Powerboat Promoter, Producer Do Battle

Tampa Bay Business Journal by Arthur Frederick, Staff Writer

Date: Monday, July 7, 1997, 12:00am EDT

A contract dispute has erupted between a Tampa-based television producer and the American Power Boat Association that could send waves through this year's Fourth of July weekend offshore powerboat races in Sarasota.

The APBA, which conducts organized racing for all types of power boats, claims the producer had the right to accept a contract to produce programs of its 1997 offshore races but declined.

Bill Imboden, president of Production One Entertainment Group Inc. of Tampa, claims the APBA changed the terms of his contract and sought other bidders to produce and market tapes of the offshore races. The contract would have covered seven offshore races at around $20,000 per race, for a total of around $140,000, Imboden said.

Imboden blamed his problems on Gene Whipp of Sarasota, a boat dealer who chairs the APBA's Offshore Racing Commission. Whipp took over those duties at the first of the year.

According to Imboden's lawyer, William L. Yanger of Tampa, Imboden's production company had a contract with the APBA for the 1996 racing season, a contract that included a clause that should have allowed Imboden's company the right to match other bids for the 1997 season.

The contract was signed by Don Jones, the previous Offshore Racing Commission chairman, Yanger said. In January, however, Whipp replaced Jones, and Yanger said things started to change after that.

"(Imboden) couldn't find out when (races) were starting so he could do the pre-production," Yanger said. "Finally, they gave the contract to someone else -- in violation of the contract."

Yanger said the APBA also owes Imboden $9,374 from last year's racing series. He claims Whipp has promised to pay the money as long as Imboden signs a release promising not to sue over this year's contract dispute.