Friday, June 21, 2002

Round Nine

Dyersburg investors in the big fight are now scrapping among themselves.

Posted By on Fri, Jun 21, 2002 at 4:00 AM

Call it the aftercard.

In a courtroom follow-up to the Tyson-Lewis fight, six investors in the $12.5 million site fee that made the Memphis bout possible are suing three other investors in Dyersburg-based Dyer Investments.

As The Memphis Flyer first reported in April, Dyersburg money played a key role in the unusual circumstances that brought the heavyweight championship fight to Memphis. At that time, it was uncertain that the fight would occur at all because Tyson had been banned in Nevada and New York. The Pyramid was seen by many "experts" as a venue of last resort, and the fight was so controversial that First Tennessee Bank wanted nothing to do with a letter of credit for the site fee.

When it became clear that the fight was not only going to happen but would also generate worldwide interest and make a lot of money, the Dyersburg investors began scrapping.

At issue is exactly who had a piece of the deal. Dyer Investments, headed by a former Dyersburg banker named Billy Y. Walker who went to prison for savings-and-loan fraud 15 years ago, was the investment vehicle. Defendants in the lawsuit filed earlier this month include Walker and Dyersburg businessmen John Ford and Kent Ford of the Ford Construction firm, a major road contractor in Tennessee.

Walker did not return phone calls to his office, and attempts to speak to John Ford have been unsuccessful.

The six plaintiffs, all represented by Dyersburg attorney Robert Millar, include Darrell, Darren, and Dena Sells of Dyersburg, Dr. W.W. Lents II of Newbern, Willie German of Fayette County, and Robert S. Pinner of Hardeman County.

Millar says his clients agreed to, in effect, lay off $7 million of the $12.5 million site fee. The deal was that the investors would lose money if ticket sales failed to reach $12.5 million and would make up to $2.5 million if sales reached $15 million. Millar says his clients were told they would make 10 percent, or $700,000, if all went well. When it became clear that sales would in fact exceed $15 million, the defendants "advised my clients they were no longer needed."

Each of the six lawsuits is identical except for the name of the plaintiff and the share of the $7 million. The lawsuits, filed in Chancery Court in Dyer County, seek $700,000 in compensatory damages and $2.1 million in punitive damages.

A trial date has not been set.

On June 8th, Lennox Lewis knocked out Mike Tyson in the eighth round of the bout, which had a record gross from all revenue sources.

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The Distant Echo Of Violent Crime

The headlines are horrifying. Young gunmen are killing innocent children in the streets of Memphis. In the most recent cases, victims and shooters are black. Politicians, police, and neighbors are outraged, concerned, and determined to do something.

A task force of elected officials and leading citizens appointed by Memphis mayor Willie Herenton has issued a special report in the wake of a spate of well-publicized shootings.

It is called the Mayor's Black on Black Crime Task Force Report.

"It is the deep conviction of the task force that the suggestions herein, if heeded, will serve as a solid foundation from which to launch meaningful efforts to stem the tide of Black on Black crime in this community," the report reads.

The date is September 10, 1992.

Ten years ago, Memphis was battling another "epidemic" of violent crime, and the recently elected mayor appointed Shelby County public defender A C Wharton to be task force chairman. Wharton is still the public defender, but now he is also a candidate for mayor of Shelby County.

Time will tell whether the latest crime-fighting efforts of Herenton, Shelby County district attorney Bill Gibbons, and the Memphis Police Department will be more effective than the Black on Black Task Force, whose members included such current public officials as school board member Lee Brown, state Rep. Lois DeBerry, and city councilwoman TaJuan Stout-Mitchell.

Task force recommendations included establishment of a Mayor's Youth Commission, stay-in-school programs, expansion of Head Start, expansion of neighborhood policing focused on drug enforcement, anti-crime billboards, and a city-sponsored rap concert to "foster better relations" between young people and city leaders.

How are we doing? Well, stay-in-school programs and Head Start are cornerstones of yet another task force on public education, neighborhood policing is an evergreen, drug wars are the cause of the most recent fatal drive-by shootings, tough-talking billboards are plentiful, and we're still waiting on that rap concert and youth commission.

In a concluding section on implementation, the authors of the report wrote: "The task force realizes that even the best reports are useless without a plan for implementation. It is the intention of the task force that each of its recommendations become the project of an individual or organization for implementation purposes."

A sample "contract" followed, with spaces for the signatures of the mayor and a crime-fighting partner. If any of the contracts were executed, they apparently are no longer in effect. Maybe someone will revive them, but the odds favor a brand-new task force and a brand-new report instead.

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