End Game: Curt Schilling and the Destruction of 38 Studios

Curt Schilling set out to build the greatest video-game company the world had ever seen, and to get rich — Bill Gates rich — doing it. Instead, the whole thing exploded in his face. Drawing on exclusive interviews with the Red Sox legend and his former employees, Jason Schwartz takes us inside the chaos, arrogance, and mistakes that led to the destruction of 38 Studios and the loss of $75 million in taxpayer money.

Back at the softball field in Dracut, Schilling is still having trouble fathoming what happened. “I’ll find myself in the middle of the day, just aching,” he says. He concedes that he’d promised his employees 60 days’ warning if the money ever looked like it was going to run out, but argues that the situation was moving too fast for him to keep sending updates. “It wasn’t that I didn’t want to tell anyone,” he says, “it’s I didn’t know what to say.”

His company is now under federal and state investigation. Schilling denies any legal wrongdoing, and while Roger Williams Law School professor Michael Yelnosky says it’s unlikely that Schilling will be held personally accountable for the unpaid salaries under Rhode Island law, there is federal precedent that could force him to pay the wages back, plus damages. Schilling says he would have paid his employees the roughly $1.5 million they’re owed out of his pocket, but he doesn’t have the money. That doesn’t bode well for a lawsuit Citizens Bank filed against him, which seeks to recover $2.4 million in loans to 38 Studios that he’d personally guaranteed. Presumably, either the suit or having to repay lost wages could push him into personal bankruptcy.

As a baseball player, Schilling refused to ever consider the notion of defeat until the final out, even down three games to none to the Yankees. By his own admission, he carried that same attitude into business. One former employee describes it as “rampant and destructive optimism.”

Asked if that’s truly what undid him, Schilling says, “No,” then stutters and pauses. “I don’t know any other way to be,” he says finally, his voice dropping to just above a whisper and his eyes welling up. “I don’t know any other way to be.”