MANHATTAN (CN) - In a $1.6 million quarrel, a sports agent claims a rival agency used "private planes, celebrity encounters and hedonistic parties" to lure NBA star Larry Sanders away from him.
Sanders, center for the Milwaukee Bucks, is not a party to the lawsuit.
Andy Miller and ASM Sports sued Relativity Sports, Relativity Media, Relativity Holdings, Rogue Sports and four agents - Happy Walters, Dan Fegan, Seth Willmot and Cree Nix, in New York County Supreme Court.
Miller claims the defendants went over the line to steal Sanders from his agency.
"Integral to the claims set forth herein is the unlawful ways in which Walters and Fegan accomplished this coup d'etat," the complaint states. "As set forth in further detail below, Walters and Fegan paid and/or made promises to people close to Sanders, including Willmot, a childhood friend, and Nix, an ex-girlfriend, to influence Sanders and to allow the Relativity defendants to gain Sanders' confidence and trust. Once they had that trust, they abused it, making misrepresentations to Sanders about his worth as a 'max player' and making false promises to Sanders. The Relativity defendants additionally swayed Sanders with flights on private planes, expensive dinners, invites to pre-ESPY awards, acting classes and trips to Disneyland for his family.
"This wrongful conduct of defendants is all that plaintiffs know about now, which they learned of only after defendants' scheme was a fait accompli. In all likelihood, discovery in this action will reveal that this is merely the tip of the iceberg."
Miller claims that defendant Happy Walters actually dumped Sanders after a disappointing rookie year, "on the assumption that Sanders would never amount to anything in the NBA."
Sanders then went to Miller and ASM Sports for representation, the complaint states, and the agency "worked tirelessly with Sanders to mold him into the NBA star that he has now become."
This year and a half of work involved a new training regimen, reshaping Sanders' attitudes on and off the court, managing his personal finances and attending to his personal needs, according to the lawsuit. The plaintiffs claim they did these things knowing they would not see the fruits of their labors until Sanders' second contract.
They claim that Sanders has improved enough to put himself "in a perfect position to negotiate a new contract with a dramatic salary increase."
But the plaintiffs say they never reaped their reward.
"On the eve of Sanders' scheduled execution of the contract Miller secured, Walters, now working with Fegan, made his grand re-appearance," the complaint states. "Sanders terminated Miller, signed with the Relativity defendants as his new agents and thereafter signed his new contract with the Bucks (which increased slightly to $44 million from the $41 million that Miller had negotiated).
"Having reappeared at the very last minute and done almost none of the work, Walters and Fegan have reaped all of the financial benefit of Sanders' new contract. Plaintiffs have not been paid (and Sanders will never have to pay) a nickel for Miller's and his team's hard work and financial investment over a one-and-a-half year period. In addition to their share of Sanders' second NBA contract, worth $1.64 million (on the $41 million sum negotiated by Miller), plaintiffs also lost out on a valuable commission relating to a sponsorship deal they had been negotiating for Sanders with Nike. Moreover, as a result of the events described herein, Miller has suffered significant damage to his reputation." (Parentheses in complaint.)
Miller and ASM seek $1.64 million in compensatory damages, and punitive damages for tortious interference with prospective business relationships, unjust enrichment, unfair competition and prima facie tort. They are represented by Larry Hutcher with Davidoff Hutcher & Citron.
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