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Rodgers Struggles With Debt

December 20, 1987|United Press International

DOVER, Mass. — Marathoner Bill Rodgers, saddled by heavy debt, has lost his house.

"There's no question I'm bitter about it," he said.

Rodgers was forced to sell his spacious home in Boston's west suburbs to pay off a $1.3 million debt incurred by his former clothing firm, Bill Rodgers & Co. He expects to move to a rented house within a few weeks.

The firm was seized by the Bank of Boston in April after accumulating $3.5 million in debt. Sales of the firm's running apparel plummeted from $7 million in 1985 to $3.5 million in 1986, due in part to increased competition.

The past eight months have been nightmarish for Rodgers--on and off the roads. His running this year "has been the worst it's been in 15 years."

"It's just a never-ending headache of lawyers and banks," Rodgers said. "It's been the most draining thing. I feel like I ran 20 marathons this year instead of three.

"I will be watching where that drain on me came from. I'm going to keep it in mind. It's going to have repercussions in different ways, but it won't affect me in the long-term athletically--I'm not going to let it."

Although Bill Rodgers & Co. was sold in 1986, Rodgers became liable for the company's debt because the buyer never signed to assume the debt. And Rodgers' only hard asset was his three-story home in a wooded and secluded section of Dover. Horse farms, winding rivers and rolling hills were his only neighbors.

"Seven years ago I signed on the line without the benefit of a lawyer," said the four-time winner of the Boston and New York City marathons, who turns 40 Dec. 23. "Now I'm paying the price for it."

Bank of Boston padlocked Bill Rodgers & Co.'s warehouse in Weymouth, Mass., before the 1987 Boston Marathon and sold the company's assets at what Rodgers believes was well below market value.

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