Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Myth of Propworx

There used to be a prop and costume reseller called Propworx which was run by a guy named Alec Peters. Mr. Peters fancied himself to be quite the entrepreneur. He had only started collecting screen-used props and costumes in 2006 when Christie's had their big "40 Years of Star Trek" auction, but in 2009 he decided that he would show the world just how the prop business should be run by creating Propworx.

Fast forward to August of 2012 and Propworx files for bankruptcy. And not just any form of bankruptcy either. There was no "restructuring" to allow for repayment of debts or anything like that. Propworx underwent Chapter 7 – liquidation. How surprising then, that a mere two months later we are told that Propworx is back! Did they repay their creditors? No. They owed $401,466 to various creditors including MGM which was Propworx's customer for the Stargate auctions (MGM produced the various Stargate incarnations). And they didn't repay a cent. The bankruptcy court was under the impression that Propworx had no assets and so could not repay anything. The bankruptcy was settled on October 1.

So lots of people were surprised when, just one week later, Propworx was apparently selling props again. Here's what was sent around by Alec Peters to potential buyers:

"We have new BSG, Star Trek, Stargate, Iron Man and Hulk items up on eBay.

http://www.ebay.com/sch/linnear/m.html?item=120996676872&pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item1c2bf6c508&rt=nc&_trksid=p2047675.l2562

Or check out seller name Linnear.

There are 50 items this week and we have at least two more weeks of auctions! We had a bunch of new consignments come in recently and are cleaning out some of my personal collection. Dean is now working part time with me to clear out the warehouse and get auction items up. He can be reached at dean@propworx.com.

Thanks for all your support!

Alec Peters"

So just a week previously, Propworx had no assets. Then, as if by magic, one week later they do. That's amazing.

But no more amazing than Propworx itself. Here's what Mr. Peters had to say when Propworx closed:

"While we have done some great work, and the Battlestar auctions remain the pinnacle of that type of studio event auction, it is time to move on. And I really have no interest in just buying or selling props like The Prop Store or Screen Used (who both do an awesome job) or doing eBay auctions like VIP (which also does good work and I have recommended to studios). Our specialty was always event auctions accompanied by the best auction catalogs ever."

Propworx auctions are the pinnacle? I bet MGM would disagree with that, as would all of Propworx's other creditors. And that's where the myth comes in.

Ask yourself this: how successful would you consider yourself to be if you had $400,000 of other people's money that you agreed to pay, then didn't? Is that ANYONE'S idea of success? Yes – Alec Peters'. In his posts about Propworx there were many boasts about how they redefined the business and had great catalogs and such. But there's not one single word about the $400,000 that he was able to magically make disappear via bankruptcy court. There were no apologies to the companies he victimized nor any concern whatsoever about how PW's bankruptcy would affect those creditors. If you bought something from Propworx and had a positive experience, that's great. But you should know that it was at someone else's expense. That Stargate prop you got? It might not have ever been paid for – your money may have gone straight into Alec's pocket.

Here's another post from Peters accepting accolades for his work:

"Thank you all for the kind words! Propworx was an auction house that we built and did the things that we as collectors wanted to see. Thus the awesome catalogs, the state of the art COA's, the holograms, etc. "

That, in a nutshell, was what was important to the PW experience: pretty catalogs and COAs with holograms. Not spending money responsibly and fulfilling their contractual obligations to customers like MGM. Nope. Their attitude appears to be "we owe MGM and other creditors hundreds of thousands of dollars? Who cares? We have catalogs and holograms."  All hat, no cattle.

Is that YOUR idea of success? Is that what entrepreneurialism is about? Not in my opinion.

And THAT is the myth of Propworx. I've been in business for 20 years and I can tell you that success claimed at the expense of others is not success at all. It's pillaging. It's recklessness. But it's not success.

Not in this writer's opinion, anyway.

LLAP

Don Hillenbrand

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