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Pippen Seeks Accounting of Grizzlies Loan

(CN) - Former Chicago Bulls star Scottie Pippen says he and his wife Larsa may have been fouled after they extended a $3 million loan to a group making an ultimately failed attempt to buy the Memphis Grizzlies basketball team.

In a complaint filed in the Lake County, Illinois circuit court, Pippen says that in 2006, two other former NBA players, Christian Laettner and Brian Davis formed an organization known as Grizzly Acquisition Holdings as a vehicle for their buying a controlling interest in the Memphis team.

A year later, Pippen says, he was approached by an intermediary, Anthony Delfre, acting on behalf of GAH, and offered a role in the purchase of the team.

According to the complaint, Delfre promised that in return for a $3 million loan, Pippen would be entitled to a $4.5 million stake in the team if the acquisition succeeded, that he would be appointed to the position of "Senior Advisor o the Owners for Baseball Operations," and that he be paid $750,000 a year for at least three years in that position.

Finally, Pippen says, he was told the loan proceeds would be held in an escrow account controlled by defendant Steven Buckman and his firm, BuckmanLegal, and that it would be available for repayment in the event the effort to buy the team failed.

Unbeknownst to Pippen, however, the GAH's quest to buy the Grizzlies was already in "dire" trouble. "In particular," the complaint says, "Plaintiffs are informed and believe that GAH had previously agreed to pay $252 mi1lion for a 70% interest in the team.

It continues: "Purchase had to close by January 15,2007, after which GAH's exclusive right to negotiate the purchase would expire. By December 2006, however, GAH's bid was in trouble as it had failed to provide the National Basketball Association (the "NBA") with sufficient information regarding its investors and financing that the league required in order to approve the sale."

In September 2008, the complaint says, Delfre sent the Pippens a loan modification agreement that outlined a repayment schedule in installments. Yet another agreement with a different repayment schedule was sent in November that claimed that $1,750,000 had already been repaid.

But neither payment was from GAH, as anticipated, Pippen says.

According to the complaint, the Pippens received $500,000 from Buckman's account in September, and another $500,000 two days later that turned out to be sent from the account of a professional football player who they didn't know.

After receiving no further payments, the Pippens sued GAH, Laettner and Davis in Lake County in 2010 and were awarded a $2.5 million judgment.

But that didn't clarify where a significant portion of the Pippens' investment, some $1,750,000, had gone. Nor did it explain why, in October and November 20008, two more payments were made to their account by yet another third party.

Pippen has sued several lawyers and financial advisors in the past for mismanaging his money and using his name for their own financial benefit, including a Florida businessman who was helping Pippen to purchase a private plane.

Pippen most recently lost a defamation lawsuit in which the court ruled numerous media outlets were not intentionally malicious in misreporting that he had filed for bankruptcy.

In this latest lawsuit, the Pippens seek a complete accounting of the loan they extended, where the money went, and where the unpaid portion of the loan is now.

They are represented by Laurence M. Landsman, of Block & Landsman, and Nicholas P. Iavarone, of The Iavarone Firm. Both practices are located in Chicago.

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