Awkward

I’m sure at least some of you have had the unfortunate experience of getting behind on your bills at some point in your life. Hey… things happen. Maybe you were between jobs and short on funds. You might have just messed up your accounting and bounced a check or possibly just forgotten. Nobody’s perfect. But it turns out this really can happen to anyone, even a corporate behemoth like the NFL’s Baltimore Ravens. Somebody messed up and forgot to pay their water tax bill for a while and ran up a more than $5K delinquent status.

Give that the Raven probably make that much just selling beer before the kickoff in any given game, no worries, right? Unfortunately for them, an automated system detected that they were sufficiently in arrears to merit the property going up for auction. Two Germans quickly swooped in and locked in a winning bid. (Marketwatch)

A $5,200 unpaid water bill let two German real-estate investors lay claim for a brief moment to a cherished piece of Baltimore real estate: the Ravens football stadium.

The arrears landed M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore’s annual tax sale, in which bidders vie to pay a property owner’s municipal debt, in return for the right to collect up to 18% interest, plus the principal from the owner. If the debt remains unpaid, the lien-holder can eventually foreclose on the property.

The stadium’s water-utility debt was put up for auction by the city because its water bill was delinquent at least three quarters and it totaled more than $350 for a nonowner-occupied property.

On Monday, German-born Herbert Baeuerle of Home Trust Inc. and a colleague scored the winning bid by footing the $5,200 water bill and agreeing to pay $21 million for the 71,000-seat stadium if it reached foreclosure.

According to the report, the same thing happened to Camden Yards, home of the Baltimore Oriels baseball team. They were ten times further behind on their water bill and a different bidder grabbed that up.

This would have been a hilarious episode in sports bloopers history, particularly since the Germans were joking about converting it to a soccer stadium and selling it to a German team. Sadly, the fun didn’t last for long. The properties both belong to the Maryland Stadium Authority and as such are technically owned by the government. A quick check of the applicable laws revealed that the city is exempt from the tax auction process so they had been listed “by mistake” and the Germans were unable to carry through with the plan.

There’s really no deeper lesson to all of this beyond being a humorous story of government ineptitude, but it did leave me with one question. If something this incredibly embarrassing was going to happen to an NFL franchise, how did it not wind up being the Jets?