With the announcement on November 11, 2013 of the closing of Vision Forum Ministries numerous employees were terminated, leaving only a skeleton crew. Shorty thereafter a number of Vision Forum Inc employees were also terminated, signaling the imminent demise of VFI.
There were numerous signs even prior to the public announcement of Doug Phillips’ clergy sexual abuse (I won’t dignify it with the term “extra-marital affair” as many others have) that Vision Forum Inc, the for-profit business venture solely owned by Doug Phillips, was in serious financial trouble. Most telling of all was the absence in our mailboxes this year of the colorful Vision Forum catalog. The VF catalog has been the pride and joy of Doug Phillips for years, and it’s a significant element of his personal identity.
On the non-profit ministry side of the house, Vision Forum Ministries “postponed” the 2014 San Antonio Independent Film Festival, and the Christian Filmmakers Academy. The SAIFF was Vision Forum Ministries’ most perennially popular event ever.
Many other highly successful events, such as the Witherspoon School of Law and Public Policy, also weren’t rescheduled for this year or next year, and some stopped being rescheduled from several years ago, even though they’d been well attended and profitable. From reviewing the tax returns that are still publicly available (2009, 2010, 2011) one can easily determine that millions of dollars poured into Vision Forum Ministries. The last tax return available (2011) shows:
That left $1,610,165 surplus at year’s end. That kind of money could have funded any number of VFM conferences and events but, instead, we saw multiple cancellations and postponements. Where have all the donations disappeared to? It would appear that Doug Phillips may have been feathering his nest for over a year in anticipation of his downfall. Either that or he might perhaps have just been squandering it on himself. The numerous lavish foreign Phillips family trips would be indicative of that, and Doug routinely also brought along his paramour on such trips, paid for out of Vision Forum Ministries donor funds..
Throughout this same period Doug Phillips and his family were living the life of Riley. Multiple lavish trips to exotic lands, the best of accommodations, always dressed to the nines, all paid for by Vision Forum Ministries tax-deductible donor funds, including the luxurious Ancient Greece Tour barely one month prior to Doug’s resignation. Noticeably absent as a speaker was Doug Phillips (though Doug and his family were there enjoying themselves). Rev. Joe Morecraft was informed after arriving that he would have to fill in for Doug on the tour for unexplained reasons. Eventually he determined what the real reason was. Dr. Morecraft’s discovery of the sex scandal was, from all reports, personally “catastrophic” to him.
The timing of the sex scandal couldn’t have been worse for Doug Phillips. If he could have just kept the lid on it through the Christmas season it might have made a huge difference to his bank account and it would have saved many jobs, at least for a few more months.
Although Doug Phillips forbids his family from practicing Christmas because, as we know, it’s a nasty Catholic holiday, he doesn’t mind capitalizing on it to plunder the rest of us who do celebrate Catholic holidays. Vision Forum Inc rakes in huge profits at this time of year, and upwards of 90% of VFI’s annual profits happen in the fourth quarter of the year. Starting this Black Friday it will be make it or break it for Vision Forum Inc. Or will it?
Actually it won’t make any difference for the future of Vision Forum Inc. Doug Phillips intends to permanently close VFI effective December 31, 2013. In all likelihood, most if not all of the liquid assets have already been secreted away and non-liquid assets will soon be sold off. When Doug Phillips or his legal representative do formally announce the dissolution of Vision Forum Inc it will likely come with a notice of filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. This will afford Doug Phillips the opportunity to legally stiff any of VFI’s creditors.
The Doug Phillips family will also have to find different living accommodations, perhaps more modest, or perhaps not, depending on how well Doug has plundered the ministry and business coffers. Vision Forum Ministries owns the lavish house, as well the furnishings in it, and the family automobiles, and a great many other things, allegedly including even clothing. In effect, Doug Phillips has used Vision Forum Ministries as his personal piggy bank for years, straining all credulity when it comes to filing an honest tax return.
The board of directors has given until the end of the year for Doug and his family to move out of the ministry-owned house. The VFM board of directors will repossess (and may have already repossessed) any and all assets that Doug purchased with VFM monies for his personal use. This includes everything from automobiles, home furnishings, and perhaps even clothing. Some may view this as retaliatory on the part of the board (and perhaps it is to some degree), but the fact of the matter is they have a legal obligation to do everything they can to remedy any tax fraud and fiduciary malfeasance that Doug Phillips may have perpetrated.
The VFM board will be liquidating all VFM assets, including the house, home furnishings, office equipment and furnishings, all remaining inventory, and the Vision Forum office building at 4719 Blanco Road, San Antonio, starting January 1, 2014.
Doug’s prospects of providing for his family in Texas seem bleak. Doug’s mother is in Virginia, as are Beall’s parents, so Virginia might make an appealing place to make their next abode. Beall’s father is also an attorney.
None of this debacle came upon Doug Phillips unexpectedly. He’s been in damage control mode throughout this year, and perhaps long before this year. He’s had ample time to plan his exit strategy. With all the cash and liquid assets that Doug Phillips has likely stripped from Vision Forum Ministries Ministries and Vision Forum Inc, the Doug Phillips family will, in all likelihood, be able to live quite comfortably for the foreseeable future. Certainly long enough for the dust to settle and, in a year or two, for Doug to execute his “restoration to ministry” plan.
However, it could very well be that, in his arrogance, Doug Phillips might have come to believe that he was invincible and, thus, he may not have planned for his eventual downfall. We also need to consider the possibility that Doug may be encouraged by his family to give them some extended time away from him. Very far away. Beall’s father is an attorney, after all, and the fathers of betrayed daughters do sometimes tend to get ugly. An extended time cooling his heels in Africa with missionary brother Brad Phillips would give the wife and kids some time for healing. It could also afford Doug the opportunity of evading any government agencies that might have already opened investigations against him.
Doug Phillips is probably eager to liquidate and get out of San Antonio, posthaste. Any who have unresolved business with Doug Phillips would be wise to act accordingly.