeles for decades, ceded its rights during a 2011 bankruptcy proceeding between Major League Baseball and owner Frank McCourt.
CCI argues that the contracts were not included in the club's holdings or missing holdings. Judge Gorenstein noted, however, that no old contracts of a historical nature were included in the holdings, implying that the omission of those related to Robinson was not indicative of anything particular.
Judge Gorenstein does not seem to favor the avenue of theft throughout the contract process. He also noted in his opinion that the Dodgers had voluntarily shared the contracts and that they had to be aware that these were on the open market.
Besides, he notes that the team never took any action to recover the contracts, which means that it may have given them away or abandoned them.
According to witnesses interviewed by the judge, it seems that the Major teams in the 1940s did not see contracts as valuable items that needed to be protected. In fact, the Dodgers' archives do not contain any contracts for players who were on their roster between 1945 and 1947.
The judge, however, recognized that it is “conceivable that the Dodgers processed the contracts of Jackie Robinson in a different way.”
The parties involved now have a few weeks to file objections to Judge Gorenstein's report, which will be reviewed by Judge Victor Marrero. The Marshals service is in possession of the contracts in the meantime.