Judge rejects Vick plan to emerge from bankruptcy
By LARRY O'DELL
Associated Press Writer
A judge rejected Michael Vick's plan to emerge from bankruptcy on Friday, telling the suspended NFL star to rethink how he'll pay back his creditors.
The ex-Atlanta Falcons quarterback, who is serving a 23-month prison sentence for bankrolling a dogfighting operation, had outlined a plan during a hearing Friday based on the goal of returning to NFL football. 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 he start on a new plan by considering liquidating one or both of his Virginia homes and three cars he had planned to keep. The judge said a documentary deal indicates that Vick is building financial momentum, but he currently had too much debt and no proof he could come up with all the money creditors are demanding.
The judge commended Vick for wanting 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," said Santoro, who didn't set a deadline for him to file a new plan.
Earlier in the hearing, Vick told Santoro that his time in prison gave him a chance to think about the "heinous" act he committed and that he's realized 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 fiancee. "I was very immature. I did a lot of things I wasn't supposed to do being a role model."
In prison, he's 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 he called "an exit strategy."
Vick's attorneys want him to stay in Virginia until an April 28 status hearing on the case, but Santoro said he doesn't have the authority to authorize that. He said he'd consider requiring that Vick appear at that hearing. Vick had been staying at a regional jail in Virginia in the days before Friday's hearing after traveling from a federal prison in Kansas to attend.
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.
Under the plan outlined Friday, Vick had intended to keep two houses in Virginia where his children, fiancee and mother live, along with three cars. The judge said it was commendable that he wanted to protect his family's dwellings but suggested Vick buy a house more within his means.
"You can't be everything to everybody or you'll end up being nothing to nobody," Santoro said.
Before rejecting Vick's plan, Santoro asked him how many more years he thinks he could play in the NFL.
Vick replied: "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 is expected to be released from custody in July. 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 testified that he's optimistic about his chances at being reinstated if he shows remorse and does the right things.
Vick's agent, Joel Segal, said 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.
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 - would not 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 his 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.