38 Studios: Layoffs 'absolutely necessary'

Former Boston Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling’s faltering video game company, which received a $75 million loan guarantee to move to Rhode Island in 2010, laid off its entire staff on Thursday.

An email sent by the 38 Studios company to workers and obtained by The Associated Press says they were notified of the “non-voluntary and non-disciplinary” layoffs on Thursday.

“The Company is experiencing an economic downturn. To avoid further losses and possibility of retrenchment, the Company has decided that a companywide lay off is absolutely necessary,” the email said.

The company said a state Department of Labor and Training Rapid Response Team would be available to employees on Friday to help them with questions about unemployment.

Workers leaving the company’s One Empire Plaza headquarters Thursday night said little to reporters. One said that people who work in the industry can usually land on their feet.

Providence Mayor Angel Taveras said it’s a setback for economic development in the city.

“Obviously, this is something that we wanted to see succeed. So, it’s challenging for us. This was something that we hoped would attract a lot more people to the city of Providence,” Taveras told NBC 10 News.

38 Studios moved from Massachusetts after Rhode Island agreed to back the loan. Officials said the deal would bring hundreds of jobs and millions of dollars of tax revenue. The company was more than two weeks late this month on a $1.1 million payment to the state’s Economic Development Corp. State officials said the company wasn’t able to make its payroll.

Gov. Lincoln Chafee said the company was facing “grim times” but he wasn’t abandoning efforts to salvage the company and protect the state’s investment. The state would likely be responsible for some of 38 Studios’ debts should it collapse.

The company had 300 employees in Providence, Chafee said. It also has an office in Maryland. It released its much-anticipated first game, “Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning,” to strong reviews in February. Schilling, who also pitched for Baltimore, Houston, Philadelphia and Arizona, has said the game performed well, but Chafee has said it was a flop. The company was developing a massively multiplayer online game code-named “Copernicus.”

Chafee opposed the loan guarantee deal in 2010 while he was running for governor but has since said he wants to find a way to help make 38 Studios successful without giving it additional taxpayer assistance. But he has acknowledged the state is “in deep.”

Despite the layoffs, Chafee said he is continuing his efforts to salvage the company and the state’s investment in it.

“I’m still continuing to work for 38 Studios,” he said.

Chafee spokeswoman Christine Hunsinger said Thursday state officials were trying to determine whether 38 Studios is incorporated out of state, making it ineligible for millions of dollars in tax incentives it has applied for.

38 Studios applied for $2.1 million in film tax credits last year and sought over $6 million more last week. Chafee wants to cap at $5 million the amount of tax credits available to any project.

The political fallout from the state’s involvement with 38 Studios continued to play out as two members of the 12-member Economic Development Corp. board, which approved the loan guarantee in 2010, stepped down.

Board Vice Chairwoman Helena Foulkes said in a statement Thursday she spoke with Chafee and decided it was best that she resign. She said she wished him luck “in this very difficult challenge.”

Board member Stephen Lane has also decided to resign, Chafee announced Thursday afternoon.

Two other board members, Timothy Babineau and Daniel Sullivan, asked not to be reappointed to the board, Chafee said. The board members had been serving past the expiration of their term, Chafee said.

Last week, the EDC’s executive director, Keith Stokes, submitted his resignation to Chafee, and Chafee accepted it.

Chafee, asked if he was seeking the resignation of other board members who supported the 38 Studios loan guarantee, said “yes, we’re having those discussions.”

Article source: http://www2.turnto10.com/business/2012/may/24/26/ri-checking-38-studios-eligibility-tax-credits-ar-1048075/

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