LOS ANGELES (CN) – It was not a good day for rapper, actor and entrepreneur Ice Cube who says he’s owed $1.2 billion from a group of Qatari investors over a botched contract agreement for a 3-on-3 basketball league, according to the lawsuit filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court on Thursday.
The BIG3 league was formed by Ice Cube and business partner, Jeff Kwatinetz. The league’s success attracted investors, including an investment group who played up their connection to the royal Al-Thani family of Qatar, according to the 39-page complaint, which paints a wide-ranging scheme to use the sports league to build positive public relations for the royal family.
Ice Cube, founder of gangsta rap crew N.W.A. and film star to hits like “Friday” and “Anaconda,” and Kwatinetz, entered into an agreement with the Qatari group through the BIG3 LLC. The Qatari group were brought in as “passive investors,” but soon began to throw around their weight as playing bigger roles in the league’s development, according to the complaint.
The lawsuit names Ahmed Al-Rumaihi, Faisal Al-Hamadi, Ayman Sabi, and Sheikh Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Sau Al-Thani, who is the half-brother of Qatar’s emir, the ruling family of the sovereign Middle East country.
The group played up Al-Thani’s “massive wealth and power” but BIG3 LLC says it did not see the money it was owed.
The complaint says the Qatari group was introduced to the BIG3 franchise through the league’s former commissioner, who was eventually fired.
The commissioner, Roger Mason Jr., through email said, “Ayman [Sabi] and his partner are seriously interested in taking the remaining equity available for Big 3. They add an incredible amount of value and would be strategic in the growth internationally.”
What that introduction failed to mention was one of the investors was in a relationship with Mason’s sister, according to the complaint.
Al-Rumaihi, also a member of the Qatar royal family, is listed as one of the heads of a multi-billion investment authority from Qatar which boasts international investments of $100 billion, according to the complaint.
The investors formed Sport Trinity LLC and were to pay $11.5 million for a minority stake in the basketball company. There was also an agreement for an additional $9 million in sponsorship money over three years, but the investors only paid $7.5 million by December 2017.
Investors in the group blamed each other for not following through on the full amount and said political issues were the cause of the late payments.
The investment group did not follow through on its promise and afterward attempted “coercive means of influence peddling to achieve their goals,” says the complaint, which eventually led to them defaming BIG3 leadership.
The investment group avoided emails and texts from Ice Cube and other BIG3 staff. Screenshots from those text messages are included in the complaint and excuses included one of the investor’s “sinuses” bothering them, they could not speak over the phone because they were “going on hikes” and that it had been a “long day bro” so they were not able to talk about the money owed.
There was also the incident in Las Vegas where Al-Rumaihi lost over $700,000 after a few hours of gambling with members of the BIG3 staff, according to the lawsuit.
The botched business deal was really a means to build positive public relations in the United States for the Al-Thani royal family and Qatar, which has faced accusations from neighboring countries of financially supporting terrorism.
Plaintiffs are suing for defamation on the claim that defendants called the BIG3 staff, including Kwatinetz “racist,” “hostile” and used a racial slur on a former employee. Plaintiffs are also suing for trade libel and intentional interference with prospective economic relations.
The damage that was done to the BIG3 and its staff amounts to $1.2 billion or approximately $20 million per player in the basketball league. Plaintiffs are represented by Mark Geragos and Ben Meiselas of Geragos and Geragos APC in Los Angeles.
In a statement sent to Courthouse News, the Qatar Investment Authority said the allegations in the lawsuit “are unfounded and incorrect. Among others, neither the Qatar Investment Authority nor its CEO are investors in, nor have they had any involvement with, Big3.”