While former Red Sox ace Curt Schilling has been all over the news for the collapse of his 38 Studios game company, he is hardly the only celebrity – or even the only Red Sox pitcher – to strike out with a business venture. Failed companies either funded by or bearing the name of famous people are as common as celebrity divorces, and often they are just as ugly.
Here are a few of the most noteworthy collapses – starting with the 38 Studios debacle – along with a couple that are so absurd you have to wonder why (aside from brazen ego) the companies existed in the first place.
What does an all-star pitcher with three world championships on his resume know about running a video game company? Not much, it seems, as Curt Schilling’s 38 Studios went through more than $100 million – including $75 million guaranteed by the state of Rhode Island to lure the company from Massachusetts.
According to a Boston Globe story from Nov. 11, 2012, “Rhode Island sues 38 Studios to recoup losses,” 38 Studios closed after it couldn’t make loan payments. The company laid off about 400 employees in Providence and Maryland. Auctions were held at both locations to sell off computers, furniture, video game memorabilia, and studio equipment raising a total of $830,000. The company owes as much as $150 million to dozens of creditors.
Schilling, according to the Associated Press, has said he invested as much as $50 million in 38 Studios and has lost all his baseball earnings. He was even forced to sell one of the famous bloody socks from the Red Sox’ 2004 World Championship run as the famous footwear was used as collateral against various loans to 38 Studios.
Roger Clemens’s Chicken
Schilling is not the only red Sox pitcher to support a dubious business venture, but, at least Roger Clemens can say he did not put up his entire fortune to back “Roger Clemens’ Sports World Wood Roasted Chicken.” According to author Jeff Pearlman in his book, “The Rocket Who Fell to Earth,” Clemens merely lent his name to the chain which was also known as “Roger Clemens’ Flame-Roasted Chicken” and “Roger Clemens’ Café Boston” at various points.
The Clemens chain, no matter which name it used, never connected with the public and lasted less than three years before closing its doors for good.
Kenny Rogers’s Roasters
Technically, this chicken chain co-founded by country singer Kenny Rogers still exists, but, in reality its survival is in name only. Though Rogers’s eatery once boasted 350 locations worldwide, only a handful remain after a bankruptcy, multiple sales, and a brief time under the Nathan’s Famous banner.
The chain was perhaps most famous due to its appearance in a Seinfeld episode where Kramer expressed his love for the company’s chicken after its bright neon sign interfered with his ability to sleep. Since that heyday, however, it has been a rapid descent for the one-time KFC competitor with most of its remaining outlets being found overseas.
OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network
What if the biggest talk show host in the nation launched a TV network and nobody came? That’s exactly what happened when Oprah partnered with Discovery Communications to launch OWN (short for Oprah Winfrey Network).
Winfrey’s first mistake was launching the network during the final year of her talk show. Essentially, this meant that aside from repeats and behind-the-scenes content, Oprah did not appear on her own namesake network. Instead, audiences were given a steady diet of Winfrey’s friends, reality shows and other shows that they ignored in droves.
Even when Winfrey’s talk show ended she still only appeared on her own network on the weekly Oprah’s Next Chapter, leaving the daily talk show hosting duties to Rosie O’Donnell. Needless to say, O’Donnell’s talk show failed and OWN continued to bleed money – losing more than $300 million in its first few years.
OWN still exists and Winfrey has had some successes with her own show, but, OWN still lacks a genuine hit not hosted by its founder and CEO.
Lenny Dykstra’s Player’s Club magazine
Lenny Dykstra, most famous as a member of the New York Mets, launched Player’s Club to offer financial advice to professional athletes. This would have made a lot of sense if Dykstra was in any way financially successful. Instead, the former world champion ballplayer was running up debt, defaulting on his bills and generally making a mess of his personal finances.
Dykstra’s magazine collapsed when the company defaulted on bills to key suppliers. The former sluggers life collapsed when he was sentenced to three years in prison in March of 2012 for various counts of fraud.
Daniel B. Kline can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org