The news started filtering out to media outlets yesterday afternoon: Dan Borislow, the West Palm Beach tech entrepreneur who radically changed the telecom industry with an internet-based phone service, passed away on Monday evening. The former executive's company confirmed the death, and already tributes are starting to flow in regarding Borislow's impact.
But most of the memorials are paying little attention to an episode from his life that has arguably left a bigger impact than his invention: Borislow's brief but rocky tenure as owner of a Boca Raton professional women's soccer team that was stacked with international talent but combusted after only a single season, taking the league with it.
Although the death was confirmed by the Washington Post and other media outlets, so far there are few details. Borislow reportedly collapsed yesterday in West Palm Beach after playing in an indoor soccer game. But on Tuesday, the Palm Beach County Medical Examiner told New Times it had no information on his death, and the West Palm Police Department also didn't return a call for additional details on the incident.
But while he was alive, Borislow sold more than 10 milliion magicJacks, an item that hooked into a computer's USB port, allowing it to make phone calls by circumnavigating the phone company. The product, hawked on infomercials, made hundreds of millions of dollars.
With that hefty piggy bank, Borislow purchased the Washington, D.C.-based Freedom, a franchise in Women's Professional Soccer (WPS), before the 2011 season. He rechristened the team the magicJack, and moved it down to Boca Raton's Florida Atlantic University. The team -- which included big names from the U.S. Women's national team like Abby Wambach, Hope Solo, Shannon Boxx, and Christine Rampone -- could have become league favorite -- if not for Borislow's odd behavior.
According to a 2011 Deadspin takedown that compared him to NBA badboy owner Mark Cuban, the magicJack owner repeatedly ran foul of the league and acted strangely. He would show up for the team practices on a "Batmobile-like motorcycle." He wore cleats to practice in order to scrimmage with the league. He fired the coach after a 3-0 start, handing responsibilities over to players. And he did little to no marketing or sponsorship deals, which needed as much publicity as possible to kickstart interest.
What ensued was a protracted turf war between Borislow and just about everyone involved -- including the players' union and WPS higher-ups. He was eventually banned from the field, and in July 2011, the union filed a grievance against the owner. Deadpsin followed up with a series of leaked emails showing Borislow facing off against league management and sponsors.
"There's two things I like to do, and I don't know which one I like to do more," Borislow boasted to the Palm Beach Post at the time. "One is make money. And the other one is spend money."
When it came to pro sports, it seems like Borislow didn't do the latter. The franchise folded after just one season, which bummed out a lot of fans because the magicJack had the kind of star power to make it a favorite in the struggling league.
The WPS had to suspend its 2012 season, due in part to its legal battle with the magicJack owner, and later disbanded completely.
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