It is bad enough that Tony La Russa’s St. Louis Cardinals are en route to missing the National League playoffs for the fourth time in the last five years. Now, his movie-making company is in the news for the wrong reasons as well.
The target of legal action in California is Sandlot Venture Group, a partner of La Russa’s film company, Red Bird Cinema. Red Bird Cinema’s website calls the two firms’ interaction a “strategic relationship.”
According to the Silicon Valley/San Jose Business Journal, three lenders filed an involuntary bankruptcy petition against Sandlot in San Jose (CA) Federal Court on August 8, in an attempt to liquidate the firm via Chapter 7. The creditors allegedly issued loans to Sandlot of at least $575,000.
Sandlot Venture Group is run by managing director Don Herman, a funds manager in Silicon Valley. His “Sandlot Fund I” was touted to prospective investors as “a $25M venture fund focused on the development, production and distribution of a portfolio of high potential film projects.”
Red Bird Cinema is a film production company founded in 2007, with its three founders listed as “producers.” They are businessman John Loar, actor Kevin Pollak and La Russa. Red Bird also notes on its website that Academy Award winner Billy Bob Thornton and attorney Gregory L. McCoy “recently joined” as partners.
Sandlot’s biggest project, announced in November 2007, was a partnership with Red Bird Cinema to back Red Bird movies. Sandlot’s stated role was to hire script writers and actors, provide legal assistance with negotiating rights, work with producers to get the movies made and set up a network for distribution.
Sandlot’s website has been taken down and their last Tweet was dated February 2010. A previously-cached version of the site listed at least nine film projects. They included a proposed Sugar Ray Leonard movie, “The Boxer,” and “3 Nights in August,” a film adaptation of the Buzz Bissinger book written about and with La Russa and the 2003 Cardinals.
In a 2008 article in VentureBeat, La Russa was named among those having invested $25 million in Sandlot. The size of the manager’s participation was not identified, nor is he apparently named in the legal action.