Commentary

Financial woes still hammer at 'Nails'

Originally Published: May 6, 2009
By Mike Fish | ESPN.com

Lenny DykstraMike Fish/ESPN.com Despite his problems, word is that Lenny Dykstra is resisting a bankruptcy filing.
Since chronicling the financial and legal mess piling up at the doorstep of Lenny Dykstra, the ex-ballplayer turned entrepreneur, on April 22, ESPN.com has heard from a number of others whose business dealings with the former pro athlete have become tales of woe.

These are fresh claims, in character with the original story, that Dykstra owes money to print companies, charter jet services and corporate flight attendants.

Collections agencies have been hired. Additional lawsuits have been threatened or filed. Another of Dykstra's attorneys walked away when he wasn't paid for his services. And TheStreet.com -- co-founded by Dykstra's early patron, CNBC personality Jim "Mad Money" Cramer -- quietly pulled the plug on his investment column.

Dykstra previously told ESPN.com that his "Nails on the Numbers" column on TheStreet.com generated $3 million in subscriber fees last year for the online financial site. But two days after the original ESPN.com story appeared, the column was replaced by one written by Jon Najarian, an options expert who had a training camp tryout with the Chicago Bears as a linebacker in 1981. An accompanying editor's note read matter-of-factly, "Lenny Dykstra is no longer writing the Nails on the Numbers service."

When reached for comment by ESPN.com, Dave Morrow, editor in chief of the Web site, read a terse statement that didn't shed much light on the parting of ways: "TheStreet.com would like to thank Lenny Dykstra for his efforts during the past several years. He has been a very solid contributor, and we wish him well in all his future endeavors."

Morrow wouldn't elaborate beyond the statement. But it is obvious that Dykstra's personal and professional life is in disarray. As the ESPN.com story pointed out, Dykstra has been the subject of at least 24 legal actions during the past two years, including 18 since November; and his wife of 20-some years, Terri, filed for divorce last month.

During the past two weeks, Dykstra has met with bankruptcy attorneys in Los Angeles as he considers his options, although a source told ESPN.com he is not leaning toward filing for bankruptcy relief.

ESPN.com was unable to reach Dykstra for comment on these additional developments despite repeated attempts.


Don't look for Daniel Noveck, one of Dykstra's former Los Angeles attorneys, to drive the hour or so up the freeway to handle his Ventura County divorce case. Noveck has walked away. On April 16, he filed a motion with the court in a separate matter -- a suit involving businessmen who bought two car washes once owned by Dykstra -- asking to be relieved as counsel.

Under reasons for the motion, Noveck, who has represented Dykstra and his business corporations, wrote in court filings, "Clients have failed to pay legal fees and costs. Irreconcilable differences have arisen between Daniel Noveck and the clients."

According to public records, Noveck has filed motions to withdraw in at least seven other pending cases in which he's the attorney of record for Dykstra -- including a suit brought by United Commercial Bank over nonpayment of a $1 million promissory note. Noveck also has negotiated five settlement agreements on Dykstra's behalf that have not been satisfied. Noveck acknowledged having filed motions to withdraw as Dykstra's attorney but declined further comment.

In October, the L.A. law firm K&L Gates, which waged a number of legal skirmishes on Dykstra's behalf, withdrew its representation because it was "not paid current," according to his former lead counsel, David Schack. Dykstra later told ESPN.com, "Four million I paid him. What do you mean, isn't that a lot to you?"


When Carolyn Cain answered a Craigslist classified for a corporate flight attendant, she had no idea her future boss would be Dykstra. But she got acquainted with "Nails" quickly. Cain told ESPN.com that on her first trip with him in late March -- a flight from Southern California to Cleveland, with a stop in Cincinnati -- Dykstra persuaded her to use her credit card to pay for part of the cost to charter the private jet. She was fired in Cleveland, though, when she refused to let her card be tapped to cover some of the $277,000 owed on his own Gulfstream jet, which is still being held there by an aviation firm that upgraded and serviced the plane.

Cain filed suit in Ventura County small claims court on April 10, seeking the $13,000 in credit card charges and wages she says she is owed.

[+] EnlargeLenny Dykstra
AP Photo/Frank Franklin IIDykstra's magazine, The Players Club, apparently hasn't become a profit center.
"We originally landed in Cincinnati, and after being stuck there and sleep-deprived, he [persuaded] me into using my credit card to charter a flight for $10,600 to Cleveland to get his plane," Cain said. "He then wanted me to give him more money to go towards the $227,000 he owed the guys to get his plane. He was like, 'We'll put $30,000 on this card.' I was like, 'Wow, wait a second.' He knew that I had money, because of previous conversations we had. He was like, 'This is a really good deal. You're going to put up the money, and you'll make like $80,000 in a week for doing nothing, because I'm going to give you the money back.'

"He was pressuring me to do it. At the time, I was so sleep-deprived and just wanted to get the hell out of there that I was actually considering it. And I said, 'You know what? Let me get some sleep. I need to think about this. It is making me uncomfortable.' I called Lenny up later and said, 'Yeah, I'm not going to give you any more money. I'm not comfortable with this.' And he just flipped.

"He said, 'What are you trying to do to me here? You're trying to make a fool of me. It is already a done deal. I've already told everybody that I got the money. They already got pilots coming, and we're flying out of here.' He goes, 'I can't have people like you working for me. You're unstable. You can't make a decision, and you're crazy.'"

Cain caught a commercial flight back to the West Coast. Dykstra called his mother, whom family members say he'd spoken to only once in the previous three years, and persuaded her to cover the cost of a $23,000 charter flight back to Southern California.

Cain says she met Dykstra last month at the Four Seasons hotel near his home in Thousand Oaks, Calif., where he was living and conducting business in a large suite. Dykstra told her he was expecting a big check and promised she would hear back within a few days. "Of course, it never happened," Cain said. "And when I called him and said, 'Where is that check?' he hung up on me."


Jeremy Carroll, a sales manager for New York-based Imagine Print Solutions, told ESPN.com about a similar experience when he called Dykstra to ask about $8,000 he says his print firm was owed on work done for Dykstra's The Players Club magazine.

"When I called," Carroll said, "He said, 'Dude, you got the wrong person. I don't know what The Players Club is.' He just hung up. I couldn't believe it."


Casey Coslett, chief pilot at Irish Air, says Dykstra approached the Cincinnati-based company in November about a business deal to include his Gulfstream in its fleet of charter jets. He says the deal fell through and Dykstra later stiffed the firm on the $46,000 cost for a California-to-New York charter trip.

[+] EnlargeLenny Dykstra Lawsuit Papers
Mike Fish for ESPN.comThe pile of lawsuits filed against Dykstra in recent months continues to grow.

A collection agency has been hired in an effort to get the money, Coslett says. And, in a separate dispute, a New Jersey charter company, Private Flight Group, has filed suit alleging it is owed more than $34,000, according to the Home News Tribune of East Brunswick, N.J.

Even with the outstanding debt, Coslett says Dykstra called the Ohio firm in March and attempted to line up a charter flight back to the West Coast.

"So he calls us day and night trying to get us to take him out there," Coslett said. "He was told the only way was if he paid us the 46 grand and whatever he would owe for this. He says, 'I'm good for it.' He says, 'I got 500 G's [the value of his Gulfstream] in the hangar. I'll get you paid.'

"By now, most everyone in the aviation industry knows about this guy. They're not going to deal with him."


Amo Judd apparently hadn't heard that word, though, when Dykstra came to his Cleveland office in early March. His own jet grounded because of an unpaid bill, Dykstra was desperate to fly off for a meeting at Reynolds Plantation, an affluent golf community on the stretch of Georgia road between Atlanta and Augusta.

"Lenny sits in here," said Judd, manager of Crow Executive Air. "He is just about in tears. He has got to get down to this meeting. It has got to happen. He offers me three or four pieces of paper that say what his net worth is. He has an e-mail from the [Reynolds] Plantation people that he is going to meet with. He offers me a personal financial statement as of March 2.

"So he ends up writing me two checks. The charter is $12,630. He writes me two checks for half [each], and offers me his watch as collateral. I said, 'Lenny, I'm not going to take your watch.' That was a mistake. I should have taken that watch."

The checks -- written on the account of Dykstra's parent company, TPC Operations LLC -- both bounced because of "not sufficient funds."

Mike Fish is an investigative reporter for ESPN.com. He can be reached at michaeljfish@gmail.com.