For the second time, a former owner of the Arena Football League’s Tampa Bay Storm has filed an eight-figure lawsuit against a group for failing to properly examine the league’s financial viability.
Dr. Robert Nucci, a Tampa orthopedic surgeon who bought majority ownership of the Storm in 2007, has alleged professional malpractice against Clearwater-based Bollenback & Forret, P.A., and is seeking in excess of $10 million in damages.
The suit, filed Nov. 9 in the Sixth Judicial Circuit Court in Pinellas County, is a counterclaim in response to Bollenback’s lawsuit against Nucci — and other businesses owned or controlled by him — to collect on claims for accounting services in an unspecified amount, but less than $50,000.
Nucci also filed a third-party complaint for successor liability against Maloney + Novotny LLC, an Ohio-based accounting firm that recently took over Bollenback’s business operations.
Michael Bollenback, who had been Nucci’s accountant for some time before his acquisition of the Storm, died in March 2022.
“It was not Dr. Nucci’s intent to revisit the Tampa Bay Storm acquisition and all of the issues relating thereto,” said Adam Hall, Nucci’s Miami-based attorney. “But when Bollenback decided to sue him, they forced him to revisit the issues and assert Bollenback’s misconduct (in the transaction).”
In a phone interview Thursday afternoon, Hall said when Nucci was gathering a team of professionals to examine the Arena Football League’s financial status and the viability of the purchase of the Storm, Bollenback didn’t share that he had no experience in sports-team acquisitions and relatively limited experience in acquisitions generally.
“That was news to Dr. Nucci that he learned far, far late.” Hall said.
Nucci’s countersuit indicates he agreed to purchase the Storm from previous owner Woody Kern in 2007 for $18.9 million, with slightly more than $9.6 million required initially for Nucci to gain majority interest. Nucci had to secure a pair of loans totaling $3.6 million to make that first payment, according to the lawsuit.
The Arena Football League filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy following the 2008 season.
“(Nucci) wanted to know, ‘What is it going to cost me to own this team?’” Hall said. “And in order to do that, you have to look at the league. And what did Mr. Bollenback do? He looked at some financial reports, some tax records on the owner of the team, did a math exercise, and that’s it.”
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The latest litigation comes eight years after Nucci sought at least $15 million in damages in a suit against the law firm of Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney, which he also hired to investigate the league’s financial standing. That suit alleged that because the attorneys did not make Nucci aware of the league’s monetary troubles, he made an investment that eventually forced him to file for individual bankruptcy.
Hall said that suit was resolved by amicable settlement, terms of which remain confidential.
In the summer of 2010, Nucci filed a lawsuit in Hillsborough County Circuit Court, claiming those involved in the deal knew about the league’s insolvency and deceived him into buying a worthless franchise. Kern and former Storm coach Tim Marcum were among those named as defendants.
The Arena Football League was relaunched in 2010. The Storm ceased operations in 2017.
In February, the league announced it was relaunching again under new leadership. Tampa Bay is not among the 16 teams scheduled to begin play in 2024.
Contact Joey Knight at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @TBTimes_Bulls
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