WSMV in Nashville reported last night that the Sommet Group, the firm which held the arena naming rights for the Nashville Predators until an ugly dispute brought an end to that relationship several months ago, has been slapped with a lien by the Tennessee Department of Labor for not paying their unemployment taxes for the first quarter of this year. As I reported in this space back in December, there's been good reason to believe for a long time that the Sommet Group is foundering.
UPDATE (10:00 a.m., July 6): Multiple reports via email and Twitter Tuesday morning indicate that "FBI agents, IRS and police in bulletproof vests" are onsite at the Sommet Group's building, and are on their floor. The Nashville Post confirms the feds were "executing search warrants to seize company documents."
UPDATE (11:00 a.m., July 6): The Tennessean has re-posted their article from December 5, 2009 which said that the group's tax problems had recently "come to light" at the time, drawing denials from CEO Brian Whitfield that the firm was in financial distress. I guess "come to light" is newspaper-talk for "a blogger actually posted this a day before we did." They also report that this morning's raid is "unrelated to the state lien" imposed by the Tennessee Department of Labor.
Recall that the dispute over arena naming rights arose because the Sommet Group stopped paying the Predators, too. All this from a company whose business is all about handling other companies' payroll and bill-paying activities...
Channel 4 spoke with the president of one of those companies Sommet represents. The woman, who asked to remain anonymous, said by phone that after four years of a great relationship with Sommet, she terminated the contract with them on Wednesday after learning that Sommet had been taking their money but not paying the company's bills.
This comes as little surprise to Predators fans who watched Sommet Group CEO Brian Whitfield lash out under pressure back in November, throwing Preds chairman David Freeman under the bus by dropping word about Freeman's tax lien issues during a newspaper interview (a red herring which had nothing to do with the dispute at hand, but which caused months of trouble and controversy between the team and the Metro Sports Authority).
As a Nashville Predators fan, all I can say is, thank goodness for Bridgestone!