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Dan Devine

A messy end for Tim Donaghy and his publisher

Dan Devine
Ball Don't Lie

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Here's what we know for sure: Tim Donaghy and VTi-Media are no longer doing business together.

Both Donaghy, the former NBA referee-turned-felon-turned-author, and VTi, the small publishing company that stepped in to release Donaghy's post-prison confessional "Personal Foul" after an earlier incarnation was scrapped by Random House imprint Triumph Books, issued press releases last week confirming the split.

In a May 11 email, VTi CEO Shawna Vercher wrote that her company "decided to terminate our relationship with Mr. Donaghy and will no longer be representing him as a client," and had "retired the first edition of his book and will not be distributing it in the future."

Donaghy returned fire later that day, claiming in an email that he was the one who had made the "decision to sever ties ... based in large part on [VTi's] inability to comply with the terms of our agreement" and announcing "the immediate re-launch of my book" through Cincinnati-based publisher Clerisy Press. He later told Ball Don't Lie that the second edition of "Personal Foul" would be published in conjunction with Four Daughters LLC, which BDL learned is a limited liability company incorporated in August 2008. Donaghy became one of the managing members of Four Daughters LLC last February, according to amendment documents filed with the Florida Department of State's Division of Corporations. (Coincidentally, Donaghy has four daughters with his ex-wife Kimberly, who filed for divorce in September 2007 after 12 years of marriage.)

In interviews, both Donaghy and Vercher also confirmed that the separation has to do, at least in part, with accounting and fiscal disputes — chiefly, discrepancies over exact numbers of copies of "Personal Foul" sold, arguments over revenues generated from sales and the disbursement of attendant royalties. As you might expect, they have vastly different perspectives on said disputes, but both acknowledged that the seed of the schism was — again, at least in part — financial.

What we don't know for sure is whether or not anything else precipitated the dissolution of the relationship. There, again, Donaghy and Vercher tell very different tales, slinging mud and swapping allegations that make this parting of ways sound like anything but business as usual.

The messy he-said-she-said stories are floating around, first reported by Covers.com's Larry Josephson, picked up the following day by William Bender of the Philadelphia Daily News and transported to the blogosphere by Dan Levy at The Sporting Blog. At this point, all we've got is back-and-forth as yet unsubstantiated by law enforcement and/or finding of fact — both sides say such documentation is coming soon, so we'll have to sit tight for further clarification.

Remembering before we get too far afield that we're talking accusations rather than arrests, here's what we have now:

Vercher told BDL the relationship had broken down "over the last couple of months, coming to a boil over the last week or so," when she alleges Donaghy began making "threats of violence."

"He threatened to come here," Vercher said, claiming that the prospect of Donaghy appearing at VTi's Largo, Fla., offices in search of royalties (which she says were not yet available, terming the fiscal turnaround "not a fast process") rankled her employees and frightened her.

"He mentioned that someone was going to come up here and get me, that they knew where I live," Vercher said. "He made mention of his ties to members of the Gambino crime family, saying that they were active in our area."

As the alleged threats against herself, her employees and her business escalated, Vercher said, she made the decision to cut the cord "for safety reasons."

"We have to exercise caution and do the prudent thing at this point," she said. "The last thing we want to do is allow a business relationship to jeopardize our team. It's not worth it."

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Pick any adverb of extremity you want — vehemently, steadfastly, fervently, completely, categorically, whatever — and that's how Donaghy denies Vercher's claims.

"I want to make myself very clear: I have not threatened her [or] any of her employees in any way, shape or form," Donaghy told BDL.

In a statement to media, Donaghy accused Vercher of "creating a media buzz around trumped up charges" in the hopes of diverting attention from the manner in which he claims "she has grossly mishandled our business relationship."

"It's all spin on her part to try to deflect the fact that we want to see the bank records and we want to know where the money's at," Donaghy told BDL. "And after repeated requests through me — in certified letters, in emails and through my attorney — she has not provided that information.

"She's basically trying to deflect that situation and, because of my past poor choices, trying to get everybody to turn on me in regard to thinking that I threatened her," he added.

Donaghy claims he hasn't received a dime from the book's sales, and that "up until this day, I have not been told how many books have sold or been given a proper, accurate accounting based on the sales of 'Personal Foul.'"

That's key, because proceeds from the book are slated to go toward the $217,266.84 in restitution that Donaghy and co-conspirators James Battista and Thomas Martino were jointly ordered to pay by U.S. District Judge Carol B. Amon as part of their July 2008 sentencing for the crimes of wire fraud and transmitting betting information. Donaghy and Battista were sentenced to 15 months in prison for their roles in the scheme. Martino received a 366-day sentence.

Donaghy claims that as he and his attorney, Nicholas Mooney, continued to press for additional information. Vercher and VTi offered shifting, inconsistent figures, including reports of "$25,000 worth of expenses that were very shocking to us, because I was supposed to sign off on all expenses, and I never signed off on any of them."

"Nothing was adding up or making sense, and we were looking for an honest set of books to review," Donaghy said. "At this date, we have not received that."

Vercher told the Philadelphia Daily News that revenues generated by "Personal Foul" have been placed in a holding account, with profits slated to be tallied up "after the conclusion of the 180-day period during which vendors have the option to return unsold copies," which should come sometime in early-to-mid June, given the book's release dates. It was made available online via Amazon.com on Dec. 3, 2009, and it made its way to book stores on Dec.14, 2009. (Vercher also told Covers.com that VTi "will not have a complete accounting of the total profit — income minus expenses — until 6 months after the contract signing," which she said took place on Dec.14, 2009.) After that, she told the Daily News, "We have to send [the profits] to the U.S. Attorney's Office and not him directly."

Donaghy dismissed Vercher's explanations as attempts to stall and rebuked her for resorting to "tabloid tactics" that he believes are designed to take advantage of his public perception in the sports world as a cheat and a pariah.

"You know, it's devastating, because I've done a good job moving forward, taking pride in everything that I'm supposed to be doing," said Donaghy, who says he is now working at a gambling addiction treatment center. "It's very discouraging, but you just have to keep walking down that straight and narrow road and in due time, all of this is going to be made public. Things are going to be rectified and the truth will be known."

The muddled picture may start to clear up this coming week. A Florida judge is scheduled tomorrow to hear a petition that Vercher filed for an order of protection against Donaghy based on the alleged threats; at the hearing, she has told BDL and other outlets, she will present evidence of Donaghy's threats. According to Donaghy, the U.S. Attorney's Office last Friday served Vercher with a subpoena requiring VTi to produce an accurate accounting of the total sales of and revenue generated by "Personal Foul" within 10 days.

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