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Brunell addresses creditors

Karen Brune Mathis

by Karen Brune Mathis
Managing Editor

Former Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Mark Brunell told creditors in his bankruptcy reorganization case Wednesday that his contract with the New York Jets this season would be worth $1.5 million, if he makes the team.

“It depends on how I play tomorrow night,” said Brunell, who spoke by phone at a Section 341 creditors’ meeting at U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Jacksonville.

Brunell turns 40 in about two weeks.

“You’re not guaranteed anything if you’re not on the roster the opening day of the season,” he said.

He said he should know soon. “I should know within the next seven days,” he said.

The NFL regular season opens Sept. 9, when the Minnesota Vikings take on the New Orleans Saints in the Louisiana Superdome. The Jets open their season Monday, Sept. 13, at the New Meadowlands Stadium.

Brunell spoke by phone from Philadelphia, where the Jets play the Philadelphia Eagles at 7:30 tonight in their final preseason game.

Brunell filed for Chapter 11 reorganization on June 25, listing assets of $5.5 million and liabilities of $24.7 million. The majority of the liabilities are related to real estate and business investments and Brunell’s personal guarantee on real estate debt, including debt incurred with partnerships that involved former Jaguars teammates Joel Smeenge and Todd Fordham.

The U.S. trustee conducts the Section 341 meeting of creditors in which the trustee and creditors may question the debtor under oath concerning the debtor’s acts, conduct, property and the administration of the case. Brunell was in the presence of a U.S. trustee in Philadelphia during the meeting.

U.S. Trustee Timothy S. Laffredi, a U.S. Department of Justice attorney leading the Jacksonville meeting, asked Brunell what would happen if he didn’t make the team.

“First off, cry,” said Brunell. He said he wasn’t sure of the next step other than “coming back down to Jacksonville to live.”

About 10 people attended the meeting, including Laffredi, Brunell’s attorney, Robert Wilcox, and an associate, two attorneys for creditors and a few others.

Two men who attended had arrived late from out of town for an earlier meeting in another case, which they missed. They said they decided to stay for the Brunell meeting because they had money in a two-hour parking meter and nowhere else to go.

The meeting took just over an hour.

Laffredi asked dozens of questions about Brunell’s Chapter 11 petition and the creditors’ attorneys had several more questions. One said he was “trying to track down Smeenge,” but Brunell did not immediately provide an address.

Laffredi asked Brunell why he filed Chapter 11 reorganization. “Because I got in over my head and the debt was insurmountable,” said Brunell. “I’m filing Chapter 11 to reorganize and come up with a plan to make this right.”

Asked whether there was any significance to the June 25 filing date, Brunell replied that “there was no reason other than I wanted to do it as early as possible.”

Wilcox, with the Brennan, Manna & Diamond firm, said after the meeting that he expected Brunell’s plan of reorganization would be filed within 30 days.

In response to questions from Laffredi, Brunell said no one was living in his oceanfront Ponte Vedra home, which he valued at $3.1 million in the Chapter 11 filing. Brunell said his family has moved to a house he is renting in New Jersey, although his 18-year-old daughter is attending college out of state.

Brunell said the family was settling in this week. He and his wife have four children.

Brunell said during the meeting that his current income is $1,000 a week for training camp. He said that as of Aug. 1, he was with the Jets. He said he signed a two-year contract that paid a $300,000 guarantee on Aug. 15. He said that if he makes the team, he receives another $200,000.

He said that if he makes the team, he also has an agreement with Nike for $3,000 in trade, meaning he will wear Nike products, such as Nike shoes on game day.

His salary would be $1 million a year, he and Wilcox said.

Brunell, a Los Angeles native and star quarterback at the University of Washington, was drafted by the Green Bay Packers in 1993 and spent two years with the Packers before being traded to the Jaguars for the 1995 inaugural season.

He quickly became a leader on the team and in the community, gaining support for his views on faith and family and his support of charity, including the Brunell Family Foundation to benefit critically ill children and their families.

Brunell was traded to the Washington Redskins in 2004 and played for four seasons then joined the Saints in 2008 for two seasons and won a Super Bowl ring with the Saints this year.

The Jets signed Brunell to a two-year contract in July, a month after he filed for Chapter 11 reorganization.

Chapter 11 typically is used by corporations, although individuals with higher levels of assets and liabilities file under the chapter.

Chapter 11 allows a debtor to reorganize debts under the protection of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court. It provides an automatic stay in which judgments, collection activities, foreclosures and property repossessions are suspended and cannot be pursued by creditors on any claim arising before the filing, according to court information.

Laffredi continued the meeting pending Brunell providing proof of his Social Security card and said he would conclude the meeting when he had the proof.

At the end of the meeting, a day before the preseason game, Wilcox told Brunell that “your creditors are rooting for you.”

After the meeting, Wilcox called professional football “a brutal business.”

Wilcox also said he thought the meeting went “pretty well.”

“It’s painful to put that information out about his personal finances,” said Wilcox.

“I hope he makes the team.”

kmathis@baileypub.com

356-2466

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