The “troubleshooter” is bankrupt.
Tom Martino, who built a small media empire and a personal fortune dispensing consumer advice and bestowing endorsements on businesses, has filed for personal bankruptcy protection, listing his liabilities at $78.6 million. His assets are $1.37 million.
Martino, who calls himself the “troubleshooter” and a consumer advocate, has appeared regularly on TV and radio in Denver for nearly 30 years. He had a weekday TV show on KDVR Fox-31 until this month and continues to host a radio show on KHOW 630-AM.
He runs several websites, including troubleshooter.com and referralist.com, and also has a business-consulting firm. Companies receiving his referrals pay a fee and are subject to a background check and monitoring.
But it was his investments in real estate that landed Martino in financial trouble. His Sept. 2 bankruptcy filing, first reported online Wednesday by The Denver Business Journal, lists dozens of creditors, including banks that loaned Martino millions to buy and develop real estate across Colorado.
Martino’s failed investments included a townhome development in Grand Lake, a 66-lot residential subdivision in Fort Lupton and a 4-acre commercial property in Parker. He also is losing parking-lot properties in downtown Denver.
Martino, who spoke to The Denver Post on Wednesday, said his troubles started in 2009, when New Frontier Bank of Greeley collapsed. The bank had loaned him about $30 million for his share of the Fort Lupton development and other projects. He also had $1.5 million in a certificate of deposit at the bank.
When regulators took over the bank, Martino lost the $1.5 million and was forced to find another lender to take over his loan, he said. The problem was that the value of the properties had fallen 30 percent and it was impossible to refinance.
He took on additional debt — including a $1.8 million loan on his Troubleshooter Network business and a $1.5 million mortgage on one of his homes — to continue making his real-estate loan payments. Martino said some of the banks were willing to work with him to negotiate reduced payments. Colorado Capital Bank demanded full payment on a $1.2 million loan made for the Grand Lake project and received a court judgment in its favor. The bank was taken over by federal regulators in July.
“I would have settled with these banks, but they brought out their aggressive attorneys who think they’re going to scare you to death,” he said.
“There are so many people in this same boat,” Martino said. “You’ve got millions of dollars in lost value, and all of a sudden you can’t refinance your loans and you are just upside down. I just don’t know what I could have done.”
Although his bankruptcy filing puts his liabilities at $78.6 million, Martino said the real number is closer to $40 million because some claims are duplicated and others are unlikely to materialize.
He said he has little or no consumer debt and that his Troubleshooter Network business is healthy. Indeed, filings indicate that Martino’s annual income is in the range of $1.5 million to $2.1 million. Still, Martino’s contract with KDVR Fox-31 recently expired and wasn’t renewed.
The Troubleshooter Network business lists among its assets a helicopter and a plane.
His lawyer recently filed a motion seeking to protect the Troubleshooter Network and consulting firm from seizure by creditors. The businesses have few assets and no value without Martino’s involvement, according to the filing. The Troubleshooter Network has a net worth of negative $700,000 because of the loan Martino took out to save the real-estate investments, the filings show.
“I make a lot of money,” he said. “To pay back that loan would be nothing.”
Martino has been blogging on his website about his financial troubles since last November. He hopes people will learn from his experiences.
Late last year, Martino sold a majority stake in his Liberty- Bell Telecom — which buys wholesale access to telecommunications networks and resells it — to Dish Network.
Its great to see that Tom Martino is being honest about his situation.
Posted on Denver Real Estate-Denver Homes For Sale