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Marathon Promoter, Broke, Still Hasn't Paid Runners : San Diego Marathon: Top placers haven't received promised prize money, and firm says financial woes are related to impending lawsuit.

June 18, 1992|KIM Q. BERKSHIRE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SAN DIEGO — Winners and other top finishers of last year's San Diego Marathon have waited six months to get paid prize money from In Motion, Inc., the marketing and management firm that organized the race. After several deadlines passed, elite runners who earned shares of the $16,000 marathon purse said Wednesday they've waited long enough.

Winners Gary Gargasz of Volant, Pa., and Maureen Roben of Denver won $2,000--reduced from $4,000 a week before the race--and a 1992 Honda Civic each for their efforts, but have only received the cash for the car. The runners said they received checks for $9,500 from San Diego Honda Dealers instead of the cars, but they have yet to see any money from In Motion.

In Motion on Wednesday released a statement announcing it had filed a lawsuit in Superior Court against a group from Orange County "who are attempting a hostile takeover of the San Diego Marathon." As of late Wednesday afternoon, no lawsuit had been filed.

Race director Lynn Flanagan said late Wednesday night she was in the process of preparing a statement for the news briefing and wouldn't elaborate on the situation other to confirm that In Motion was broke and the financial problems and the lawsuit were all linked.

"Everything's related," said Flanagan, who was advised by her attorney not to elaborate. "A lot of horrendous things have happened in the last two days."

Flanagan confirmed that Patrick Mulcahy of Mulcahy Sports Group, Inc., a Newport Beach-based firm that was retained to sell race sponsorship, was named in the suit.

Mulcahy denied being involved in any takeover attempt: "I have nothing do with any takeover. We honor our clients. I haven't been involved (with the marathon) since the day it was over. What has happened since then is not my business."

Gargasz, who said this was his first and last experience with the San Diego Marathon, saw runner-up Miroslaw Bugaj at the Pittsburgh Marathon in early May, and Bugaj said he hadn't received his $2,500 payment.

"There's nothing else I can do," Gargasz said. "I contacted my attorney and he said to wait a little longer. It's a sticky situation. I don't know what they're going to do. It's not even the money, I just wish they'd be honest. Just tell me you're not going to pay me."

Roben, a friend of runner-up Gail Kingma of Seattle, who hadn't been paid either, said this is the first time she hasn't gotten paid.

"It's a shame," she said. "I feel sorry for the second-, third- and fourth-place people. At least I got a car. That made it less of a drag."

San Diego's Steve McCormack, who should have earned $1,000 for his fourth-place finish and was promised stereo equipment by Flanagan in lieu of an appearance fee, said he hasn't openly complained about the delay in payment for two reasons.

"If push comes to shove, (the runners) will get together and contact (The Athletics Congress), Lynn will lose the race and we won't have a marathon in San Diego. And it's such a small fee. That's why I don't want to push it."

Each of the runners contacted for this story said race organizers handled the tardy payments differently from case to case.

McCormack received his first correspondence regarding the situation several days ago. Included was an invitation to a kickoff party for the Jan. 24 event.

"It was a letter with a sad story about what's going on, saying (the staff) is all working for free, and they're working with investors, so please be patient." he said. "Yeah, the check's in the mail."

Gargasz and Roben's agent received letters in February from In Motion saying they would be paid within 60 days.

"They told me they had no assets," said Gargasz, who added that Flanagan told him since he was being so nice in waiting, she would send him an extra airplane ticket for his wife to join him for the January, 1993 race. "They told me that the building they're working out of was given to them. But how can they have a kickoff party if they haven't settled their past debts?"

When the 60 days expired in April, Gargasz made several attempts to call Flanagan, but was told she was either in conference or out of the office. Roben said Bob Wood, her agent, talked to Flanagan two weeks ago and was promised the money would be sent out by June 15, but Roben herself talked to Flanagan June 13 and was told "we're still working on it."

Wood said his clients have worked with Flanagan in the past and have a good working relationship.

"The only things that bother us is they're still advertising for 1993," Wood said. "It seems a little bit odd. How can they allow for the runners not to be paid?

"Ten thousand dollars in a business like that isn't a lot of money, especially since they're functioning six or seven months after the race. They're paying rent, their phone bills. (Paying the) runners seems way down on the list. We're hoping to get paid by (today) or Friday. They're looking for another investor to come bail them out, but this could go on indefinitely."

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