Todd McFarlane Forced Into Bankruptcy

December 18, 2004, 19 years ago

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The following report is courtesy of Craig Harris from The Arizona Republic.

A multimillion-dollar jury award against Todd McFarlane, a Valley businessman who has made headlines for buying home-run baseballs, appears to have pushed his comic-book company into Bankruptcy Court.

Tempe-based Todd McFarlane Productions Inc. filed for Chapter 11 protection from creditors in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Phoenix on Friday, listing a $15 million claim by former National Hockey League player Tony Twist as the largest creditor.

McFarlane, who created the popular Spawn comic book and once drew Spider-Man, could not be reached for comment. Wanda Kolomyjec, McFarlane's wife and a director of the company, had no comment.

In July, a St. Louis Circuit Court jury awarded Twist, a former St. Louis Blues player, $15 million after concluding that McFarlane and his company profited by using Twist's name without permission and Twist's publicity rights were infringed.

McFarlane gave the name Antonio "Tony Twist" Twistelli to a violent New York mob boss character in his Spawn comic books in the early 1990s. Spawn is a dark figure from hell who violently kills villains.

McFarlane, who made headlines in 1999 for buying baseball slugger Mark McGwire's 70th home-run baseball for $3 million, had said the use of Twist's name was protected under the First Amendment.

In 2000, a St. Louis Circuit Court jury also ruled in Twist's favor and awarded him $24.5 million, but a trial judge overruled the verdict. The state's appeals court later sided with McFarlane, but the Missouri Supreme Court ordered a new trial last year.

That state's high court concluded that the use of Twist's name was driven more by money than artistic value. Neither Twist nor his attorney could be reached for comment Friday.

McFarlane has vowed to appeal the $15 million judgment.

Although McFarlane no longer draws Spawn, he capitalized on its popularity with a line of comic-book toys in the mid-1990s. His company later created statuettes of rock stars, movie characters and professional athletes. His other companies have made animated TV and feature films and videos, and he has his own Web site, spawn.com.

He had a cultlike following among comic-book fans, but McFarlane gained widespread fame after buying the McGwire baseball.

McFarlane had said that purchase opened the doors for him to market his toys, especially his sports figures, to retail giants like Wal-Mart, one of his largest buyers.

Last year, McFarlane garnered national headlines when he paid $450,000 to buy Barry Bonds' record 73rd home-run ball at an auction in New York. McFarlane also owns Sammy Sosa's 66th home-run ball.

The bankruptcy filing frees up McFarlane's company from the threat of creditors' lawsuits while it reorganizes its finances, but the company can continue to operate.

A majority of creditors must approve the reorganization plan.

The filing also lists McFarlane's toy company, a related business, as the second-largest creditor, being owed $683,902. Nine contract artists are owed a total of $60,430, and a collection agency is owed $7,649.

McFarlane last year said his McFarlane Cos., then an umbrella of seven businesses, had annual sales exceeding $50 million.



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