Saturday, February 19, 2011

Working with a contract

I just received this from Rob, a friend of mine and one of our readers. I thought everyone might like to read this and see how sometimes, no matter what you have in writing, it always comes down to the people.

From the web:


(Lyon County, KAN.) — You can tell it gets Jerry Weaver irritated just by talking about it. “I’ll be honest, it is all about the money,” said Weaver from his Lyon County home. “I’m not greedy, I just want what’s mine.”

In 2008, meteorite hunter Steve Arnold came to Lyon County to look for meteorites. Certain locations in Kansas contain meteorites that fell from the sky thousands of years ago. Many are found by farmers as they work the land. Arnold made deals with 19 landowners in the area for permission to look on their property for meteorites. The contract terms stated the landowners would get 25% and Arnold would get 75% of whatever was discovered.

“I was interested and happy to do it,” recalls Weaver. “He painted a pretty picture that they were valuable.”

Arnold found two meteorites on Weaver’s land. Weaver and his family helped Arnold dig them out of the ground. Weaver says Arnold was excited about the find and kept talking about the value.

“He said they're worth millions. He kept asking where I wanted to have a vacation house,” said Weaver.

In all, Arnold discovered meteorites on ten of the 19 properties. Total weight of the meteorites was close to 2500 lbs. Weaver waited for his cut.

“I never heard from him unless I contacted him,” said Weaver. He says at first, landowners were led to believe the money was coming.

“He kept saying we'll have some money and there will be some check writing going on and all that kind of talk,” said Weaver. “But I've heard that for three years and there hasn't been nothing wrote.”

“We haven’t received a nickel.”


You may be familiar with Steve Arnold and his meteorite hunting. Arnold co-stars in a TV show called “Meteorite Men” which will enter its third season on the Science Channel. Arnold sat down with Eyewitness News to answer questions about the land deals and why landowners have not been paid any money.

Arnold says about a year ago, he realized the traditional way of selling meteorites just wasn’t cutting it. So instead of selling the meteorite whole or slicing it into pieces for collectors, he decided to extract gemstones and sell them in the jewelry market. All landowners, including Weaver, agreed to this change. The problem? Arnold says the gems aren’t making much money.

“It’s not like wheat that you can just take down to the grain elevator and sell for cash,” said Arnold. “In our particular case, we're actually having to help create a market because most people don't even know the stones exist.”

Arnold says he’s sold a few but not enough to pay the landowners.

“The agreement was that their royalties would be based off of profit and we've sold some gemstones but our expenses have been more than what we've sold so there just hasn't been any profit to share yet.”

But are the gems really worth millions? Arnold believes so.

“The gemstones are worth anywhere from three to nine thousand dollars a carat,” said Arnold. “So if you just take 5000 dollars as an average, all it takes is 2000 carats for there to be a million dollars worth of gemstones in there.”

After we started asking questions, Arnold offered Weaver and the other landowners the option of getting a portion of a meteorite back. But Weaver says the new offer isn’t fair because it gives landowners less than 25 percent of a meteorite and also prohibits them from selling it on the gem market for five years. Arnold says none of the landowners took him up on the offer.

When does he expect landowners to see some money?

“I'm confident that it's going to happen,” said Arnold.


This isn’t the first time Arnold has made land deals in Kansas to look for meteorites. Years before signing the contract with Weaver, Arnold made a similar deal with Kiowa County farmer Bob Ahrens. Ahrens deal was a little different from Weavers. Instead of a 25-75 split, it was three-way deal between Ahrens, Arnold and an investor.

“I wasn't expecting anything until they started digging,” said Ahrens. “It was like a buried treasure.”

Arnold found five meteorites on his property. Ahrens didn’t expect to see much money right away. He tells Eyewitness News he did receive a cash payment and then chose to get part of his meteorite back. He keeps the 100 lb. rock on the floor board of his pickup truck so he can show it to people.

“If you got it you might as well do something with it. It's not doing any good sitting in the corner,” said Ahrens.

He says in the end he was satisfied with his deal.


The investor who was part of Ahrens’ deal is now suing Arnold. In a lawsuit filed in Bexar County, Texas, Phil Mani accuses Arnold of fraud. Mani claims he fronted Arnold thousands of dollars for his meteorite expeditions and Arnold lied to him. He claims Arnold told him a farmer’s field was empty then later returned with his TV crew once their partnership had ended to find meteorites. He says Arnold “promoted himself over the interests of the partnership.”

Arnold says he’s confident he’ll win the lawsuit and is fighting it to defend his name and his business. The case is scheduled for trial February 22nd.


Don Stimpson owns Kansas Meteorite Museum and Nature Center near Haviland. Stimpson’s museum houses the world’s largest collection of Brenham Meteorites. Stimpson also cuts meteorites and sells slices to collectors through his internet business. For him, it’s not about the money but the science.

“If you value nature and the universe and you're interested in understanding and learning, it's just another piece of the puzzle.”

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