TAMPA — Dr. Robert Nucci paid more than $9 million for the Arena Football League's Tampa Bay Storm in 2007 and committed to spending millions more to finalize the sale.
But after his first season, the league suspended play, filed for bankruptcy and sold off all its assets, including the Storm.
Nucci filed a lawsuit Friday in Hillsborough County Circuit Court, claiming those involved in the deal knew about the former league's insolvency and deceived him into buying a worthless franchise.
Former owner Peter Kern, veteran Storm coach Tim Marcum, the current league Arena Football One and current Storm owners — Tampa Bay Storm Partners — are named as defendants.
The lawsuit alleges Kern violated his noncompete agreement with Pigskin LLC, the company of which he sold 51 percent interest to Nucci.
"Much of the information was intentionally withheld up until now," said Helene Daniel, the attorney representing Pigskin.
In 2007, Kern told Nucci that AFL teams' values were steadily rising and the league was expanding in the United States, Europe and Thailand, the lawsuit alleges.
Nucci did his due diligence before agreeing to buy the Storm, but Kern and other league officials purposely withheld information about the league's $24 million debt and a plan to have the league own all the teams rather than individual corporations or partnerships, the lawsuit claims.
Marcum and a Storm spokesman declined comment Friday. Kern could not be reached for comment.
Nucci managed the Storm for the 2008 season, and spent more than $1 million refurbishing the team's offices and buying equipment, according to the lawsuit. The New Jersey native founded the Nucci Spine Institute and moved the practice from Palm Harbor to Tampa in 2003.
In 2009, league members suspended play for the season and the AFL filed for bankruptcy. The rights to the teams and markets were sold to Arena Football One for $6.1 million and the AFL was dissolved.
A new company, Tampa Bay Storm Partners, was granted rights from the league to take over the Storm's logo, uniforms and contract to play at the St. Pete Times Forum in Tampa.
The suit contends Kern violated the noncompete agreement because he is an operator-member of AF One, which owns the current Tampa Bay Storm, Orlando Predators and Jacksonville Sharks. Marcum is accused of conspiring to help the league become a single entity.