so, Mr. Sherman…

What do you think of open wheel racing? *bats eyelashes and hopes for a positive response*

Frank D’Angelo moves upstairs at brewery – Business – Frank D’Angelo moves upstairs at brewery

Is founder truly happy about a 24-year-old taking over his job?

November 02, 2007

business columnist
“Whatever spin you guys want to put on it it’s your prerogative,” says Frank D’Angelo. “The story is exactly in the press release.”

Well, okay. Here’s my spin.

I don’t believe it.

I don’t believe that Frank D’Angelo is really “pleased to announce” that he has sold his majority stake in his Steelback Brewery as well as D’Angelo Brands, the juice-cum-power drink company that brought us DUH! (the can on my desk says it’s 710 ml of highly sugared pomegranate cream soda) and Cheetah (a “power surge” energy drink promoted by the sprinting cheetah himself, Ben Johnson).

Yet D’Angelo insists he has never been happier in his life. “I’m moving up to chairman,” he says. “I’ve decided to slow down.”

This line is made problematic by the fact that D’Angelo is “excited to announce” that Jonathon Sherman, the 24-year-old son of Apotex Inc.’s Barry Sherman, is moving into the CEO’s office. Given what would appear to be an absence of deep knowledge in either beer or apple juice, it’s fair to wonder what it is that young Mr. Sherman, a graduate of Columbia University (it says so in the press release), can bring to the job.

“He’s been working on and off with the company for the past year and a half,” says D’Angelo, who adds that Jonathon “worked a bit at Apotex,” the generic drug manufacturer that Barry Sherman built into a colossus.

So what happened?


There are clues everywhere!

Title searches on D’Angelo’s manufacturing operations reveal $100 million in debt obligations to Barry Sherman through a series of companies, including Wasanda Enterprises and a numbered company that names Sherman as director.

The Forest Hill Rd. home in which D’Angelo lives was pledged to Wasanda initially in 2002. (D’Angelo’s father, Giuseppe, is still the registered owner of the property, which he purchased in 2001 for $1.25 million.)

“We blanketed every asset we had,” says D’Angelo about the way in which he has collateralized his business.

Which begs the question: How are his finances?

“Very good. I’ve never been happier in my life.”

He will not qualify whether he has been left with more than 10 per cent of the business. “I got a good little piece of cake in there still,” he says.

If you think that’s a curious way of speaking, you don’t know Frank D’Angelo, a deal-a-minute kind of guy who can be seen on commercials pushing his beer (brands include Tango, Copperhead and Thunder) and heard on CD doing covers of Stand By Me and My Girl as well as tunes he has penned himself, including You Gotta Believe to Believe. He sings lead, naturally, in the Steelback 2-4 Band, sometimes before Argos games.

He has a restaurant in Mississauga and the Forget About It Supper Club on King St. near Spadina, where he will order a Grey Goose martini with just a touch of vermouth.

It’s a long way from D’Angelo’s apple juice “odyssey,” when the late Al Palladini gave him a truck – “God bless him, wherever he is” – and he started hauling in skids of juice from Windsor that he would peddle case by case to stores in Toronto.

The juice company grew and grew and for a brief period, D’Angelo Brands Inc. was publicly traded on the Nasdaq. Records show that in 2002 the company lost $4.8 million on sales of $435,000 worth of juice and iced tea and such.

In that year D’Angelo Brands issued warrants for 15 million shares to Wasanda for 30 cents a share. Thus, perhaps, was the financial relationship between Sherman and D’Angelo born.

There was, initially, no thought of beer. It was the later purchase of a processing plant in Tiverton that took D’Angelo into that game, though he insists it was never his aim to be a brewery beater.

You might think there was an adviser somewhere who told D’Angelo that beer would be a good bet.

“Nobody,” he says, “has ever told me that.”

It looks suspiciously like a vast, over-leveraged, money-losing mess.

Did Sherman pull the trigger? “This was a decision that I made,” D’Angelo says. “He didn’t pull any trigger.” (Sherman did not return calls.)

D’Angelo is pleased as punch that after suffering an all-nighter on Wednesday negotiating his new role at the company, he’s on his way to a new life.

He will still be involved corporately, he says. He wants to work fewer days and shorter hours.

Characteristically, there’s a lot going on for a guy who proclaims a desire to do less. “I read a part for a movie, a big major movie, so I’m probably going to do it.”

It does not surprise that a “major, major actor” has already committed to the project.

He repeatedly loops the conversation back to the press release. “It’s not icing sugar,” he says of the happy spin put on the news. “It’s the real thing.”

As D’Angelo says, ya gotta believe to believe.

So, while I want to believe it will be business as usual, I don’t think this bodes well for my beloved home race, especially in light of other tidbits of information I became privy to last week. Time of course will tell. Will the race go on in 2008, of course. Will the event suffer because of this turn of events, I can’t help but think yes. Especially if Frankie is off becoming a “star” in Hollyweird, rather than being here in the city pimping the event that he, from all appearances, no longer really has a stake in.


7 responses to “so, Mr. Sherman…

  1. Hmmm…was 2007 possibly my last Molson Indy, err, Toronto GP? I won’t be going next year since I have too much to get done during the summer.

  2. KK and GF own the race. The question is, given their obvious unwillingness to subsidize the series beyond that which is necessary, will they consider the GP of Toronto necessary?

  3. Another thought: the problem with sponsorship funding a series in this era is that corporate ownership shifts too quickly to provide any stability of funding. In a sense, what we are seeing is even less stable and more precarious than the manufacturer era (even if CC did have the big sponsors right now). Perhaps this is why KK and GF sought to develop a funding scheme which depended on fan support rather than badges and stickers. Unfortunately, they have failed miserably. Like it or not, there is one man left with the deep pockets and the incentive to fund top level AOW. : (

  4. You make a valid point Indy. Look at Nacar, that went from Winston to Nextel to Sprint in what, 4 years?

    and TG has big pockets, but KK and GF arent on welfare either…

  5. Steven, I think that KK and GF definitely have the pockets, the question is, do they have the motivation? What they have can be sold. What Tony has will stay in the family, regardless of what he wants.

  6. Agreed. And it will always keep on giving him $$$$, even if the product is crap.

    At this point, i am banking on KK and GF’s egos. I get the feeling that if they have wanted to sell out, they would have done it by now.

    i’m thinking KK’s pride in particular was put to the test this year and he wants to show everyone his rep wasn’t a fluke.

    if not, merger is on its way…

  7. If I had to bet, I would lay money that merger, or some mild form of it, was offered to TG in 2007 and he refused. If that is true, I can’t say I blame him, as CCWS shows every sign of a series on its last legs, and the ICS, as pathetic as it may be, enjoys virtually all of the significant US media attention paid to open wheel.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s