Judge orders jailed QB Vick to propose a better bankruptcy plan

Published on April 3, 2009 by     

vick-bankruptcy-photoA judge rejected Michael Vick’s plan to emerge from bankruptcy, telling the suspended Atlanta Falcons quarterback on Friday to come up with a better way to pay back his creditors.

Vick, who is serving a 23-month prison sentence for bankrolling a dogfighting operation, had outlined a plan based on the goal of returning to the NFL. Vick said he’s optimistic about being reinstated after he is released from prison and that he believes he can play pro football for another 10 years.

But Judge Frank Santoro said there is no guarantee the league will have the 28-year-old player back and suggested that Vick start on a new plan by considering liquidating one of his two Virginia homes and three cars he had planned to keep.

The judge said it was commendable that Vick wanted to take charge of his finances by himself but said it had taken months of accountants, trustees and lawyers working to unravel his assets in the first place.

“No one is good at everything, but the fact, Mr. Vick, is you are perhaps extraordinary at your chosen profession, but that does not translate into financial sophistication,” Santoro said.

Santoro didn’t set a deadline for a new filing. A status hearing is the case is scheduled for April 28.

Earlier in the hearing, Vick told Santoro that his time in prison gave him time to think about the “heinous” act he committed and he has realized that he needs to make some changes.

“I can’t live like the old Mike Vick,” he told a courtroom filled with his family, friends and fiancée. “I was very immature. I did a lot of things I wasn’t supposed to do being a role model.”

In prison, Vick has filled his days by reading, writing, playing basketball and working a 12-cent-an-hour job as a janitor, he said. The experience has given him a chance to develop what he called “an exit strategy.”

Vick was once one of the NFL’s highest-paid players, but lavish spending and poor investments, coupled with the backlash from his dogfighting case, led to his downfall. Vick filed for bankruptcy in July claiming assets of $16 million and debts of more than $20 million.

Before rejecting Vick’s plan, Santoro asked him how many more years he thinks he could play in the NFL. Vick said he believes he has another decade on the field if he’s reinstated.

“If I keep my body in shape and do the right things, I think I have maybe 10 or 12 more years in my career,” Vick said.

Vick is expected to be released from custody in July, and he traveled from a federal prison in Kansas to attend the hearing. He could be transferred to home confinement at his eastern Virginia home by late May, and his agent testified Thursday that he hopes Vick can return to the NFL by September.

In order for that to happen, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell would have to reinstate Vick, who was suspended indefinitely after he was indicted on the dogfighting conspiracy charge in 2007. Goodell has said he would consider Vick’s case after his release.

Vick testifed that he’s optimistic about his chances at being reinstated, “if I do the right things, if I keep showing I’m remorseful, show true remorse.”

Vick’s agent, Joel Segal, said on the stand Thursday that he would try to negotiate a short-term contract filled with incentives for playing time and starts that could bring in millions. He also said Vick has agreed to plans for a television documentary that will pay him $600,000.

Earlier this week, Vick and the Falcons agreed he would repay $6.5 million of his Atlanta contract, moving closer to cutting ties with a team that doesn’t want him. Segal said he hasn’t spoken to teams because Vick is still under contract with the Falcons, but that the quarterback is in shape and will be prepared for his return.

“There will be determination like we’ve never seen before to be structured and disciplined,” Segal said.

A committee representing most of Vick’s unsecured creditors has endorsed his Chapter 11 plan because the alternative — a Chapter 7 liquidation of his assets — wouldn’t provide them any portion of his future earnings. But some other parties, including a former agent who won a $4.6 million judgment against Vick, opposed the plan.

One of Vick’s sources of income will come from a job he’ll take when he is sent to home confinement. Vick will have a 40-hour-a-week, $10-an-hour job at one of W.M. Jordan Co.’s 40 commercial construction jobs, said John Robert Lawson, whose father helped start the Newport News company.

Lawson, 57, said that he has known Vick for more than 10 years and that they have been involved in charitable work together. He said Vick’s representatives approached him when the former hometown hero was turned away by other employers.

“I believe all of us make mistakes, and once you’ve fulfilled your commitment and paid the price, you should be given a second chance,” Lawson said in a telephone interview. “He’s not a bad person. He made some bad choices.”

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