When Frank D'Angelo said his firm, Steelback Brewery, would sponsor the Drayton Icemen senior hockey team in Drayton, Ont., Neil Driscoll was thrilled.
"He started three years ago, and at first it was help with our equipment and buses," said Mr. Driscoll, the club's vice-president. This year Mr. D'Angelo, who plays goal for the Icemen, committed $13,000 to the team through Steelback and sent a series of postdated cheques.
Last month, Steelback and non-alcoholic beverage maker D'Angelo Brands Ltd. filed for bankruptcy protection, leaving the Icemen and hundreds of other creditors in limbo. According to court filings the team is owed $6,000 and Mr. Driscoll doubts it will be paid. "It's disappointing but I'm sure we'll keep the team going," he said.
Steelback, best known for its television commercials featuring former hockey stars, piled up $120-million in debt and the Icemen are one of more than 400 creditors, filings show. They range from a firm controlled by Apotex Inc. founder Bernard Sherman, owed $101-million, to several bars, a few charities, the Toronto Argonauts football club, Ottawa 67's hockey team, tax officials in several communities and a bowling alley in Listowel, Ont. There's also a $550 debt owed to the City of Toronto's parking infractions payment office, nearly $6,000 owed to Molly Maid and almost $3,000 to a student-run painting service.
Besides Mr. Sherman's companies, Steelback and D'Angelo Brands' largest creditors are advertising and marketing firms headed by Mike Cecere, a long-time business associate of Mr. D'Angelo. Mr. Cecere's businesses are owed more than $3.5-million for unpaid work including TV and print ads promoting the beverages.
"It's very important that we get paid. Are you kidding me? A small company like ours? Give me a break," Mr. Cecere said in an interview.
The advertising and communications executive said he has had very little contact with Mr. D'Angelo since the entrepreneur was replaced as Steelback's CEO by Mr. Sherman's 25-year-old son Jonathon. "We don't speak much these days," Mr. Cecere said, adding he has hired a lawyer to help procure his funds.
Steelback ran into trouble largely because of its huge advertising budget. For example, while it only had revenue of $2.5-million, Mr. D'Angelo spent $5.4-million on sales and marketing during the key summer period this year. The list of creditors shows where some of that money went. It includes the Atlantic Beer Festival in Moncton, owed $342, the Canadian National Exhibition, out nearly $6,000, and the Wexford Heights Business Improvement Association in Toronto, owed $12,000. Car parts giant Magna International is owed over $11,000, the creditors list shows.
Mr. D'Angelo would not comment on the creditors list.
"It was shocking for us," said Vanessa Penny, a spokeswoman for the Ottawa 67's, which is out $58,000 for pouring rights for Steelback beer at the Civic Centre arena. The team stopped selling the beer, took down Steelback ads in the arena and cancelled its suite. "Thankfully it was a new venture for us so it wasn't detrimental."
Steelback didn't limit itself to high-profile sponsorships. Each year, the brewery sponsored a five-pin tournament, the "Steelback 369" at the Molesworth Bowling Lanes in Listowel, Ont. The bowling alley is out $700 according to the creditors list. "If the total debts are over $100-million, I guess I'm at the bottom of the list," said Brad Matheson, the bowling alley's owner.
And the list goes on ...
As head of Steelback Brewery and D'Angelo Brands, Frank D'Angelo racked up a list of more than 400 creditors owed about $120-million. Here are a few.
Owed $61,000. Steelback was an official Argos sponsor and Mr. D'Angelo was a familiar sight at the CFL club's home games. In July, Mr. D'Angelo was booed singing the national anthem before a matchup against Montreal and the jeers continued when his band, the Steelback 24, performed at half-time.
The Ottawa 67's Hockey Club Owed $58,830. Steelback signed on as a sponsor of the OHL club this year, just before Mr. D'Angelo was replaced as CEO and his companies were forced into creditor protection. The deal, which has now been cancelled, gave Steelback the right to sell beer at home games.
Mike Cecere, owner of Foxx Advertising & Design and W&A Media Inc.
Owed $3.5-million. Mr. Cecere, a long-time business associate of Mr. D'Angelo's, produced almost all of the beer and juice baron's ad materials including the notorious Ben Johnson commercials for the Cheetah Energy Drink. Mr. Cecere said his firms received weekly cheques from D'Angelo and Steelback until October.
According to court documents, Steelback owes $1,500 to the President's Choice Children's Charity and $40 to the Wasaga, Ont., Lions Club. D'Angelo Brands owes $1,000 to the CIBC Run for the Cure, an initiative to raise money for breast cancer research, the documents said.