Rhode Island economic development officials met with former Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling for hours behind closed doors Monday night to search for ways to save Schilling’s troubled video-game company without exposing taxpayers to further losses.
The company, 38 Studios, has already exhausted funds from a $75 million loan guarantee it received from the Ocean State; taxpayers may be on the hook for millions more in state credits as the company struggles to stay afloat.
But the Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation board took no action, and members provided little new information after the meeting. “Not much has changed since the previous meeting” last week, said Christine Hunsinger, a spokeswoman for Governor Lincoln Chafee, who chairs the board.
Schilling, founder and chairman of 38 Studios, pushed past a throng of reporters waiting for him, declining to comment other than saying he couldn’t clear up all the misinformation in a sound bite.
The agreement had been negotiated by Chafee’s predecessor as governor, Donald Carcieri, to persuade Schilling to move the company from Maynard, Mass., to Providence, and create 450 high-paying jobs; state officials hoped the operation would anchor a new economic sector.
But the subsidy is proving to be a political embarrassment as 38 Studios struggles to survive.
Schilling’s company, originally founded as Green Monster Games in Maynard six years ago, has spent tens of millions of dollars building an ambitious role-playing game code-named Copernicus, which would allow thousands of players to interact in an online fantasy world simultaneously.
But the game isn’t expected to be ready until at least June 2013, and it’s unclear how 38 Studios will be able to fund its operations until then.
The company told Rhode Island officials it is burning through nearly $1 million a month to support its Providence operations alone, and did not have enough money to meet its payroll last week.
Chafee indicated last night that the company has also had layoffs, but did not give details. The company made a $1.1 million loan-service payment on Friday, two weeks late.
The company did not respond to phone calls and e-mailed requests for comment. But workers appear to be feeling the stress.
Hank Howie, chief executive of Beach Cooler Games, a Boston mobile game start-up, said a 38 Studios employee told him last week that workers “are starting to feel the pinch of having not been paid.” Another told friends on Twitter he needed whiskey.
The company has more than 400 full-time workers in Rhode Island and Maryland.
Schilling said late Friday night on Facebook that he was relying on his faith: “Hebrews 11:1 has been my go-to the past few weeks.” The verse reads: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”
To spark interest from fans and investors, the company released a 2-minute trailer on Friday showing a peek at the new game’s fantasy world; the video has been viewed more than 100,000 times.