Damian Romay sent us this missive — in English and Spanish — on Nov. 4, about how evil corporate forces at a company called Caribevision stole America Teve and his family’s legacy. Things are kind of slow right now on the local scene, this is not the Turko-Russian border, after all, so here it is.
By Damian Romay
“There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.” – Elie Wiesel
Sixty million dollars. I kept doing the math in my head thinking there must be something wrong. According to seven ordinary citizens who are sitting right in front of me with blank expressions on their faces as if waiting in line at the supermarket, my dad has to pay his business associates sixty million dollars. How is this possible?
This Kafkaesque situation originated several years ago when my grandfather, a man who came from nothing and became a television pioneer in Argentina, purchased an interest in a small local TV station in Miami. Eighteen years ago, my father, who grew up in the TV industry, took over this tiny station and began catering to the Cuban American population of South Florida that was mostly being ignored by the big Spanish Language Networks whose focus was on the west coast audience.
The station known as America Teve, canal 41, became a huge success, growing to over three hundred employees, and producing over forty hours a week of journalistic and entertainment programming that at times challenged Univision and Telemundo for the top rating spots. We also served the Community by uniting families, creating job fairs, helping new immigrants that came here with nothing, and handing out food, school supplies, and other goods in times of need.
Many other local stations popped up trying to copy America Teve’s model, stealing our homegrown talent and fighting for the same advertising dollars, but none were able to defeat us. One such station formed by powerful Spanish and Mexican investors called Caribevision was such a colossal failure that it had lost almost one hundred million dollars in just a few years. In 2009, the owners of Caribevision came to see my dad to sell him their stations for fifteen million dollars. My father didn’t have the money, but he was excited about the prospect of growing into a small regional network and he was also afraid that one of his competitors might jump at the opportunity, so he came up with a plan. He offered Caribevision a fifty fifty partnership in which my father would run the operations of the company, and where the Joint Venture would assume a ten million dollar loan payable in 2017. Additionally, my father would loan them up to five million dollars to pay off their other debts until the time the deal was closed.
The Caribevision people accepted the deal and that is where my father’s worst nightmare began. The bank who held the ten million dollar loan didn’t accept the 2017 deadline and they called the loan. Caribevision who according to the agreements had to find a replacement loan didn’t and instead they initiated a lawsuit against my dad.
During the six years of the “joint venture” between America Teve and Caribevision, the Caribevision partners made it practically impossible for my father to run he company, questioning every decision he made, boycotting every board meeting, and never contributing a single cent to the enterprise. Not only that, but my father had to pay the station’s main cable provider almost two million dollars that Caribevision owed from their previous venture to avoid getting kicked off the air. Additionally, a court in Puerto Rico ordered the joint venture to pay a million dollars to a Caribevision employee whose contract was violated by Caribevision. My dad had to sell a company he had in Argentina, sell his house in Argentina, get a second loan on his mortgage, and borrow money, just to keep the company running. And to top it all off, he never paid himself a salary or bonuses, and Caribevision never paid my dad back for the loan he gave them.
So, what benefit did my dad receive from having to take care of the obligations his partners neglected? What damage did the Caribevision partners suffer for all these decisions my dad made? According to the six people of the jury, sixty million dollars.
You must be thinking I’m leaving something out. I can understand that someone could be punished for stealing but why would someone be penalized for lending money to keep a company alive? Where does the sixty million number come from? There has to be more to the story, but unfortunately there is not. I worked in America Teve since the beginning, I saw every monthly balance, I read every agreement, I participated in every board meeting, I was there when my dad inaugurated the building in honor of my grandfather, and when he hired all of the employees, and no matter how Caribevision’s attorney’s spin it, no matter how these six people in the jury see it, and no matter how an inexperienced judge who in her own words, “tried” to be impartial but clearly failed, rules in this case, I know the truth. Today an incredible injustice has been done. One of the Caribevisión partners summed it up best when he said on the witness stand, “What is mine is mine, and what is yours is mine.”
If this decision isn’t overturned my dad will have to file for bankruptcy, he will lose the station my grandfather founded, the station which he dedicated almost twenty years of his life and all of his money to, more than three hundred employees, myself included, will probably lose their jobs, Miami will lose it’s number one local TV station, and a bunch of greedy foreign investors will get their way.
But I know my dad. He will fight to turn this decision around because that is who he is, that is what he learned from his father and that is what he has taught me. Never back down, learn to overcome every obstacle life throws in your way and never lose faith. I am not a lawyer nor a judge, I am just a humble writer, and as such all I can do is set the record straight for the world to see.
Damian Romay Manifesto