[NOTE: Some copy was left out of the original version of this story due to a posting error; the entire story is now posted.]
It’s been no secret over the last year that Steve Geppi, the owner of Diamond Comics Distribution, has had some money problems on his other business ventures, including Gemstone, his now-dormant publishing arm and the Geppi Entertainment Museum in Baltimore. As we reported last year, he had a $373,000 lawsuit filed against him for money owed to Global Interprint, the printer for many Gemstone books. There was also the matter of a $16,466,205.32 debt to PNC Bank over a bad real estate deal in Camden, Maine. Now, even more debts and lawsuits are emerging.
First, there’sthe little matter of this $500,ooo million lawsuit against Geppi for breach of contract, brought by Paige M. Kuether, Lynn L. Montana, Raymond D Montana and Donald W. Montana against Geppi and the Diamond International Galleries, Geppi’s high-end collectibles business. The plaintiffs are the children of Bob Montana, the legendary artist and co-creator of the Archie characters, so even without looking at the court documents, it’s not too hard to figure out this matter involves artwork or other collectibles.
in 1996 the Montana heirs sued Archie Publications for creator credit on the characters. The suit was settled but Montana is listed as “creator of the characters’ original likenesses.”
Geppi had another recent rent dispute settlement regarding a theater one of his companies operated in 2008:
The owner of Westview Mall in Catonsville has settled its unpaid rent lawsuit with comic book magnate Stephen A. Geppi, who served as guarantor for the lease of a former movie theater.
Westview Center Associates LLC had sought approximately $200,000 in unpaid rent from Geppi and Diamond Cinemas Inc., which operated the Diamond Cinemas Westview for six months in 2008.
The theate, located in a Catonsville, MD mall, had closed due to theatre chain consolidation earlier. Geppi’s company tried to make a go of running it, but it closed after six months and remains shuttered.
As part-owner of the Baltimore Orioles, Geppi is a very prominent local businessman, whose ventures often appear in the local papers. In fact, this link is from a local Maryland newspaper naming Geppi one of the “biggest scammers” of 2009:
-The Maryland Stadium Authority reduces politically well-connected businessman Steve Geppi’s $367,820 rent at the state’s Camden Station by 31 percent after Geppi misses 19 monthly rent payments.
The matter of the Entertainment Museum, housed along with a sports museum in a building next door to the baseball stadium Camden Yards, has been a bit of a local scandal. The Orioles have stunk, the recession stung everyone and attendance was down, meaning Geppi’s Museum, launched with much fanfare in 2006, has struggled to make ends meet and even pay the electric bill. However, Baltimore authorities have been generous to local attractions to boost the tourism business. After missing 19 rent payments, Geppi settled up early in 2009 for $364,884.98.
As we like to point out every time we run one of these stories, Geppi’s business is set up with separate corporations for his various businesses, so Diamond the distributor is seemingly not directly liable for any of these debts and bad business deals. However, Geppi’s personal finance problems can’t be helping Diamond as they deal with the general downturn on the economy, the not-as-bad-as-everyone-else-but-still-not-good slip in comics sales, and the disaster that was the move to the new distribution center last year — coming at the height of the recession, it left orders in shambles for months. While Diamond is still getting business done, in light of this growing list of debts, the rest of Geppi’s empire looks pretty shaky,
[Thanks to Ben Grimm for some of the above links.]
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.