Earlier today, ANN reported that Media Blasters was listed as an inactive company by the New York Department of State. According to the article, the company was “dissolved by proclamation” as of April 27. According to the New York State Department, a dissolved company is “”A domestic (formed in New York State) corporation which has failed to file required franchise tax reports or pay franchise taxes due for two consecutive years may be dissolved by the Secretary of State upon recommendation by the State Tax Commission.” Such a situation results in “substantial penalties against the corporation… once the corporation is dissolved, its name may no longer be used legally.”
Sounds bad, doesn’t it?
If this were the normal circumstances, it would be. Under New York business law, a dissolved company shall “carry on no business except for the purpose of winding up its affairs.” In addition, the company’s shareholders, officers, and directors are on the hook for outstanding debts and the company name may no longer be legally used. The only business these companies can administer is that which involves winding down the business. This means that any licenses signed after the legal dissolution date would be made to a non-existent company, and licenses acquired may become void if the company does not return to a solvent state.
Things aren’t quite so bad yet for the distributor but, if one were to read the original version of the ANN story, one would think the sky was about to fall. After all, Media Blasters would be deemed a company dissolved, and the heads of the organization couldn’t be reached. The real fun of this particular story began in the comments section of the story. Word travels quickly on the internet, and it was only a matter of time until Media Blasters CEO John Sirabella got word of the piece. When he did,though, he took to the comments, and delivered the following statement:
For all concerned about the ANN story, MB is not out of business or closing down its operation. What happen was the following. MB filed extensions for 2009, 10 and 11. Without notice or us knowing it could happen, the Secretary of State took action. We have now finished our 2009, 2010 and filing and will get the action reversed. We already spoke with them. The company continues to run, continues to release titles. It seems during the last TAF, our competitors decided to spread this paper around which has made life difficult.
As for the article in ANN, they never contacted us nor even gave us a chance to comment.
What occurred afterwards was possibly one of the most intriguing online exchanges that could have arisen. Sirabella quickly alleged that nobody tried to contact him, only to have ANN CEO Chris Macdonald fired back, stating that they left several voice mails and e-mail messages. The situation continued to escalate, as Sirabella continued to fire away at Macdonald, seeming almost speechless at the fact that the e-mail Macdonald had on file may be out of date:
You are kidding right?
[REDACTED] does not work? Really? I only get about 50 emails a day but you could not email me.
ok? and neither can Chris who was contacting me for anime boston week in advance for some screeners to review and contacted me afterwards about it.
No one at ANN could email? Justin? no one?
One member tried to steer the conversation in different directions, after commenting that the comments section of ANN may not be the best place for such an exchange, to which Sirabella replied:
Freaking out? You do not get it, do you?
MB is not just faceless company, MB is like a child to me. I go to the cons, I speak with fans and have been since 1996.
So yes I take it personal…
One day when you have something you love and care for that much and someone does something like this to it and not even given a chance to respond, you will understand.
But in the end I do need to move on and just keep releasing and going forward.
So, let’s sum this up:
I’m going to give Media Blasters the benefit of the doubt, and accept that the dissolution is the case of a filing error in the New York state offices. On top of this, the news was spread during the Tokyo Anime Fair, which made licensing particularly difficult for Media Blasters. They are currently working on the issue, and Sirabella is under a fair amount of stress over both the situation and the revelation.
After all, the revelation, if not taken care of, would have certainly set the “death watch” narrative into full swing. It would become a self-fulfilling prophecy, as retailers moved away from dealing with Media Blasters, and customers began cancelling orders. The company may not be ready to go the way of ADV, but they certainly would have been had a correction not been made. As it is, damage was already done at the biggest licensing event of the year.
Was it wise for Sirabella to air his grievances in public? Not at all. It gave the perception that the man is desperate and unprofessional, which was quickly noticed by readers. As Sirabella calmed down, his comments became more reassuring to the masses. He noted that he was busy overseeing the expansion of Fever Dreams’s offices, and that upcoming releases for their titles were still on track.
It’s clear that Sirabella is invested in his company: after all, he’s an entrepreneur and, like most entrepreneurs, he places the business high on his priority list. It’s not uncommon to see such behavior. In Onward, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz spoke about his experiences in reviving Starbucks as a company. He displayed a similar attachment, as he agonized over his return as company CEO, and how to re-invent the company’s direction and image. The angst came to a point on page 105, where he stated that “…if I think about the two things I love in my life, it is [my] family and this company. There is not anything I would not do for my family, just like everyone in this room And there is nothing I would not do for this company.”
I’d foresee a bigger problem if Sirabella, under the pressures of the moment, started being dismissive, or even careless about the very company he built. Once he stops caring, the soul of the company begins to rot, as the entire chain of command begins to lose hope. At that point, it would be an even more interesting issue, as we could see an example of a company being led astray by its own shepherd.
I can’t comment on the situation as a whole, as there are far too many unknowns, and far too many indications of “he said, she said” for my comfort. However, the chance to see the spectacle in its entirety was a valuable opportunity for all. Seeing Sirabella make his passionate plea for his company, as well as the exchanges between him and the ANN staff were fascinating, to say lightly. It was a chance to see the exchanges between anime news sources and industry members, that is often confined to e-mails and phone conversations. While there are many who will pass this by, it is the type of situation that occurs once in the bluest of moons.