Unfit for Print: An angel investor pitches in to salvage the reputation of a St. Louis publisher

Unfit for Print: An angel investor pitches in to salvage the reputation of a St. Louis publisher
Bill Hippert
Matt Mathison (center) at the party celebrating the launch of the now-defunct Avid flanked by editor Dan Michel (right) and investor Richard Riney.

The downtown launch party for The 9s, a new St. Louis men's magazine, was the place to be on January 9. Cardinals third baseman David Freese showed up that night at Jim Edmonds 15 Steakhouse. So did several Rams players, plus fashion designer Ola Hawatmeh and local social-media stars Chris Reimer and Aaron Perlut. As flashbulbs flickered, revelers mingled with the young co-publishers: pro baseball player Bobby Keppel and his wife, Suzanne.

Yet one magazine staffer was hiding in plain sight, a native St. Louisan whose reputation is so toxic that on the masthead he goes by a pseudonym: "Executive Editor Matthew Morton." His real name is George Bertram "Matt" Mathison IV.

"The 9s wouldn't be here without Matt," confirms The 9s editor in chief Kim Gordon. "But the focus of our efforts is producing The 9s; it's not about the past. That's why Matt didn't want to put his real name out there. He wanted to protect Bobby and Suzanne from that."

Co-publishers Suzanne and Bobby Keppel at The 9s launch party in St. Charles.
Steve Truesdell
Co-publishers Suzanne and Bobby Keppel at The 9s launch party in St. Charles.
Matt Holliday on the cover of The 9s first issue.
Steve Truesdell
Matt Holliday on the cover of The 9s first issue.

Over the past seven years, the 42-year-old Mathison has tried — and failed — to launch three different golf magazines, both in St. Louis and in Atlanta. In the process, he has left behind a trail of litigation, debts and bad blood.

His most recent attempt was Avid, a St. Louis publication geared toward affluent men and bankrolled by Richard Riney, son of Scottrade founder Rodger Riney. That venture disintegrated in 2011 amid bitter allegations of fraud and stealing. Riney declined to comment for this story through his attorney, Chris McDonough. But the lawyer himself didn't hesitate to sound off.

"He's a con man," McDonough says of Mathison. "That's not my opinion. That's an adjudicated fact."

Neither Keppel nor Mathison wished to talk at length about their personal relationship. And it's not entirely clear how much Keppel, a De Smet Jesuit High School grad and former first-round pick in the 2000 Major League Baseball draft, knows of Mathison's past. But both have hinted that behind the scenes of their magazine is the story of a baseball pitcher whose Catholic faith compels him to throw lifelines to people like Mathison.

"I made mistakes in my life," Mathison admits today. "With the Keppels, being good people is not something they just try to do — it's just something they are. And I've learned a lot from them."

The question is: Has he?


Dan Michel recalls his first meeting with the founders of Avid. In hindsight he also sees the warning signs.

It was the late summer of 2010. Richard Riney had asked the then 26-year-old Michel to stop by the St. Louis Bread Company in Brentwood to hear his new business idea. The two traveled in similar circles and had crossed paths while following the jam band Phish on tour. But at the meeting, it was a stranger with salt-and-pepper hair — Matt Mathison — who ended up doing most of the talking.

"He was very charismatic and passionate about what he wanted this magazine to be, and how he thought I could help," Michel says. "And he was very rushed to get things started."

At the time, Michel was writing ad copy for St. Louis Magazine. Mathison offered him a big step up: the editor in chief position of a golf magazine called Avid. He accepted.

Soon, Mathison, Michel and other contributors were gathering daily in an office complex in west county, hustling to put together a 100-page first issue. Riney very rarely came into the office, Michel says. But court records show he pumped in at least $125,000 before a single page was printed.

By November 2010 the inaugural issue was ready for release. Mathison hired the local PR firm Common Ground to throw a launch party, with a month's notice, at Bar Napoli in downtown Clayton. He bragged to them that Australian pro golfer Steve Elkington would show up, so they announced it in a press release. Elkington never showed.

Nevertheless, the party was "packed," recalls Denise Bentele, co-owner of Common Ground. "It was a huge success."

The hangover soon followed.

Despite repeated assurances from Mathison, Bentele couldn't get paid.

"Every day Matt had a story," she says. "The best was when he said his car overheated on the highway, and I think it was eight degrees outside. That was pretty funny." (Bentele's firm persisted and managed to collect.)

A free publication distributed at retailers, restaurants and golf courses, Avid generated all its revenue from advertising. But Michel says the first issue contained only a handful of paid ads. The rest were giveaways, and even securing those was a challenge.

Yet Mathison didn't appear too worried about money: He moved his family into a rented house in Ladue that was recently appraised at $778,200. (Court records indicate he was later evicted from that home and from two subsequent houses in Chesterfield for non-payment.)

For the spring 2011 fashion issue, Avid hired the high-end local photographer Tuan Lee to provide some art. Afterward, Lee complained about not receiving compensation. So did the Centro models who posed in the shoots. So did Avid's layout designers, based in Chicago. So did several writers and photographers.

"Everybody was coming to me," Michel recalls. Mathison promised his editor he was sending checks, and suggested the culprit might be errors at the bank or the post office.

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18 comments
flaminghammerfan
flaminghammerfan

@clouise71as @flaminghammerstated, your background is irrelevant to the story.  What is relevant are the facts, and I have not read one thing that disputes anything in the article.  The only fact you provided was the data from the SBA website (good job on browsing the web.)  See if you can find any facts on business closure with the person who has fiduciary responsibility takes all the money for personal use and not for company growth (and still doesn't pay vendors or employees).  BTW that is called a con.

The fact he owes so much money in court settlements (probably over $500k) he'll need to make millions to do this.  He had plenty of opportunities to run a legitimate business, but as stated in the article, he has only left a trail of lawsuits and very angry investors and employees.  The best quote was from AN ATTORNEY - "He's a con man," McDonough says of Mathison. "That's not my opinion. That's an adjudicated fact."

And how you can argue that pleading guilty IN CRIMINAL COURT to theft is somehow not correlated to a conviction is ludicrous.  

So from now on - please only send proven facts that dispute anything in the article.  Otherwise, get a hold of the 7 embassies  of the countries you supposedly lived in, and get Mathison a one way ticket there.  That would make America a much better place for all of us to live.


flaminghammer
flaminghammer

@clouise71, this article is for me, repayment enough. The fact that people will be warned against doing business with Mathison is a service. He might be a fun guy to hang out with, but he's an extremely sketchy person to do business with. So continue to be his friend, yes, just don't conduct business with him. You don't get to screw over that many people and not have long-lasting consequences. He's enjoyed that luxury for FAR too long.


And Like Richard Riney, Bobby and Suzanne have no idea how to run a magazine. Make no mistake, Matt might not have discretionary spending this time around, but he is running the show. If the Keppel's want this publication to really stand for the integrity and goodness they seem stand for, they'll hire somebody to run it with the ability to espouse those ethics. Am I idealistic? Yes. If the Keppel's want this magazine to really be the positive influence they claim it will be, then maybe they can display just a bit of idealism as well. 

clouise71
clouise71

@flamminghammer, I actually enjoyed your commentary. And point taken with regards to the expose (btw, Steven Brill did and excellent job...class of '68 at my school) I am not any better or worse than anyone else. I can assure you I have no illusions of superiority. I also stated in my first commentary that I have known Matt for over 30 years, so that puts us at 8 years old.

I told you and anyone else who was reading who I am and not my qualifications only because you questioned my existence...I am not Matt. Matt is a good guy. Matt is a dreamer with big expectations and high hopes that didn't mesh with the budget he was allowed and that caught up with him (that is my "spin" on it...obviously grossly oversimplified). He made bad decisions that affected the people he worked with and ultimately himself and his family. So now everyone is paying for it (family included).

He found, in Bobby and Suzanne, people who also saw the visionary he is and knowing his shortcomings, decided that with their guidance and management, they could help him reach his potential as well as atone for his offenses. He messed up BIG TIME and now they are willing to hold his hand (if even just to make sure he walks a straight and narrow line).

This new publication is more than just a golf magazine. It's a magazine that Bobby and Suzanne hope will make men better people by informing/influencing them to make smarter and more informed choices in their lives. It's a lifestyle magazine that targets a niche...and it's owned by the Keppel's and not Matt. They run the show.

Matt's life right now is by no means glamorous or great right now and it hasn't been for a while. Now he must make amends and for an indefinite period of time. It means wearing a big red "A" (maybe for Avid) on his chest and facing his debts on a day to day basis...all under a microscope.

As for my analogies, I was not comparing Matt in any way to these inventors, I was pointing out the amount of failed attempts that it may take before you achieve success. My hope is that is that this is the right combination to make it work.

I wish you the best and hope that someday you will be recompensed for your losses.

Until then good luck and God Bless. Over and Out.

flaminghammer
flaminghammer

Wow clouise71, Matt Mathison has you wrapped around his finger. I said you were either personally or professionally involved with Mathison and you have revealed that to be the truth, so no I'm not disappointed. 

No one cares about your qualifications and everybody knows what Libel is. Your obviously not any more intelligent than the rest of us, so get off your high horse. 

And now you are comparing Mathison's business career to some of the greatest inventors of our time? Gimme a break... Oh and your basketball analogy, I think it would be more appropriate to say that every time a basketball player makes a basket the team gets paid—even when he misses the whole team gets paid.

And for such an educated person, it doesn't seem that you read the news with a very critical eye. Most news stories have a perceived slant. It's difficult to avoid as a journalist. But this isn't even that type of story. It's an expose, they have more slant than most stories by nature, correct? That's the only point I was trying to make. I'm all for balanced journalism. 

And in my book, pleading guilty means your guilty for all intents and purposes. What, the judge placed him on community supervision for no reason????

I've struggled, failed and succeeded in small business as well, all without ripping anybody off, and I've ALWAYS payed my bills. Isn't that what Libertarians tout? Bootstrap kind of people? Not being a drain on the system? Apparently you respect the type of people that try to succeed at all costs, even if that means disrespecting every body else's property, trust and time. Maybe at the core, you're not as Libertarian as you think you are? Perhaps you shouldn't "pray for me" and instead pray for yourself and Mathison? I'm sorry to hear of the illness in his family. We all deal with personal tragedies. Although I'm glad that everybody is OK, I'm skeptical that that has been some kind of a truly 'transformative' experience for Mathison.

Matt Matthison isn't in his formative years, he is who he is. You're being extremely naive. The only reason you perceive him to be truly sorry and changed is because his reputation has finally caught up with him. I'm just surprised it took this long.

clouise71
clouise71

@flaminghammer ...sorry to disappoint, I guess it would liven it up to add more "spice" to a story that has been beaten to death.  I am a married, Catholic, mother of four, die hard Libertarian, card carrying member of the NRA and a believer in the US and capitalism. I have also lived in seven different countries and have seen it all.  That being said...

FACT: The US Small Business Administration states the 50% of all small business fail in the first 5 years.  Sorry if you lost your job or lost some money, but that is part of our capitalistic society that allows you to make it or break it.  Don't like it...move to Russia.  There you don't get a choice or a chance to even try.  Like it or not we live in America.

You want an analogy?   The best professional baseball players strike out 7 of every 10 baseball at bats.  The best professional basketball players in the world make baskets less than half the time they shoot the ball.  Edison failed over 1000 times before he perfected the light bulb and the Wright Brothers failed hundreds of times before taking flight.

People....PLEADING GUILTY DOES NOT MEAN CONVICTION!

Seriously, it's like the show Jay Walking on this blog...please educate yourselves!

The state recommended that he receive deferred adjudication and pay restitution in an amount to be determined by the trial court.  (The judgement was to "Pay what you owe!...he was NOT CONVICTED of anything).  In accordance with the plea agreement, the court deferred the adjudication of guilt and placed Mathison on community supervision for ten (10) years. 

@flaminghammer ..."So what if there is an agenda?"...well, refer to the journalism code of ethics...I wrote it out below...journalism has to be objective...aka, no agenda.  A statement of facts, not heresay or speculation.

Do you know what Libel is? Look it up...and then refer to the article and then back it up...go to your law books and look up TORT.

We have laws in this country so that people on both sides can have a fair chance at proving themselves. I am sorry for your loss but you need to move on (if you can't then get in touch with Matt and see what you two can work out...might even be therapeutic ).  I am sure we all appreciate your help in warning us by way of your experience...we can consider ourselves forewarned.

I hope you can find peace @flaminghammer ...life has a way of changing people.  In this case, Mr. Mathison almost lost his child and fiance to grave illnesses this past year.  (I know this for a fact). 

I pray for both of you.

flamminghammerfan
flamminghammerfan

@flaminghammer I'd be willing to bet all the money that Mathison stole, that "cluelesshammer" is Mathison, and most likely "clouise71" and "brookra77".  It's classic Mathison trying to make you feel bad for posting the truth, since you did hit close to home.  I wouldn't be surprised if Mathison actually posted under his real name, claiming he is not "cluelesshammer" or the other posters, but we all know that it is him.

The facts in the article are true.  The authorities will take another look.  The Keppel's need to keep an eye on their money and not allow any funds to be paid (or promised) without their approval.  The magazine business is tough, and they don't need a boat anchor or bad publicity to bring them down.  The fact Mathison had to use his mother's maiden name, Morton, in the publication, should raise serious red flags to begin with.  Seriously, how many people have you ever heard of doing that in any profession?  Or telling business partners he needs $100k to buy GolfBuzz, and not letting them know where the money went after the deal didn't come to fruition?  Or not having the balls to tell your employees that their health insurance premiums are not being paid (or their salaries for that matter)?


flaminghammer
flaminghammer

@ cluelesshammer... that's classic. The person who creates an anonymous screen name just to insult me is accusing me of hiding behind a screen name. You seem angry too, and the fact that you created an alias just to insult me makes me think that my comments hit a little bit too close to home for you. You are very obviously personally or professionally involved with one or more of the players here, and I will not be legally baited by you. Nice try. Like I said, I've written it off as a loss.

Trying to spin me into the bad guy for warning others away from Mathison isn't going to work. Yes, I've been burned. Am I still angry? Absolutely! If somebody stole money from you wouldn't you be? If you had the opportunity to warn others so that the same didn't happen to them wouldn't you?

Insofar as the article is concerned, I think it was more balanced that Mathison deserved. But yes, obviously he pissed off the wrong people. Screw enough people and there are consequences. And theres nothing wrong with an online review. Assuming you aren't anti-better business bureau, I get that you make the distinction between a business and the person running it, but there is a gray area. He's still in a position of "authority" in this new venture, and thusly represents the business. Mathison has made bad decisions that span multiple business ventures that have affected others negatively. So the FACTS are that Mathison has a long history of screwing the people he does business with and that, my friend, transcends THIS individual business. I'm well aware of the facts Clueless. Here's another one for you. Many decisions to not pay people were done BEFORE the magazine folded. And those decisions were made by Mathison. 

Like grandpa used to say, "You can't shine a turd." 9s magazine is basically Avid with a different name and investor.

cluelesshammer
cluelesshammer

@flaminghammer If in fact you weren't compensated by Mathison in a previous business then why don't you post your name, what you did for him, and how much you are owed instead of hiding behind your screenname and rambling on about how scarred you are. Trust me, we get that.

You might also want to take note of the fact that the new magazine is not Mathisons. He does not own any part of it. Why don't you look that up? I'm not a fan of Mathisons either but this article was a blatant attempt to destroy the man and clearly you are happy about what was written. Personally, I don't like articles of this nature no matter who the subject is. The bigger question is why wait this long to write a story about him? Is it because he's trying to still make it in the publication business and you don't like it? Businesses fail all the time flamminghammer and I can assure you that not everyone gets paid when the business fails. And they certainly dont take to the press to voice their concerns. Hire a lawyer and take it up with him there. 

Until then, make sure you get your facts straight before going on a tangent. You telling people to "avoid the 9s like the plague" is the furthest thing from ethical and unfair to the people who do own the 9s. Somehow I don't think you have the mind or the sense of professionalism to think that objectively.

flaminghammer
flaminghammer

@clouise71, Yes, so what if there is an agenda? Have you read the article in the latest Time magazine entitled "Bitter Pill"? It's an expose on our healthcare system and the outlandish mark-ups that hospitals charge and how we as the consumer get royally screwed in the process. Yes it's written in a factual manner and obviously the "agenda" is to hopefully cause positive change for we the people. @brookra77 – interesting how you and clouise71 are trying to turn this around and position Mathison as some kind of underdog. Poor Mathison is being attacked by the big, bad RFT! He's, the victim in all of this! Simple minded people love an underdog despite their actions, but the only underdogs in this story are the people who offered services, expertise and time to Mathison and were never compensated. That's theft people, pure and simple. It's also a BIG lack of respect for others and a breach of trust. You say you don't know anybody involved? I do—I WAS one of the people involved... and I can tell you that there are other people that have negative opinions of Mathison that weren't interviewed for this article either. 

This story is important to tell because it keeps happening. You can stick your head in the sand and look at the pretty pictures in his new mag brookra77, but anybody else that respects decent business and social ethics will avoid the 9s magazine like the plague. 

Coperfield
Coperfield

Clouise71 - I guess pleading guilty doesn't count as a conviction?

George Bertram Mathison, IV, was charged with theft of property valued between $100,000 and $200,000. Pursuant to a plea agreement, he pled guilty to theft of property valued between $20,000 and $100,000, and the State recommended that he receive deferred adjudication and pay restitution in an amount to be determined by the trial court. In accordance with the plea agreement, the court deferred the adjudication of guilt and placed Mathison on community supervision for ten (10) years. The court subsequently conducted an evidentiary hearing and ordered Mathison to pay $193,700 in restitution as a condition of community supervision.

brookra77
brookra77

Thanks for the background info clouise.  Me, I don't know anybody involved.  It just struck me as a weird piece to have on the cover.  My thoughts were why is RFT trying so hard to attack the legitimacy of another STL magazine?  I picked up Avid a few times when it was in circulation, it was a quality publication.  I didn't even know that The 9s was in circulation, but now I'm going to go looking for a copy. 

Bottom line for me, there are probably 1000 people in St Louis guilty of far worse than what's portrayed here.  Why not write cover stories for any of them?  The answer, again to me, seems obvious - none of them are involved in creating competition for RFT.  And now that we know ex-Avid people are on staff at RFT, it all makes sense. 

clouise71
clouise71

wow...I am sorry for your bitter experiences...I actually have known Matt for over 30 years...I also do my research. That being said, there are a few people that aren't even mentioned in this article that I know that were in fact interviewed and had positive things to say about Matt. By the way, does anyone know who the editorial coordinator for the RFT is? Liz Miller (an ex-employee for Avid Magazine). Do you know who one of her very good friends is? Dan Michel (the ex-editor for Avid Magazine).Anyone ever heard of Brooke Foster? She is a contributing writer for the RFT (ex-employee of Common Ground Public Relations)Despite all the failings and mishaps that Mr. Mathison has had (and admitted to) it seems to me that there are people here with an agenda. The is a lot of bashing of one man and your focus has been that of his integrity or lack there of. So to those who have "thrown the first stone", I question your integrity, journalistic that is, and offer up 6 simple concepts that your professional code of ethics consists of: 1 - truthfulness 2 - accuracy 3 - objectivity 4 - impartiality 5 - fairness & 6 - public accountability The facts are not all correct. There is quite a bit of heresay and I know you the word Libel.Court records were not read right. There have also been NO convictions (look it up).I think its sad to believe someone can't change. I wouldn't ever say to a person with a drug or alcohol problem they can't get their act clean, because I know they can.If Matt has burned you then confront him and let him try to make it right. It seems to me he is trying already and has the help of Bobby and Suzanne who believe in his rehabilitation. These are people who have been down and out as well or have helped others, and are willing to give him a chance.There are always two sides to every story. Do not be so quick to judge.

clouise71
clouise71

wow...I am sorry for your bitter experiences...

I actually have known Matt for over 30 years...

I also do my research. That being said, there are a few people that aren't even mentioned in this article that I know that were in fact interviewed and had positive things to say about Matt.

By the way, does anyone know who the editorial coordinator for the RFT is?

Liz Miller (an ex-employee for Avid Magazine).

Do you know who one of her very good friends is?

Dan Michel (the ex-editor for Avid Magazine).

Anyone ever heard of Brooke Foster?

She is a contributing writer for the RFT (ex-employee of Common Ground Public Relations)

Despite all the failings and mishaps that Mr. Mathison has had (and admitted to) it seems to me that there are people here with an agenda. The is a lot of bashing of one man and your focus has been that of his integrity or lack there of.

So to those who have "thrown the first stone", I question your integrity, journalistic that is, and offer up 6 simple concepts that your professional code of ethics consists of:

1 - truthfulness

2 - accuracy

3 - objectivity

4 - impartiality

5 - fairness &

6 - public accountability

The facts are not all correct.

There is quite a bit of heresay and I know you

brywell12
brywell12

Well said Flaminghammer - and btw do not rent a house to him.  Letting it sit empty would have been much less expensive.

flaminghammer
flaminghammer

wow brookra77, seems you are a friend of Mathison's. He probably told you to post that? Did you not read the entire story? He was sent to jail!!!! He doesn't have more criminal charges against him DESPITE screwing over anybody that has ever worked with him. Check out his court records in MO and GA and check out how many people are suing him. I can personally tell you there are others not mentioned in this story that are owed money for work performed that will NEVER see it. Matt is a grifter, pure and simple. It is true that he's a good salesman, but he uses it for evil. In my life I've known a few people like Matt and if there's one thing I know, these people NEVER reform. They get off on taking advantage of the people that give them opportunities or are trying to help them in some way. Mathison will always find a way to use his position to make as much money as possible, damn the legalities and ethics, after all he's got a lifestyle that needs to be maintained—big house, nice car, boob job for the wife, etc. 


It seems the main motivating factor in Bobby Keppel's helping hand has less to do with benefaction, and more to do with his gambling problem. Who else would bank on a proven long shot like Mathison, other than a gambling junky? Bobby should have just gone on a spending spree instead of throwing away money on Matt and the magazine business. Matt has very expensive tastes, and this time you actually have to pay your vendors and employees. That means actually selling ads, not giving them away to have the appearance of success (much like Matt's illusory lifestyle).

The 9's magazine will always be toxic as long as Matt Mathison is at the helm. It taints any product/service that advertises in that magazine. If you work for this company it will be short term at best. Just a PSA. This is all one man's very educated (the hard way) opinion.

brywell12
brywell12

brookra77 - did we read the same article?  Conviction for theft in Texas and agreement with Riney in court to plead guilty of theft - those are both criminal charges.  Probably a matter of time before the authorities read this article and open up a bigger investigation.

brookra77
brookra77

Sounds like somebody at RFT has a chip on their shoulder toward Matt Mathison.  This whole story reads as one big hit piece.  If Matt is so dirty, why is nobody pressing criminal charges?  Maybe it's that RFT sees The 9s as competition.

garyh1
garyh1

I have a feeling that the owners of The  9s Magazine will be suing Mathison in the future based on his track record!

 
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