Jack Warner Resigns from T&T Government

Posted on April 22, 2013 4:08 pm

In a development that’s somehow both shocking and wholly unsurprising, former CONCACAF President Jack Warner offered his resignation as Defense Minister to T&T Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, who accepted with little public comment.

Because none was necessary. Everybody knew she had stood by him as long as humanly possible – longer even – but in the end it simply became impossible to maintain the fantasy that Warner is anything but a crooked, venal sleaze.

And then there’s Chuck.

After marinating in the CONCACAF Auditor’s Report all weekend – the incomparable Beau Dure sent me the link almost immediately – it’s clear that while Jack Warner and Chuck Blazer were co-dependent partners in slime, for a long while now they have operated more or less independently.

Each had their own wellspring of cash and they pumped them long and hard.

One of the primary charges leveled by the Commission is that they both failed in their fiduciary responsibility to oversee what the other guy was doing, but you get the impression that as much as anything else they were working very hard at not knowing. Not “failure of oversight” but “intentional NON-oversight”.

So since their actions were conducted with very little overlap – I’ve got my honey pot, you’ve got yours – we’ll look at them one at a time starting with Warner.

He’s the easier one, first of all because while the commission provided some fascinating details, the broad outline has long been known, and secondly because the documentary evidence has all gone missing.

Indeed, the commission admits they were operating blind in many cases because Warner had all the records in his CONCACAF offices, and when they asked him for them he claimed he didn’t know what they were talking about.

One of the rare moments of comic relief in the entire 150 pages of dry details comes when they note that new CONCACAF General Secretary Enrique Sanz testified that he visited Warner last September and at one point Jack took him over to the building which formerly housed his confederation offices.

Sanz noted that there were a bunch of people there “shredding documents”. Apparently Warner didn’t see any reason to call ahead and say “Ix-nay on the edding-shray while I’m showing this guy around”.

You can only laugh.

So about all that’s left is the Center of Excellence stuff, the basic outline of which, as I said, we’ve all known for years, but the details are instructive.

The cause of the problem – not that we’ll ever hear this addressed – is that in cases like this FIFA lets their local officials run everything. FIFA seemingly pays no attention, they just send checks.

So after buying up the land for the CoE under two companies that he owns (“Renraw” is my favorite) he then directed FIFA to start funneling the construction money into a particular bank account, which they proceeded to do.

Unfortunately, it was an account he owned personally.

So all other issues aside, the fact is that he personally bought the land and paid the construction costs out of his own bank account. Even the auditors concede that it’s gonna be tough to claim the place isn’t his, although now that he’s no longer a big wheel in the government it may get a bit easier. After all, fraud is still fraud.

We’ll see.

Most everything else – and they concede that there’s a lot more they can’t prove – is buried, shredded, burned, deep-sixed and otherwise beyond the reach of any prosecutor anywhere. Dead men tell no tales and shredded paperwork at the bottom of a landfill doesn’t say much either.

Except this:

During their Quixotic pursuit of World Cup 2022, Australia apparently took it into their heads that they could swing Jack Warner’s vote by tossing a little cash his way.

So they sent him over US$400,000 to pay for replacing the artificial turf at the CoE.

Conveniently, it went into the same personal account that everything else went through, and Jack appears to have simply pocketed it.

Upon hearing the news, the FFA demanded a sit down with CONCACAF and FIFA. They want the money back and they want an explanation.

Since I’m a big fan of the Aussies, let me see if I can help:

You tried to buy someone’s vote. He didn’t stay bought. The money is now gone. Quit being such a big girl’s blouse about it.

No charge.

Which brings us to the first American in history to serve on FIFA’s Executive Committee, Charles Gordon “Chuck” Blazer and, like the man himself, it’s hard to figure out.

The story is either wildly complicated or extremely simple, and it’s a long involved story or a short simple one, but in the end it boils down to two words:

Greed and sleaze.

Back in 1990, Jack Warner won a shock election over the incumbent Mexican – no one gave him much of a shot – largely because of the campaign management of USSF Vice President Chuck Blazer who was rewarded for his efforts by being named General Secretary.

CONCACAF was a two-mule outfit with US$140,000 in annual revenues whose offices consisted of some rented rooms in Guatemala with a few chairs and a folding table.

Interestingly though, there was never an actual personal contract with Blazer. Rather, CONCACAF signed a four year contract with a company called “Sportvertising New York” to perform the duties which a General Secretary is normally assigned.

Of course, Sportvertising New York had one employee: Chuck Blazer.

Four years later, they signed a new contract, this time with “Sportvertising Caymans”, for another four years. It was the last written agreement Blazer ever had with CONCACAF.

It was an almost entirely commission-based deal which even the auditors admit made sense at the time. CONCACAF had no sponsors, no meaningful tournament income, not much of anything at all coming in and certainly couldn’t afford to pay a competent professional manager the kind of money necessary.

So the deal was that Blazer would get 10% of whatever sponsorship and TV money he could bring in. Otherwise, he’d basically get nothing. It was a no-lose deal, particularly with a successful businessman like Chuck, who was doing OK anyway.

But as Blazer was more and more successful in attracting sponsorship and TV dollars into CONCACAF and as public interest in the game, particularly in the US, began to grow, that modest 10% which had been so reasonable began to swell into an unjustifiable sum of money.

So much so that in 1998, when the second deal expired, he and Warner were unable to come to terms on another contract. Thus, unbelievably, they just went on as before without any contractual agreement whatsoever.

From time to time one federation or another would start asking questions or someone on the Executive Committee would get huffy about seeing the details but Warner made it clear he wasn’t going to provide the information and in CONCACAF everybody knew better than to cross Jack.

Furthermore, Blazer’s payments were concealed in the financial reports under things like “commissions” and “fees” with no specification as to who was actually getting the money or why. Again, you didn’t ask a lot of questions.

So as income grew – from just over $1 million in 1991 to over $25 million in 2010 (over $35 million in 2009, a Gold Cup year) – and virtually all of it was sponsorship money, Blazer kept on collecting his 10%.

The records they had access to are incomplete, but for the years 1996 through 2011, the report notes that:

“…Blazer received more than $20.6 million in compensation from CONCACAF. Specifically, CONCACAF paid: (i)over $15.3 million to Blazer in commissions; (ii) over $4.4 million to Blazer in fees; and (iii) over $837,000 in rent expenses for apartments used by Blazer.”

Furthermore, as time went on, the definition of “sponsorships” and “tv rights” appears to have expanded to include – well, just about everything. The auditors say that:

“(S)ponsorship” revenues appear to have included match promotion proceeds from the sales of tournament match tickets, luxury suite rentals, parking, and venue concessions, amounts which clearly do not qualify as “sponsorship and TV rights fees.”

In fact, CONCACAF’s accounting records appear to show that Blazer simply accrued in the “commissions payable” account amounts equal to 10% of CONCACAF’s total proceeds from its agreements with InterForever and SUM, without separating out revenue that did not qualify as “sponsorship and TV rights fees” under the Sportvertising Contracts.”

It reached the point that when, in January of 2006, when FIFA sent CONCACAF $3,000,000 to pay for the new studios of the CONCACAF Broadcasting setup in Miami, Blazer duly paid himself $300,000 as his cut.

In 2011, after Warner resigned, the CONCACAF ExCo asked Blazer to provide them with copies of compensation agreements he had with Warner.

Blazer sent them an unsigned draft of the 1990 Sportvertising contract and a signed copy of the 1994 contract which had expired in 1998. When a member inquired as to just how much he anticipated that he would be paid that year, he replied that it would amount to “about $2 million”.

In fact it was over $5 million.

A month later, the ExCo informed him that they were planning on terminating his employment and told him not to pay himself any more money without their approval.

A couple weeks later, Blazer instructed BAC Bank in Florida to make a $1.4 million payment to Sportvertising Cayman “in payment of Gold Cup commissions”, a payment about which, the auditors drily note,

“Blazer appears to have had some concern regarding whether that transfer would be completed; he
replied “[y]ippee” to a confirmation email from Sportvertising Cayman’s bank.”

CONCACAF has since requested that Blazer return the money. He has refused.

In fact, he claims that CONCACAF still owes him, by his reckoning, something like $7,000,000, and he refused repeated requests from the commission for personal testimony and information, saying that he wouldn’t be speaking with them until he gets his money.

There’s a lot more ugly detail, much of it revolving around an incredible sense of entitlement to spend whatever he liked on whatever he wanted, regardless of how ridiculous: ever-expanding personal apartment space in Trump Towers, luxury condos in Miami, ostensibly for CONCACAF usage of course, along with a Hummer H2 for which the insurance certificate lists only Blazer and his girlfriend Mary Beth as drivers.

(The commission reports that CONCACAF has been trying to sell the Hummer but can’t find a buyer; no word on whether they’ve tried Craigslist)

There was even a deal for a couple super-high-end luxury villas in Bermuda for him and Jack, although Warner seems not to have been terribly interested and Blazer/s ended up being paid for not out of CONCACAF funds but out of monies Blazer listed as due and owing to him from “commissions and fees”

The details aren’t really as important as the sense you get that while Blazer isn’t the sort to have committed the typical Jack Warner style of open theft, what he did do was paper over his two-handed grabbing of everything he could get his hands on with the thin veneer a legitimacy that a long-ago-expired contract granted him.

The sleaze is endless. Whether it amounts to criminal behavior is another issue which will undoubtedly play out in the coming months, but it’s clear that Blazer has run out of luck.

Jeff Webb says that he will refuse to share the dais with Blazer next month when the ExCo assembles in Mauritius, which is notable in an organization which has regularly featured some of the worst crooks on Earth happily grinning and gripping for the cameras.

But in a larger sense he, and Sunil Gulati and everybody else have very little to be outraged about. Particularly when you consider that the ballroom in Panama was more than half-filled with guys who are fresh off of FIFA-mandated suspensions and/or reprimands for taking bribes from Mohammed bin Hammam.

In CONCACAF, as in FIFA, it’s all a matter of degree and how much you have access to. Some people take envelopes stuffed with cash, some people buy Hummers and million dollar condos.

The only thing we can say for sure right now is that Chuck Blazer’s former plan to head up the ownership group for MLS NYC2 may have hit something of a roadblock.

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