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Gen Con Woes

Word is that Gen Con has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. This comes on the heels of the news that Lucasfilm recently filed suit against the company over bills related to the latest Star Wars Celebration, which Gen Con put on last year.

This is not good news. I love Gen Con, and I love the people who run it. Peter Adkison, who owns the company with his wife Melissa, is a longtime friend, and this cannot be any fun for him.

However, it seems that the two recent announcements are closely related. The Star Wars Celebration was the first (I believe) without a new Star Wars film to help rouse the fanbase, and Gen Con likely lost money on it. Combine this with three years of trying to get Gen Con So Cal up and running, and you have some holes that have formed in this sturdy ship’s hull.

However, the core business of Gen Con Indy (the original and only in my heart) is reportedly solid, a good money maker on its own. Without the other shows draining Gen Con’s coffers, the company stands a good chance of turning itself around.

It’s possible that the Lucasfilm suit forced Gen Con into involuntary bankruptcy. The last time I checked, it only took three dedicated creditors to force this to happen, but there are ways to engineer such things if you’re determined. I’d guess that Gen Con would have preferred to settle the issue with Lucasfilm quietly, but that didn’t happen. Now they’ll get to negotiate a settlement in the open and with the help of a bankruptcy court instead.

Clearly, Peter (who founded Wizards of the Coast and sold the company to Hasbro) could pay this debt out of his own pocket if he wanted, but that’s why Gen Con is a corporation (an LLC, to be exact). One of the biggest reasons to incorporate a business is to insulate your personal assets from that of the business. Beyond your initial or continued investment in the company, it should be able to stand on its own. If it succeeds, the owners get to share in that success, but if if should fail or fall on hard times, creditors can only go after the assets of the corporation, not those of the owners too.

I’m hopeful that Gen Con will weather this storm and come out into sunny days soon. I’m not changing my plans to attend the show this summer—and every other summer to come.

Comments 19

  1. As a gamer, who is thankful to Adkison for saving D&D, I hope that the restructuring works and that everything ends up okay. As I’ve written before I miss SoCal and know that it cost GenCon a pretty penny to produce.

    As a Star Wars fan, I am wondering why GenCon failed to report the financials promptly and what the deal with the auction is. As a pure SW fan, I would not be happy with Gen Con at all — at prima facie value it seems some shenanigans went on.

    As a non-profit director, I am also concerned about GenCon’s behavior on the face.

    As a person who has played games for 3 decades, financial shenanigans in gaming are no new thing, so I’m a little more critical than others might be.

    But Adkison did save D&D, people I respect view him as a stand up guy, so I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. I’ve put conferences together for work and know that sometimes things can get crazy, and that you are really dependent on those you are working with. So if there is any error, it likely is from some dark hole in the chain of command.

    I just find it a little bizarre that Bella Sera is doing better than GenCon.

  2. As a gamer, who is thankful to Adkison for saving D&D, I hope that the restructuring works and that everything ends up okay. As I’ve written before I miss SoCal and know that it cost GenCon a pretty penny to produce.

    As a Star Wars fan, I am wondering why GenCon failed to report the financials promptly and what the deal with the auction is. As a pure SW fan, I would not be happy with Gen Con at all — at prima facie value it seems some shenanigans went on.

    As a non-profit director, I am also concerned about GenCon’s behavior on the face.

    As a person who has played games for 3 decades, financial shenanigans in gaming are no new thing, so I’m a little more critical than others might be.

    But Adkison did save D&D, people I respect view him as a stand up guy, so I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. I’ve put conferences together for work and know that sometimes things can get crazy, and that you are really dependent on those you are working with. So if there is any error, it likely is from some dark hole in the chain of command.

    I just find it a little bizarre that Bella Sera is doing better than GenCon.

  3. Remember that Bella Sara is a product of Hidden City Games, a whole different company. The two do not mix assets. As for Bella Sara doing better, I’m not surprised. It’s a mass-market gaming product with an internet element aimed at an underserved market: girls. Gen Con is very much its own thing and at the top of the game convention heap, at least in this hemisphere. That means it has few models for success other than its own.

    As for shenanigans, I can’t speak to Gen Con’s internal workings. Knowing Peter, I’d be shocked if he personally had anything to do with any improprieties. I think it’s more likely that they may have had some problem nailing the financials down to Lucasfilm’s satisfaction, as perhaps the individuals in charge of certain parts of the Star Wars Celebration show didn’t keep the kinds of records they should have.

    I’ll give Peter the benefit of the doubt any day, and I trust him to get this all sorted out.

  4. Remember that Bella Sara is a product of Hidden City Games, a whole different company. The two do not mix assets. As for Bella Sara doing better, I’m not surprised. It’s a mass-market gaming product with an internet element aimed at an underserved market: girls. Gen Con is very much its own thing and at the top of the game convention heap, at least in this hemisphere. That means it has few models for success other than its own.

    As for shenanigans, I can’t speak to Gen Con’s internal workings. Knowing Peter, I’d be shocked if he personally had anything to do with any improprieties. I think it’s more likely that they may have had some problem nailing the financials down to Lucasfilm’s satisfaction, as perhaps the individuals in charge of certain parts of the Star Wars Celebration show didn’t keep the kinds of records they should have.

    I’ll give Peter the benefit of the doubt any day, and I trust him to get this all sorted out.

  5. Pretty much that’s what I imagine to be going on. Ask me someday about my chaotic conference story and I’ll share it. I’d do it here, but there are somethings one doesn’t want floating the internet.

    Nothing illegal, but definitely something I’d not like to repeat.

  6. Pretty much that’s what I imagine to be going on. Ask me someday about my chaotic conference story and I’ll share it. I’d do it here, but there are somethings one doesn’t want floating the internet.

    Nothing illegal, but definitely something I’d not like to repeat.

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  8. I wonder how this will affect their other worldwide events of GenCon Paris in April and GenCon Australia in July.
    Shouldn’t affect GenCon UK as it’s run by a different company under license and they seem to be perfectly capable of messing it up on their own…

  9. I wonder how this will affect their other worldwide events of GenCon Paris in April and GenCon Australia in July.
    Shouldn’t affect GenCon UK as it’s run by a different company under license and they seem to be perfectly capable of messing it up on their own…

  10. I believe that all of the non-US shows are run under license. I don’t believe the bankruptcy will affect them at all, although many contracts for all sorts of things contain clauses that can render them void if either party declares bankruptcy. If both parties wish to ignore that and go forward, though, that can often be ignored. As these contracts likely don’t cost Gen Con anything and could theoretically produce revenue, I would doubt a bankruptcy court would wish to interfere with them.

    But I’m just watching this from the sidelines with the rest of us. What do I know?

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    I believe that all of the non-US shows are run under license. I don’t believe the bankruptcy will affect them at all, although many contracts for all sorts of things contain clauses that can render them void if either party declares bankruptcy. If both parties wish to ignore that and go forward, though, that can often be ignored. As these contracts likely don’t cost Gen Con anything and could theoretically produce revenue, I would doubt a bankruptcy court would wish to interfere with them.

    But I’m just watching this from the sidelines with the rest of us. What do I know?

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  13. Also, in the case of individual debtors, assuming there is no failure to disclose information or mislead the court, the majority of debtors can expect to receive a discharge of some or all of their debts. chapter 7 bankruptcy is appropriate for dealing with consumer debt.

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