04/12/09 9:03 PM PDT
The creator of the Icer Air ski competition in San Francisco may not have to pay the tens and thousands of dollars allegedly owed to the athletes, employees and production crews who helped present last year’s event, since the nature of his production company offers legal protections.
The event began in 2004 as a free showcase on Fillmore Street in Pacific Heights, featuring Olympian Jonny Moseley. The following year it moved to AT&T Park and admission was charged.
The success of Icer Air ended last year, on Oct. 18, when it attracted half the expected attendance, lost money and drew complaints from athletes and production crews, who said they were not paid for their services.
Glen Griffin admitted the event fell short of its financial goals, and that “certain people didn’t get paid, some of our athletes and vendors.”
The parties whom Griffin owes allege that he, along with one of Icer Air’s chief marketers — Trevor Hubbard, also a San Francisco resident — failed to return phone or e-mail requests for payment, and that the pair shut down Icer Air offices and essentially disappeared to avoid paying up.
Meanwhile, there are allegations the two have been living the high life in The City’s upscale neighborhoods. Griffin, who lives in Cow Hollow, admitted to using money raised from past Icer Air events for living expenses.
Even so, the legal nature of his business, Icer Air Productions, which is a limited liability company, most likely protects him from
Peter Healy, a partner at O’Melveny & Myers LLP, said a limited liability company is a partnership in which owners have little personal liability for the debts of the company.
If the company has zero net worth and it owes money to people, “it could declare bankruptcy, it could just not pay,” Healy said. And worse, the owners wouldn’t have to pay out of pocket for lost expenses.
“[A claimant] could only get what the net worth of the LLC is,” he said. “If the LLC is worth nothing, they can’t get anything.”
One way the event’s participants could sue is if they can prove Griffin or his employees committed fraud, but that’s very hard to do, the attorney said.
“The fact that you’re a bad business person does not constitute fraud,” Healy said.
Griffin told The Examiner last week that he wanted to make Icer Air profitable, but lost sponsorship due to the recession and was hammered by lower-than-expected ticket sales. Despite sliding into debt, he wants to present an event this year to raise money to erase past losses.