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The day Niche forced Powers to resign, Ocean Drive's February issue featured Food Network celeb Padma Lakshmi on the cover. It was a 218-page book that included longtime sections such as "Beach Patrol," which spotlights a local entrepreneur, and "Shot on Site," pages and pages of photos depicting local, plugged-in, beautiful people at swanky events around Miami. In fact, it's difficult to see a difference in the magazine's content and production quality before and after the Powers era.
The ex-publisher says he was ready to retire. "I thought I wanted to live the last quarter of my life on a hammock between two palm trees," he explains. "I thought I would be happy traveling, snorkeling, and boating in the Caribbean."
He and his wife Sandi went on a three-week vacation to Saint Barts. Powers says he was beside himself after the second week. When he returned home, he opened Power Play Studio, a photography and video production center in midtown Miami. Soon, though, he realized the recession had all but killed his market. "The economy here has not come back," Powers says matter-of-factly. "And the fashion photography business has moved on to other exotic locales."
This past May, retired Miami Heat star Alonzo Mourning invited Powers to mentor 19 teenagers at the Overtown Youth Center, a public facility that caters to inner-city kids, to produce a not-for-profit magazine called IE2: Inspire, Enrich & Empower. Mourning is the center's chairman emeritus. Powers spent June, July, and August teaching the youngsters. He recruited some of his old employees to help the kids. The one and only issue was supposed to come out in September. The kids sold 25 ads for a total of $10,000 to pay for printing. Any remaining funds would be donated to the youth center. Some of the advertisers included companies that buy ad space from Niche Media.
Apparently that didn't sit well with Binn and his Greenspun bosses. According to a federal lawsuit Powers filed against Niche Media last month, Binn told the youth center chairman that Powers's involvement in the magazine violated the noncompete agreement. Legal action was threatened.
Powers filed his lawsuit as a preemptive strike for two reasons, he says. First, Powers claims, he wants the youth center teens' magazine published. Second, he is determined to return to magazine publishing. "I've read my noncompete agreement," he says. "It clearly states that I can go back to work two years from the day I sold Ocean Drive, which falls on November 1 of this year."
In its counterclaim, Niche Media accuses Powers of using the youth magazine as a publicity stunt.
But even if Powers wins that fight, he still must contend with the widow of another former magazine investor. Lee Daniels, whose husband Derick helped mold Ocean Drive during its early days, sued Powers, his wife, and his daughter in Miami-Dade Circuit Court in February 2008. According to the complaint, which is still pending, Powers cheated Daniels out of $2 million from the sale. According to a November 1992 agreement that her husband (who died in 2005) and Powers signed, the Danielses owned 10 percent of the company.
Lee Daniels accuses Powers of driving down his firm's value by $18 million so his partners would get a lesser share. She also claims that in 2007, Powers diverted $2.7 million in magazine revenues to support his lavish lifestyle, including paying for the upkeep of his vacation home in Saint Barts and a yacht docked on Fisher Island.
Powers will say only that the lawsuit's claims are "totally false." Lounging inside Power Play Studio, he prefers to talk about his future. "I am far from being retired. I'm ready to start my next media adventure, which is only limited by imagination. I want to be surrounded by creative people making magic."