Players are seen during an “American” football match between the “Chevaliers” from Orleans and the “Meteores” from Fontenay-sous-bois in a Paris suburb. (Photographer: Owen Franken/Bloomberg News)

Startup Football League AAF Files for Bankruptcy

(Bloomberg) -- The Alliance of American Football, the upstart league that abruptly folded midway through its first season, filed for bankruptcy after failing to secure a partnership with the NFL.

Legendary Field Exhibitions LLC, the parent of the eight-team league, listed liabilities of $48.4 million and $11.4 million in assets in a Chapter 7 petition on Wednesday in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in San Antonio, Texas. The Alliance of American Football said in a separate statement that it has begun a liquidation process.

“We are deeply disappointed to be taking this action,” the league said in the statement. “The AAF was created to be a dynamic, developmental professional football league powered by an unprecedented alliance between players, fans and the game. The AAF strove to create new opportunities for talented players, coaches, executives and officials.”

Launched by TV producer Charlie Ebersol and longtime National Football League executive Bill Polian, and later controlled by billionaire Tom Dundon, the filing comes just two weeks after the league ceased operations, leaving players stranded on the road.

Doubts about the AAF’s financial strength arose shortly after the league’s strong opening weekend. Just two weeks after launching, amid reports that it was struggling to make payroll, the league announced that Dundon was investing $250 million, a move that would make him the AAF’s largest institutional stakeholder and its chairman. Dundon, who owns the Carolina Hurricanes, later told the Bloomberg Business of Sports podcast that of that commitment, he’d only actually invested around $70 million.

Dundon had been seeking an affiliation with the National Football League, an arrangement that would let players on the NFL’s practice squads play in the AAF. But such a deal never came together. The upstart league needed about $20 million to make it to the end of its first season, news website ProFootballTalk said.

Other investors in the league included Peter Thiel’s Founders Fund and the Chernin Group.

The league officially folded on April 2, eight weeks into the season. “This is not the way we wanted it to end,” the league said in a statement, “but we are also committed to working on solutions for all outstanding issues to the best of our ability.”

Legendary Field Exhibitions listed just $536,000 in cash. The company’s largest secured creditor is MGM Resorts International Operations Inc., which has a $7 million security interest in the debtor’s intellectual property, per the filings.

In a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, the company is taken over by trustee overseen by the court, who is charged with liquidating any assets and possibly filing lawsuits to raise money to repay creditors.

The case is Legendary Field Exhibitions LLC, 19-50900, in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Western District of Texas.

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