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Unitas article


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Battle over golden legacy

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Unitas article

  1. 1. Two families in battle over golden legacy Unitajs: The late Colts great's oldest son and sircoml wife square off in court (o contest the company that markets tin; Golden Arm's name and Image. By AKDKZW RATHER Standing beneath an Imposing bronze flRure of his father, beside the downtown football stadium that many fans lobbied hard and lULUely to have renamed for his father. John C. Unllas Jr. Is recall- Ing sweet memories of his ciad and the Baltimore He's lost In a moment, but it's not a touchdown drive. No. In his mind's eye. Unllas Jr. Is ball boy again for the Colls — a lad with a beeswaxed crewcut resting In the top bunk In the players' camp In Westminster with his dad stretched out in the bed below. ~l never looked at my father as a celebrity. He was my fa- ther," said Unllas Jr.. 47, of Unllas Sr. who died Sept. 1L "He'd spend hours al home studying film, cradling me and my sister on his lap. Dad would get a game boll from a bin game, like Ihe 'SB champi- onship or somelhlng Impor- tanL We would take off with It John Unltas Jr. nnd and then go play wflh It out Ua father farmed front and lose It. He didn't LS Management. care. He was a great man, a great man." Unllas Jr. adored his father, went Into business with him — and Is now being accused of attempting to steal from him by people who also were dose to his father his own step- mother and Unllas' second wife. Sandra, and his father's attorney and accountant. The three recently took control of the company thai father and son formed In 1991 to market Unites for promotional pur- poses. Sandra Unltaa re- Last year, the company cently took control of earned almost $1 million by the company, selling licensing rights, auto- graphs and appearances by man known as 'Johnny U." and the question of who w)H pro til from It have triggered a court battle and an acrimonious public exchange of accusations. The emotional price ls already heavy within Unltas' extended family. The children of his firs', marriage say they didn't know their father's ashes were being laid to rest this spring until they were no- {See Unites. ift»|
  2. 2. Page IDA: Sunday. July 20.2003: The Sun "They're eating John [Jr.] right now. Lawyers don't come cheap. Asa friend, it just breaks my heart. If his father had meant for any of this to happen, his father would have yanked the business from him long ago." Stive Spean, a Chicago attorney who earlier represented Unltat Management, referring to John Unltat Sr attorney Charlet M. TWelbaum and accountant Howard H. Moffet Unitas families in a legal battle [Unites, from Page IA] Johnny U.'s work ethk: and back- ground and character that some titled afterward — with a ceme- company will want to Identify tery map snowing where they with.' could visit. They were also left Unitas acknowledged that his out of ceremonies to announce timing was better In releasing a Uie renaming of Towson Univer- football than cashing la quite sity's stadium and 19th Street In aware that lesser talents who Ocean City In their father'! followed him earned much honor. more. As his fame grew during Unitas h»d five children with his Colt years, he began accept- the former Dorothy Jean HoeUe, ing commercials and appear- whom he met In high school In ances for extra cash, although Pittsburgh on a bus to a school he thought It was difficult to basketball fame. They married make good money for such work In 1954. Their children are Jan- beyond New York. Ice, 48: John Jr.. 47; Kobe/I, H5; "You go to a banquet In Balti- Christopher. 43: and Kenneth. more, and If It's not tree. It's S2i.' 35, The couple divorced In 1972. he wrote In a 1W5 autobiogra- She died in May 2002 at age 67. phy. Pro Quarterback: MU Own four months before her former Slory. with Ed FlUgerald. He husband. filmed one local commercial The Colt quarterback had with his family singing for "Mary three children with the former Sue Easter Eggs.' He lamented Sandra Lemon, whom he met at that It was "the worst commer- a department store football pro- cial rd ever s«en' and only pro- motion and married the day of vided fresh material for discon- his divorce, near the end of his tented fans who would holler. career. Their children are Fran- 'Get Mary Sue out of there." cis Joseph. 29. known as Joe: Chad, 24: and Alicia Ann Paige. On comeback trail 21. known as Paige. After Unitas" career, and his The families gathered for holi- emergence from S3 million In days and birthdays, and the debt thanki to his Chapter 11 half-siblings, nearly a generation bankruptcy proceeding, his son apart, referred to each other as crossed paths with a Washing- "brothers' and 'sister*.' But It was a more tenuous balance named Warren S, Rosenfeld. than tt appeared to most oulsid- Unitas' first offspring... Unitas Jr.. then In his 30s. was John C. Unltaa Jr. (ceoter) held a oewi conference lart month to mpoMl to the law*ult against him. Standing behind him arc his brotb- selling ads In legal publications. -We had a mother whose atlt- en Kenneth (left) and Robert. At the table are attorney Robert R. Bowie Jr. <leA) and UnlUa' slater, Janice, Rosen/eld was one of his ac- Uiile was. 'He's your father no counts, matter what happened between A discussion between them he and r We didn't go away. We led to the formation of Unitas were truly chips off the old Management Corp. The son block. We would not go away.' helped penuade his father of said Janice Ann Unitaa-DeNlt- the wisdom of the move by Us, the eldest child. pointing KJ the work of another attorney In Rosenfeld* building '&B bad u It gvtfl* named David Falk. who was But now. Ute conflict Is ugly cooking up unprecedented and In sharp contrast with the sneaker deals for on ascending Image of the man. basketball star. Michael Jordan. Unitas and his team didn't But the father wasn't thinking merely play a game, but embod- of himself. Hosenfeld recalled. ied Baltimore during the 1950s 'Senior was adamant that and '80s, The motto that Colts UUj launch Junior off on his ca- legions used to unfurl on ban- reer." the attorney said. "He was nera at Memorial Stadium, how- proud of Junior's career In legal ever, might now have a sad ad- publishing, very proud of his dendum: -Unitas We Stand — In get-up-and-go and that he disarray* Tve never been Involved in 'Johnny Unllas.' He fdl that this anything like this before,' said was something he could do for Scott Wldelltz. an executive with Junior to launch him to the next Dreams Inc.. a publldy traded level of success." sports marketing company In With a more aggressive ap- Florida that was negotiating to proach than the previous hand- hire L'nltos Jr. and sign a six-fig- shake deals and contracts on ure licensing contract when the napkins, promotional Income for dispute halted those talks. This Unitas tripled from less than Is as bad as it gets.* $100.000 to $300.000 In a few Sandra Uoltas. attorney yean. Rosenfeld said. Charles M. Tatelbaum and ac- The son seized on opportuni- countant Howard H. Moffet ties faster than before. One eve- took control of Unitas Manage- ning, he nolked a passing refer- ment Corp. from Unlta* Jr. last ence LO his father while watching winter. the 1960s TV hit Coacft. He The three claim that the son misspent tens of thousands of his father In the Screen Actor's dollarc on persona) needs as ... and his second Oulld and got him scripted Into president of the company. They John Uaha* widow, Sandra, la unrounded by her children Chad (right), Joe and Palfedarlnc a tribute to Ute Ute Cottaquartertiack a later episode — «.',n a decent also allege that Unitas Sr. con- before a Baltimore RKV«QI garae four dayi after Unltai' death In September. payday. fided his concern about It :o The experience helped lead to Moffet before he died of a heart nancially, but he didn't die Im- corporate advertising to: slot vertising penpectlve, hli Iconk Ruth so popular? He was some- Unlus cameos In the 1999 mov- attack at age OB. mensely wealUiy. machines. "His name Just gets penona Is more valued even one who appealed to the every- ies Ar.-.i Given Sunday and That Is a lie, says the son, who The details of his estate have bigger for some reason. It's nat- than his record-setting play on day man. He was kind of one of Runaway Bride, and even to U described by many people yet to be filed In Baltimore tering that people still think of long-ago Sundays. A recent poll them.' said Pete Enfleld of CMC use ofhls voice and caricature In who had business dealings with County, but he left two life in- him." on ranked him fifth Worldwide Inc.. a prominent li- an episode of The Stmpsons. him as a fierce negotiator for Unitas, likewise, presents a among the greatest sports he- censee that hold* rights to The mere mention of Unitas' and protector of his father's Im- 1M5.000 to be divided among rare opportunity. He epitomized roes, behind only Jackie Robin- Ruth. Marilyn Monroe and other age Sandra Unitas and the eight an era recalled for tough and son. Babe Ruth, VTnce Lombard! deceased celebrities and which which contrasted him with the He and his siblings also assert grown children. Days before he gallant players — a John Wayne and Muhammad AIL did limited work for Unitas. flashier Joe Namalh, brought that their father wouldn't have In tilghtop cleats. Prom an ad- "People ask me, why is Babe There's something like that In $75.000. said Nova Lanktree. a hesitated to Inform any of them 20-acre estate In Baltimore Chicago agent who helped ar- if he was displeased with them. County horse country for range several national TV spot* Unitas Jr. said that the only $875.000. for Unitas. assets of value Unitas Manage- Unitas couldn't print money, The father confided to Rosen- ment owns were bought for his but he came as close to it as feld that he wished his son stepmother and her children at mortal man might Imagine In would reach out to license even his falher'i request: a white. his later years, as the memora- more retired stars, but Rosen- Lexus sport-utility vehicle that bilia market soared. A glossy feld never doubted their bond. Sandra Unitas drives and a photo of him bought for 11.50 "John Unltas Sr. walked on 1170.000 townhouse In Mays wholesale gained about 180 In water to Junior you could see Chapel where her son Chad has value once he signed i: A hel- the Interaction between the lived since attending Towson met with the Colts* horseshoe two." he said. "I have a hard time University. logo, bought for $300 wholesale, believing Junior would have Tatelbaum said that Unila* sold for twice that amount with done anything to Injure his dad Jr.'t name on the deed of the Unltas' autograph and might or anyone his dad loved." townhouse Indicates fraud. •ell for triple that since he died, Unltat Jr.. who has a Realtor's sports marketing expert* said. Chill sols in license, said he signed the deed Even In death, his vaunted But that's exactly what ho* merely to gain a better Interest name would be the gift that been alleged almost since rate than the company could as keeps giving for whoever gains Unitas died Sept. II, 2002, Just a purchaser, lie has never set the right to sell It. Although as the nation mourned the first foot in the townhouse, he said. -••ports marketing experts said anniversary of the terrorist hi- Its worth depends heavily on jackings that killed more than ho big money how well the "property" Is man- 3.000 In New York, Washington Although Unltaj Is regarded aged and promoted, some say and a Pennsylvania field 70 as one of the greatest players — Unltai1 trademark could easily miles from his birthplace. if not the greatest — ever in fetch $250.000 a year or more. Last Sept. 12, Monet, Unitas' football, his 17 years with the Babe Ruth's Image generates personal accountant, phoned Colt* preceded the ere of mil- $1 million a year. 29 yean after Saul Bashed, who handled the Uon-dollar contracts for profes- the Baltimore-born slugger died. book* for Unitas Management. sional athletes. Some players to- And an Elvis-like Infatuation He wanted financial records day spend as much on can as with auto ncer Dale Earnhardt, that he had sought without suc- the largest contract Unitas ever who died In a crash two yean cess since spring 2002. he said. signed — $250.000 with the San ago, generates 120 million a year Unitas Jr. told Bash o (I he was Diego Chargen In his final year. for his estate, according lo a surprised Model dldnt already 1973. For bet magazine poll of top- have them. He had given them His uncanny ability to read earning dead celebrities. 10 his dad to give to Moffet after his opponent's Intent on a foot- It's surprising, but people are A bench at Dulaaey Valley Memorial Garden* his father asked for them ball field seemed In Inverse pro- really Into nostalgia." sold Dan- (led) servu aa a modest memorial to • months eartter. he said. portion to his ability to Judge iel Mantle. 43. of Dallas, who modeat man who happened to be a football By October, the exchanges be- business propositions. An unfor- wtih his brother manages the li- •Hperttar. The children of Unltaa' tint came more frequent and terse. tunate array of Investments, In cense for his late father, the marrtafe oay they didn't know their rathert Tatelbaum. whom Unltas businesses from bowling lanes Yankee star. Mickey Mantle's ebdng laid to rert there until they named a* his personal repre- to circuit boards, forced him Image generates between wm notified afterward by Sandra UDlia* — sentative In his will with Moffet. LT.IU personal bankruptcy pro- 1250,000 and 1500.000 a year for with a cemetery map (above) and a warned the son not to "deviate tection in 1»1. He recovered fi- Inclusion on everything from handwritten not* ihowlnf the spot from normal [See Unilat. '.!•..
  3. 3. The Sun: Sunday. July 20.2003: Page 1 IA "/ never looked at my father as a celebrity. He was my father.... He was a great man, agreatman.' John C. Unlttt Jr., cidfst .wnvft.1t late Colt* quarterback [Unttas. from Page 10*1 Spears said. 'They're eating predeceased me' — he found sales. John right now. Lawyers don'l other ways to help his grown The school Is aware of the dis- practices* until control of the come cheap. As a friend. 11 Just Thert's a children. pute, she said. Towson officials business coukl b« settled. Unltas Jr. who holds 10 per- cent of the shares In UnlUi Management. countered that he Is entitled to his father's 90 per- cent of Unltas Management kn breaks my heart. If his father had meant for any of this to happen, his father would have yanked the business from him long ago." BIG DIFFER^* in gtstlines, too! Two years ago, for example, he used Unltas Management to back a loan lo set up Robert, hia second-olden son. in a gas sta- tion business In Bel Air. It asked Sandra Unltas to be an ambassador for their athJetlc program to fill a role that was being carved for her husband before he died. Talclbaum. meanwhile, was closed after a year. exchange for Unltas Jr. turning arrested and accused of insur- The will, however, appears to Two victim* over a $125.000 life Insurance ance fraud In March In Florida. be an Indication of the simmer- policy to his stepmother and her where he had relocated from Try The ing divisions that nave boiled Unltas Jr., who resembles his father, except for a mane of sil- children. Unltas Jr. and his at- Baltimore years ago. He was ac- over since the lawsuits. torney. Robert R. Bowie Jr.. eon- tended that Unltai outlined cused of Improperly claiming a former wife as his dependent for Two-Tank Test Unltas Jr. and his siblings vered auburn hair more abun- dant than his dad's signature contend they were not Invited to buzz cut, also appears direct such a trade In the event oC his a seemingly meager health In- the dedication of a site at Du- and hotly competitive like bis fa- death In a 'shareholder agree- surance dalm of S5.06L He says lancy Valley Memorial Gardens ther, but he laid he sometime* ment* In 1992. that It Is a misunderstanding in Tlmonlum where their fa- goes Into his attorney's office By December, the chill had and that he will be exonerated. ther's ashes were spread last Just to cry. tully blown in. Unltas Jr. Dew to Tatelbaum's arrest made spring. A simple bench of pol- 'I don't know If It's ever going Louisville. Ky.. to Join Sandra headlines in legal Journals be- ished granite Inscribed with the to end,' he says, glancing at his Unltas and her (amity at a re- cause of his repule In creditors' name 'Unltas* sits by a pond be- attorney. '1 don't know if I'm ception for the Oolden Arm rights law. He is Ihe principal neath a shade tree. It Is wholry supposed to say this, but some- Foundation Inc.. a scholarship aulhor of Chapter 10 of the U.S. unassuming, with no mention of times I don't know if I should program that Unltas Initialed. Bankruptcy Code, dealing with football exploits, In keeping with Just throw my hands up and say -She was acting like nothing small business, and he aided his wishes. to the other side, 'You've won.' was going oa" Unltas Jr. said of Croatia and Slovakia In Imple- Sandra Unltas said that she wrote each child Individually "I guarantee you my father his stepmother. 'We were on the menting bankruptcy laws at the did not want this to happen,' dais, having pictures taken with invitation of :l:s US. State De- about the memorial, but Unllas Jr. fell lhat his note was inap- said Unltas Jr.. father of a the award winners. We flew back partment. Tatelbaum declined to elabo- propriately curt. 15-year-old son and a 12-year-old home together We were walking daughter, the latest generation on the tarmac [at Baltimore- rate on the Unltas case outside 'John — This map will show of federal court in Baltimore, you where your father was put affected. "My kids know whal's Washington International Air- port). I said, 'Sandy, can we stt where he wore a gold lapel pin to rest on May 23.2003. Sandra," going on. No more birthday and talk?' She Just said. This Is with Unltas' number. 19. He the message read, with an arruw cards from Grandma (Sandra |. how your father wonted this to threatened *one of the largest to the father's resting place. This is a total ruination of be.' I said. 'Ho. this Is not how defamation An advertisement for Crown gasoline In a CoILn program trom the The official naming of the sU- our oimlty. I'm victim No. 1, bul I my father wanted It to be.' Chad suits In a long late 1950i pain John UnitM Sr. and Jr. If ore than 30 yean Inter, dlum at Towson University for think Sandy Is victim No. 2." and Paige Just looked on. time' against falber and son would form Uottu Maoacvmcnt Corp. Unltas. planned for October, Raymond Berry. Unltas' favor- stunned. Unltas Jr. to a also faces precarious circum- ite larget as a Colts receiver, 'I haven't talked to her since reporter when other $137.000 Is owed to Wells year-end bonuses, the son said. stances. Although Unltas Jr. said he sensed no trouble December. Chad came to the of- pressed. Fargo and American Express, Other expenses Included S25.000 said he is pleased wlih the trib- brewing a year ago when Unltas fice once. I told him. The onry Court pa- which extended lines of credit to for the father's pension plan, ute, he is concerned that the Jr. arranged a store promotion people who win here are the at- pers shed lit- the business. iao.000 for his annual tax bill university does not have a for him, or a year earlier when torneys. I had every Intention of tle l i g h t on Unltas Jr. said he was paid and a S4.000 premium on a proper licensing agreement and John and Sandra Unltas spent taking care of you: He said, 'I high living by about 136.000 kn annual salary $100,000 life Insurance policy. could attempt to sell Items with several days with the Berrys at don't want to know anything.' ~ Unltas Jr. that by Unltas Management. He has Unltas, his eldest son said. In- his father's name or likeness. Ihelr Colorado home — 'the Chad Unltas declined to com- TateRMUim his accusers other income trom a commercial tended the proceeds from that University spokeswoman Su- best visit we'd had in years." ment recently. have alleged. collection agency he runs and policy for his first five children, sanna Crane said the school 'I was surprised about It.' In fact, three of the five credi- from selling real estate. whom he otherwise categorically has a general 'memorandum of said Berry, TO, about the family Desperation pua tors listed In the bankruptcy His father received about disinherited In his wllL understanding" signed by San- feud. "Maybe if he was here, this Sandra Unltas, who Is 59. also dalm are the law and account- 5*5.000 to $120,000 a year from dra Unltas. Tatelbaum and Mof- never would have happened' declined to be Interviewed, al- ing Orms of TateJbaum. Model Unltas Management, he said. Unltas' will appeared unkind — fet. but hasn't worked out de- though she concurs with Tatel- and their co-counsel with their Both men collected tens ofthou- "my children from my prior mar- tails about the stadium name baum and Moffet thai her hus- bills totaling almoit $85,000. An- sands more between them in riage ... shall b« deemed to have and has no plans tor souvenir band had expressed misgiving* to Mattel about the handling of company profits. •This all started before my husband died, and I'm sure he was doing the right thing.' the said. "People know me. so I'm not worried about my reputa- tion.' Sandra Unltas. Tatelbaum and Moffet Invited Unltas Jr. and h;s wife, Christine, to a meeting Jan. 8 after asserting Unltas Jr. didn't consider the meeting legitimate, so he and his wire did not attend. The trio met and voted him out as presl- Unllas as president, Moffei as secretary and Tatelbaum at as- sistant secretary. Two weeks later, Unllas Jr. tried the equivalent of a football •Hall Mary" pass. He asked San- dra and her children to a dinner on 'Super Bowl Sunday" al his 59.90 AFTER SALE SB8.95 49.90 AFTER SALE S79.95 1 0 9.9 0 AFTER SALE $182 home 'without lawyers or ac- countant* or anybody else." his Nine West 'Anakin' in black, dark New Bilanet *810 Walking Shot*. White: Sluart Weinman 'Leprechaun'. Navy invltailon read. He received no brown or r«d. S'VlQm. black or beige in selected stores. 7-'.'.12aa. or black fabric 4-12n. 4-12m. 6-10w. reply. BP. Shoes. 5-11.l2.13b; 6-10.1ld. BP. Shoes. Salon Shoes. On Feb. 12, Baltimore County Circuit Judge Thomas J. BoUlnger Sr,, ruling on a claim Tatelbaum filed In state court, upheld the right of the three to lake control of the company. The next day, Talelbaum wrote Unltas Jr. to offer him a a n n i v e r s a r y Job as an employee of the com- pany and asked him to propose a salary and duties for himself. Unltas Jr. considered the offer ludicrous, coming from people who were In the midst of kicking him out. He drove to his attor- ney's office In Towson to turn over his home-office computer and canons of business files. Unltas Jr. has appealed Bellinger's ruling to the Mary- land Court of Special Appeals. A it's our biggest sale of the year hearing is set for November, An- other case ti also wending through federal court, where NORDSTROM Sandra Unltas, Talelbaum and Moffet have sought Chapter 11 Unllas Jr. said he hopes la get the federal case dismissed Fri- day. Opportunities fn*1lT*c While Unltas Jr. disputes the claim that Unltas Management Is bankrupt, he acknowledges that heavy legal expenses, the death of Ihe company's star at- traction and the Inability u> ne- gotlaie deals during the dispute have rapidly eroded cash flow. Some sports-marketing exec- utives fear that opportunities available In the year afler Unltas' death, with emotions highest, have been all but lost 'John Jr. was concerned for some lime about what they would do lo Ihe business. He didn't feel they managed his fa- thers business affair* well." said Steve Spears, a Chicago attor- Unltas Management, referring to Tatelbaum and Moffet. 'In all the lime that Senior controlled 39.90 AFTER SALE S7S.9S A 6 .9 0 AFTER SALE $68 .95 3 9.9 0 AFTER SALE 159.95 the company. If he wanted Tatel- baum and Moffei to have had Franco Sarto Topai'.in brown or bla Clarki Mitchell Navy, brown, burgundy Nordstrom 'Glide' in a variety of colors. In slim, anything lo do wlih 11, nil he had l«alh«r.7-10n; 4-12.13m: 7-10w. or black. 5-11 (whole siies narrow, medium, wide and cxtr.i-w de widths. to do was to say the word. He Women's Shoas. Woman's Sho Worn sShoi never did. "John Jr. li not a rich man. This business dldnt make him a Bur '•'• JutT "-30 with your Hcrdsiron crtdH or Nordtlrom Viu* ejrd and Mrn doubt* thi rtward pain. Eidudei NonJilrom Rick. Stylti may v j.-y by itor*. rich man. I have no Idea how wion Town Cinltr O3.lf6.liit. Annapafo Hall 4tO.57J.1QV Tht Mall in Columbia 410.715 2J». Shipping chargti may apply. M«f* Atinhrtrury Silt at he's paying for the litigation.'