(WJBK) - Will Rogers used to say "I never met a man I didn't like." Gordie Howe sure seemed to have that same love for his fellow man. Unfortunately, Gordie's goodness left him vulnerable to business partners with their own agenda.
ML Elrick: "Will you just stop and answer some questions, sir? We want to give you a chance to have your say. You've been accused of ripping off one of the greatest hockey players of all time."
Del Reddy: "God bless you."
Well, I certainly appreciate the blessing, but what I could really use is some answers.
Answers to questions like these:
Why did you betray Gordie Howe?
Why did you start a charity in the Howes' name?
What happened to the charity's money?
When are you going to pay the $3 million you owe Mr. Hockey?
Looking at this guy's house I'm thinking we can all hazard a guess at the answer to that last question, but I'm getting a little ahead of myself.
"Del set this precedent that if anybody wanted any time with Gordie Howe, you had to pay him, period, that was it," said Detroit sports radio personality Art Regner.
The Del in question is Del Reddy, a Westland kid who became the gatekeeper to Gordie Howe.
"I was under the impression that he was just protective, and thought that for many years Gordie was not properly compensated," Regner said. "And he was going to make sure it didn't happen again."
The year was 1995, and Colleen Howe -- Mrs. Hockey -- was looking for help managing Power Play Incorporated, the company she created to help her husband make the kind of dough he never made playing hockey.
She hand-picked Del Reddy within a year, Aaron Howard had signed on.
By 2002, Colleen Howe's health was failing and something odd was going on behind the Howe family's backs -- Del and his father Michael Reddy created immortal investments incorporated.
The Howes had already published a book on Gordie Howe, but that didn't stop Immortal Investments from coming out with its own book on Mr. and Mrs. Hockey. It did have some new material, though, like photos of Del Reddy and Aaron Howard. And, what do you know, here's Michael Reddy with Mr. Hockey.
A year after creating Immortal Investments, Del Reddy and Aaron Howard created a charity in Colleen Howe's name -- even though the Howe family already had their own charity. The new charity's board was stocked with Del Reddy and Aaron Howard's family and friends.
The only Howe on the new charity's board was Gordie Howe -- who was famous for not paying attention to business matters. George Smith is an independent accountant with expertise in non-profits and charities. He says the Howe family should have been included.
"I think absolutely they should be on the board, at least one member of the Howe family, perhaps with the one son who's a doctor," said Smith.
While the Howe family was close-knit, Gordie Howe even came out of retirement to play professional hockey with his sons Mark and Marty -- Mr. Hockey's kids had their own lives, leaving Del Reddy and Aaron Howard in charge of Gordie Howe's business affairs, which suited Mr. Hockey just fine.
"Gordie just wanted to meet people," Regner said.
Perhaps no Detroit sports reporter is a bigger Red Wings fan than Art Regner.
But Regner hit an unexpected roadblock when he asked his friend Gordie Howe to participate in an oral history of the Red Wings.
"If you're going to write a book about the Red Wings, Gordie Howe has to be in it," Regner said. "He was not because he was told he couldn't do it. It's not that he didn't want to do it."
Elrick: "And who told him he couldn't do it?"
"From what I was told, it was Del," Regner said.
Even Mr. Hockey's son couldn't change his mind.
"Mark was all for it," Regner said. "I think he wanted his dad to be in this book."
While Mark Howe couldn't change his dad's mind, Del Reddy had no problem getting Gordie Howe to do things for Del's daddy.
In fact, the Howes became so concerned that the Reddys were using Gordie Howe to make money for themselves rather than Gordie, they sued in 2007.
The lawsuit accused the Reddys and Aaron Howard of using Gordie Howe to make money for their company, immortal investments, instead of for Howe's own company.
Legal documents say Del Reddy sold Gordie Howe's stake in the Vancouver Giants minor league hockey team by claiming that Howe needed the dough, then lied to the family about how the deal went down.
As the case progressed through Oakland County Circuit Court, things got messy. Gordie Howe testified in a deposition that he trusted Del Reddy and Aaron Howard, even considering them family.
But the Howe family's lawyers revealed that the Reddys brokered deals that benefitted them more than Mr. Hockey.
After a year of battling, the case was settled in November 2008. The Reddys and Aaron Howard agreed to shut down their Howe-related charity, return all of their Gordie Howe memorabilia, photos and books, and to never use the Howe name to make another dime and that's when things got really messy.
Two weeks after everyone thought the case was settled, Mike Reddy met the Howe's attorney in this parking lot. Mike Reddy turned over a moving van and two passenger vans stuffed with Howe memorabilia.
And then he handed over two notes. They look harmless enough, each confirming that Reddy paid to have two loads shredded. But they would ultimately cost the Reddys and Aaron Howard a fortune.
The Howes believe Mike Reddy destroyed a treasure trove of Gordie Howe memorabilia and so they went back to court. A jury ultimately awarded them more than $3 million.
But in all the fighting over the swag, it appears the Howes forgot about the charity Aaron Howard and the Reddys created.
Despite its grandiose name, the Worldwide Institute for Neurological Discoveries, the charity did little more than rake in about $100,000 from Gordie Howe events.
The only donations were $5,000 for a research fund in Canada and a measly $233 to the United Way here in Detroit.
Its final transaction was to spend nearly every cent of the $105,000 it had in the kitty on 1,448 books, most of which were published by the company owned by the Reddys.
"It makes no sense at all," Smith said. "Cash is cash. Cash is king. Let's be honest, books are something you're now forcing these folks to sell - incurring costs to sell. It's not like you just stand on a street corner and say 'Here's a Gordie Howe book. It's $80. Please buy it off of us.'"
Smith reviewed tax documents for both charities and found no indication the books ever made it to the Howe Foundation.
"It reeks of inurement, I can tell you that," Smith said.
Elrick: "What's inurement?"
"It means it's a private benefit transaction which means someone who is an operator, director, owner of a nonprofit received a benefit that they really shouldn't have received from the nonprofit," Smith said.
Elrick: "It: sounds like putting money in your own pocket."
Elrick: "And that's not good."
Smith: "Not good."
If that deal sounds fishy, it looks even worse. The charity says it turned those books over to the Howe family's charity.
Neither the Howes or their lawyer would comment and when the paper trail turns into a dead end, it's time to turn to the people.
So FOX 2 called Del Reddy multiple times, but got no answer. Then we went to his house.
Elrick: "Will you just stop and answer some questions, sir? We want to give you a chance to have your say. You've been accused of ripping off one of the greatest hockey players of all time."
Del Reddy: "God bless you."
Elrick: "Sir, would you just come out and talk to us? I guess he's not going to talk. And I guess he's not going to pay."
The Reddy's and Howard's attorney wouldn't discuss the charity money, either.
Of course, they've got a bigger problem on their hands. They were hoping the Michigan Court of Appeals would throw out the $3 million jury verdict against them.
But on the day before Gordie Howe died, the appeals court said the Reddys and Aaron Howard had to pay up, giving Mr. Hockey one final victory.