Our pals at Improper Course have been unraveling the puzzle far better than we could, so with proper kudos to them, have a look at this well-documented and linked story on who, exactly, LaserPerformance is and the coup d’etat they seem to be engineering for the world’s most numerous class of sailboats.
After my Kirby Sailboat post, I ended up talking with Bruce Kirby and also with the International Laser Class Association (ILCA.) Bruce pointed left and the ILCA pointed right but they weren’t pointing at each other or even at the exact same thing. But to my surprise, they were more in alignment with each other than I would have thought. Performance Sailcraft Australia seems to be getting along with everyone. LaserPerformance (“LP” for short), however, doesn’t appear to be aligned with anyone except its sister company, Maclaren. Together they appear to be posturing to sweep the table and take over everything associated with the Laser. Someone, please tell me I’m wrong.
First, the ILCA told us this: LP informed the ILCA that it intends to form its own “Laser” class.
Then, LP announced its new unions: The objective of LaserPerformance United and its unions is to support and unite the global sailing community.
So far, we haven’t been given any explanation from LP as to what this really means. Doesn’t this sound familiar? We’re being encouraged to do something and not being given enough information to make an intelligent decision. Well, I’m not falling for that twice.
So, I started trying to learn more about LP and Maclaren and it somehow left me feeling like I needed to do some laundry. I talked with a couple of FBI agents that came to my house (for another matter) and I described the seemingly complicated business structures that I had found and they assured me that many businesses with these types of complicated structures are completely legitimate … and some are not.
In the end, I had more questions than answers and as a result, I’ve decided that I won’t be abandoning the ILCA and joining any LP union without alot more disclosure. Here, is a summary of my findings, which I hope leaves you with questions of your own.
So what does Maclaren (baby stroller manufacturer) have to do with LP (sailboat manufacturer)? LP says they are part of the same business group. What is commonly understood is that both companies are ultimately owned by Farzad Rastegar, an Iranian-born venture capitalist who resides in Connecticut. Virtually all of the Rastegar entities that I could find are privately owned limited liability companies except for the Maclaren entities in the US which are corporations. So why have the corporations (not the LLCs) provide the sailing sponsorships? Tax reasons? Public relations campaign after Maclaren’s baby stroller recall? Other reasons?
Maclaren USA, Inc., now known as American Baby Products, Inc., filed for bankruptcy on December 29, 2011. This was following several lawsuits from families whose children were among the 20 children who had their fingers horrifically amputated in the strollers prior to a recall that some say was delayed too long. There are lots of questions and speculation surrounding Maclaren.
Trying to figure out how everything is connected was the most frustrating part of my research. Multiple companies with the same addresses, officers or owners. It was difficult to a draw direct relationship line from one company to the next since alot of information was not available to the public but the addresses and officers were intermingled in varying degrees which seemed to confirm that the entire jumble of companies were interconnected.
300 Highpoint Avenue, Portsmouth, RI 02871
200 Highpoint Avenue, Portsmouth, RI 02871
LaserPerformance Sail & Sport LLC
Quarter Moon, Incorporation
Vanguard Sailing Center
Vanguard Racing Sailboats
Garda Company LLC
4 Testa Place, S. Norwalk, CT 06854
American Baby Products, Inc. f/k/a Maclaren USA, Inc. (in bankruptcy)
Excelsior Testa LLC
Excelsior Property Holdings LLC
25 Van Zant Street, Norwalk, CT 06854
Maclaren N.A., Inc.
Maclaren Services, Inc.
Dory Ventures LLC
Station Road, Long Buckby, Northampton, Northamptonshire NN6 7PF
LaserPerformance (Europe) Limited
Maclaren Europe Limited
Ronson International Limited
Full Moon Holdings Limited
Sina Holdco Limited
Richard M. Gauvin
Attention of – SailLaser LLC
Senior Corporate Paralegal – LaserPerformance LLC
VP Legal Affairs – LaserPerformance Sail & Sport LLC
Secretary – Quarter Moon, Incorporation
Secretary – Vanguard Sailing Center
Secretary – Vanguard Sailboats
Secretary – Vanguard Racing Sailboats
Secretary – American Baby Products, Inc. f/k/a Maclaren USA, Inc.
Secretary – Maclaren N.A., Inc.
Secretary – Maclaren Services, Inc.
Gauvin’s Business Address – Garda Company LLC
LLC Member of Garda – Quarter Moon Incorporated
This is just naming a few of the connections. It was enough to convince me that everything is related in some way or another. Rastegar was directly named in connection with the Van Zant Street companies.
The LASER trademarks seemed to be the trump card that LP played to motivate the ILCA to introduce the fundamental rule change which essentially booted Bruce Kirby. That didn’t sit right with me and it was the intellectual property (patents, copyrights and trademarks) that originally made me start checking things for myself. I found that LP does not own the LASER trademarks. At least, not directly. The LASER and MACLAREN trademarks are held in offshore holding companies. The companies share addresses and officers and run through several offshore jurisdictions that have favorable tax laws with limited to no public disclosure and, interestingly, are in jurisdictions that have legalized gambling. Is that a coincidence?
Karaya (Jersey) Limited, 14 Conway Street, St. Helier, Jersey
For $3.5M Quarter Moon, Inc. (Vanguard) sold its trademarks to Karaya Holdings Limited which then transferred it to Karaya (Jersey) Limited. The interesting thing here is that Thomas Katzuba von Urbisch, signed on behalf of Karaya and is listed as the correspondent on the bulk of the US trademark work and he appears to correspond with the Trademark Office strictly by email. When the US Trademark Office recently mailed a document to the Karaya address in Jersey, it was returned as undeliverable. When I searched for the address on the internet it showed to be the office of a licensed betting shop. I sure would like to know if Karaya is really at this address but I don’t plan to visit the Channel Islands anytime soon. The listed Karaya shareholder is Spring Meadow Holding Limited, Mill Mall, P. O. Box 964, Road Town, Tortola, British Virgin Islands.
Velum Limited and Armon Limited
17, rue du Cendrier, PO Box 1699 CH-1211, Geneva 1, Switzerland
These two companies hold some of the LASER (Velum) trademarks and all of the MACLAREN (Armon) trademarks. Both are Antigua/Barbuda companies using the same Switzerland address. There are no public records to check the ultimate owner. I searched the US Trademark Office for Switzerland addresses and found some 50,000 registrants. But when I narrowed the search to Switzerland addresses and Antigua/Barbuda registered companies, only the Rastegar trademarks came up as using this particular business structure. Why?
Thomas Georg Katzuba von Urbisch (Linked-In Profile)
This is an European attorney who appears to be managing the Rastegar trademark work and who also signs on behalf of many of the Rastegar entities and he seems to be associated with two service firms, Farbourg and SmartIPR. He uses different variations of his name and also uses the various addresses of the Rastegar entities as well as addresses in London, Isle of Man, Monte Carlo, and even a global mail drop box in a strip mall in Houston, TX. Why?
So, if a US company (LP/Maclaren) pays royalties to an Antigua/Barbuda company (Velum/Armon) with a Switzerland address, in what country is the bank account for that payment? Then if the trademark service company (Urbisch) with addresses in Isle of Man, London, and Monte Carlo also gets paid, in what country is his bank account? But, then there is the US service company (Dory) so I guess money flows back to the US to pay them too but there is also the ultimate shareholder whom we don’t know for the Velum and Armon companies but might guess is in the British Virgin islands like for Karaya. But, as we’ve seen, the companies are all interrelated and Rastegar is the presumed ultimate owner so it would seem that money comes out of the US and goes to several countries, with some staying offshore and some returning to the US. And now we’re being offered sailing sponsorship money from Maclaren and the LP unions. Is there a connection? I simply don’t know how these things work. Someone please tell me that this somehow makes perfect sense in the business world.
I tried but I simply could not piece this puzzle together so I’m going sailing.