SBJ/20081117/Labor & Agents

Marketing agent Henkel pleads guilty in Tomlinson case

Marketing agent Bill Henkel, who last week pleaded guilty in a case involving misappropriation of funds in a memorabilia deal involving NFL star LaDainian Tomlinson, says the whole incident was a misunderstanding between himself and his former employer, IMG.

But Lannie Ornburn, assistant district attorney for Johnson County, Kan., said of Henkel: “He was the one who was going to get unjustly enriched in this scheme, and he is not the victim. Now he wants to be portrayed as the victim because he got caught.”

Henkel, who now runs his own firm, 10 Sports Marketing, pleaded guilty to criminal deprivation of property and attempted criminal deprivation of property, both misdemeanors. As part of a plea deal, his 11-month jail sentence was suspended and he will serve 12 months of probation, Ornburn said.

The case involved a deal Henkel negotiated for Tomlinson when Henkel was an employee of IMG Football working for former IMG Football and current CAA Sports agent Tom Condon in 2005. Tomlinson has stated in an affidavit, “In early December 2005, I learned that Henkel had pressured the sports memorabilia company into agreeing to pay him an improper, secret $75,000 kickback, $18,700 of which had already been paid to Henkel, for securing my services to the memorabilia company.”

Henkel, in a lengthy e-mail to SportsBusiness Journal, maintained that he was in the process of leaving IMG to form his own company in 2005 when he negotiated the deal for Tomlinson. “The whole situation was a misunderstanding with my former employer over agency commissions,” Henkel wrote.

Ornburn called that claim “laughable,” saying Henkel was an employee of IMG when he negotiated the deal. “If it was a misunderstanding, why would Mr. Henkel try to set it up for those checks to be deposited into his wife’s business account?” Ornburn asked.

Julius Jones of the Seahawks
joined his brother as a
Rosenhaus Sports client.

Henkel was originally charged with felony commercial bribery and theft, but the case was amended as part of Henkel’s plea deal, Ornburn said. “We felt it was fair that he plead guilty and hopefully acknowledge his wrongdoing, which is apparently not the case,” Ornburn said.

Henkel counts the Vikings’ Adrian Peterson and the Panthers’ Steve Smith among his clients. The NFL Players Association routinely investigates agents who plead guilty to crimes involving athletes, but the NFLPA has no authority over Henkel because he is a marketing agent and not a certified contract adviser.

 ROSENHAUS SIGNS JULIUS JONES: Rosenhaus Sports, the Miami-based agency owned by agents and brothers Drew and Jason Rosenhaus, has signed Seattle Seahawks running back Julius Jones for representation.

Jones was formerly repped by CAA Sports, which negotiated a four-year, $12 million free agent deal with the Seahawks for Jones in March. Rosenhaus Sports is known for signing players who are unhappy with their contracts, but Drew Rosenhaus said, “That is not the case here.”

Rosenhaus also represents Julius Jones’ brother, New York Jets running back Thomas Jones.

 THE SPORTS SYNDICATE SIGNS DEALS: The Sports Syndicate, a Newport Beach, Calif.-based agency that specializes in repping action sports athletes, has negotiated a six-figure deal for freestyle motocross rider Robbie Maddison to attempt to jump onto the faux Arc de Triomphe at the Paris Las Vegas hotel and then jump off of it. The event is set to be broadcast on ESPN on New Year’s Eve, and if Maddison pulls it off, it will set two world records for motocross jumps.

The Sports Syndicate also represents motocross racer Ryan Villopoto and recently signed PGA Tour golfer John Mallinger.

Liz Mullen can be reached at lmullen@sportsbusinessjournal.com.

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