NFL Management Firm Lobs $10M Poaching Suit Against Competitor

MANHATTAN (CN) – SoFla Sports claims in court that it lost 15 NFL clients to a competing agency thanks to a rogue former employee who did not honor the terms of his contract.

Pulled from a marketing video on the website of the sports-management firm EPIC, this image shows of an NFL player contract being perused. EPIC was hit with a $10 million lawsuit on Nov. 15, 2018, from competing firm SoFla Sports.

Represented by the law firm Robinson Brog, SoFla brought the $10 million lawsuit in Manhattan Supreme Court against Ronald Butler, who worked for it as a certified NFL contract adviser from 2015 to 2018, and the competing firm EPIC LLC, which is short for Entertainers & Players Innovative Consultants.

EPIC was in bad shape last year, according to the complaint, when it began merger talks with SoFla while simultaneously hatching a scheme with Butler “to steal SoFla clients.”

“As a product of their conspiracy, Butler and EPIC have diverted or stand to divert in excess of $2 million due to SoFla and have successfully caused approximately fifteen NFL Players formerly represented by SoFla and SoFla Contract Advisors to leave SoFla and enter contractual agency relationships with EPIC and EPIC Contract Advisors,” the complaint states.

SoFla says Butler was diverting fees and commissions even before jumping ship, pointing to his dealings in 2016 and 2017 with New Orleans Saints cornerback Patrick Robinson.

In those years, “Butler directed Robinson to divert fees from SoFla to himself in the total amount of $60,000,” according to the complaint.

“On each occasion, Butler delayed transmitting all of those fees to SoFla for significant periods of time.”

In 2018, SoFla says that Butler then manipulated Robinson’s contract with the Saints to include EPIC employee Ira Turner.

“Butler acted in this manner with Turner and EPIC for the exclusive purpose of diverting fees that are and will be due and owing from Robinson away from SoFla and to EPIC and himself and, upon information and belief, acted in this manner as a material part of Butler’s effort to obtain employment with EPIC,” the complaint states.

“EPIC now advertises Robinson as a client on its website.”

Another new clients EPIC is advertising is  Kareem Jackson, who plays as a safety for the Houston Texas. SoFla says it billed Jackson $202,500 for the 2017 NFL season, only for Butler to have Jackson’s financial adviser send that amount to him.

Sofla also alleges misappropriation of fees and commissions from New England Patriots wide receiver Phillip Doresett, Los Angeles Chargers linebacker Denzel Perryman, Chargers defensive tackle Corey Liuget, and Oakland Raiders offensive tackle David Sharpe.

“David Sharpe in 2017 signed a four-year rookie NFL contract in the total amount of $2.986 million,” the complaint states. “Pursuant to his SRA, SoFla is owed 50% of the fees and commissions from Sharpe.”

SoFla says Butler has kept it from receiving any of the fees and commissions related to Sharpe.

Accusing Butler of having agreed to co-represent Sharpe with fellow adviser Richard Beda, Sofla says “Beda’s company received the fees and commissions and, upon information and belief, transferred a portion of those fees and commissions to Butler.”

The complaint additionally describes missing commissions with respect to Chargers wide receiver Travis Benjamin, Carolina Panthers cornerback Corn Elder and Lavonte David, a linebacker with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Elder is also one of four players whom Butler provided with marketing advances using SoFla funds, according to the complaint. The other players are free agent running back Mike Gillislee, Atlanta Falcons safety Damontae Kazee and New York Jetsrunning back Elijah McGuire.

Boca Raton, Florida-based SoFla says Butler’s obligations to it are laid out in at least nine renewals of his employment contract.

“The Butler Employment Agreement and Fee Assignment Agreement explicitly apply to present as well as future fees and commissions,” the complaint states.

“The provisions identified above apply whether Butler is actually on a Player’s SRA or other agreement or, instead, has explicitly or clandestinely transferred representation of the Player to a third-party,” it continues, using an abbreviation for standard representation agreement.

SoFla also notes that agreements “apply to Players who were SoFla Clients at any time during Butler’s SoFla employment, including Clients who became clients during Butler’s employment with SoFla, as well as to Players who are identified as ‘Prospective Clients.’”

Representatives for EPIC have not returned an email seeking comment.

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