Trail of Trouble
Hank Investigates: Trail of Trouble
John Henry Williams started several sports memorabilia companies before he even graduated from college, friends say he's an aggressive, determined go-getter - critics say he was cashing in on his father’s name. Either way, the result is a string of legal troubles and failed businesses.
From his teenage days when he hung out at spring training to the BMW driving businessman: John Henry Williams emerges as a struggling entrepreneur with big plans to link his fortunes to his famous father. But our investigation of his financial past reveals - the slugger’s son often struck out with eviction notices, massive bills and a multimillion-dollar corporate bankruptcy. Family friends say: even his father was worried.
John Sullivan, Williams' friend
"Ted would say, here he is with a business sitting there and he's sleeping in the morning because he should be tending to business."
Records show in the 90s, John Henry lived in this is elegant Beacon Street apartment building. Companies he founded: Grand Slam Marketing, Major League Memorabilia and Ted Williams Card Company - operated out of this Woburn office building, and soon folded.
Hank Phillipi Ryan
"Did his companies ever make money?"
Business associates would not be interviewed on camera, but one told us
"If he did make money, it was minimal, but not because he wasn't a good businessman, but because the company was young."
Court records we found show in 1995 one of Williams’ companies was evicted from the Woburn building for nonpayment of rent. Williams was back in Florida.
There, state documents we obtained reveal he formed one new company after another - the Williams’ family chef told us: he browbeat his father to create memorabilia for the companies to sell.
Robert Hogerheide, Williams' former chef
"And nothing but autographs, bats by the ton, jerseys by the ton to the point where Ted would literally fall over totally exhausted."
This is Williams’ main enterprise: Hitter Inc. in Hernando, Florida. Its web site includes contests where the winner can have lunch with Ted Williams but its main function is providing internet service, not only for home computers, but for companies running sexually graphic web sites.
Hitter Inc. got national attention in the 1999 All-Star game. John Henry was accused of coercing his father to wear the company logo instead of his Red Sox hat.
But the promotion apparently didn't help. Court records reveal Hitter Inc. is now in Chapter 11 bankruptcy with this massive list of debts owing more than $12 million dollars to cable, Internet, telecom, computer and leasing companies…and tens of thousands in state and federal taxes.
Atty. Ken Leonetti, Foley Hoag Law Firm
"But that wasn't the end of the trail of troubles…just last year, as these court records show, Williams was hit with two huge lawsuits--going after him personally for more than $600,000 dollars in bank loans and computer equipment rentals. Court papers show that some of those loans were paid by liquidating investment accounts owned by Ted Williams.
And just three months ago, in a different court Williams sued his own sister Claudia Williams, trying to prevent her from selling bats their father had autographed.
Now, John Henry is taking a swing at a new venture - playing minor league ball for the Red Sox farm team. Perhaps trying to make it as a ballplayer, instead of a businessman.
John Henry Williams did not return our calls. Many friends we talked to say he truly loved his father. As we said, though he has been accused of forcing his father to sign moneymaking autographs, those friends insist the baseball great would not have complied, unless he wanted to.