SBJ/20101115/This Week's Issue

Financial advisers face lawsuits from NFL players


JULIE KNIGHT

Michael Rowan, shown in 2007, is a founder of
Capital Management Group Wealth Advisors.

Financial advisers Michael Rowan and Jason Jernigan may not be as well-known in the sports industry as top NFL agents like Drew Rosenhaus or Tom Condon, but in the last few years they have assembled their own stellar client list of NFL players, including at least two overall No. 1 draft picks.

Rowan and Jernigan founded a firm that represented several dozen NFL players, including Mario Williams and JaMarcus Russell, but is now fighting three lawsuits filed by three other NFL players over investment losses that the players allege they suffered.

Additionally, other NFL player clients of Rowan, Jernigan and their firm, High Point, N.C.-based Capital Management Group Wealth Advisors, have fired them in the last year, including Williams, Carnell “Cadillac” Williams, Carlos Rogers and Jonathan Stewart, multiple sources said.

And, sources close to the players say, an investigator from the North Carolina secretary of state’s office as well as the director of security of the NFL Players Association have made inquiries into the lawsuits filed by the NFL players.

Jernigan, Rowan and CMG are being sued in Illinois state court by former client and New Orleans Saints defensive end Alex Brown, who says he lost $4 million in investments. The two advisers and their company are being sued in federal court in New Orleans by San Diego Chargers wide receiver Craig “Buster” Davis, who claims $500,000 in investment losses, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Earnest Graham is suing Jernigan and CMG in state court in North Carolina, claiming $500,000 in losses.

According to numerous sports industry business insiders who know Rowan and Jernigan, and a profile of the company, the two partners have very different personalities and were able to grow their business through their complementary strengths.

Jernigan, tall, dark-haired with glasses, is a studious type who had the financial experience. Rowan, a gregarious redhead, was the recruiter, who met a lot of future NFL player clients while they were still in college.

In recent years, Rowan and Jernigan had access to players before NFL agents because of the NFLPA’s junior rule, which prohibits agents from contact with players until after their third year in college. Numerous agents said that by the time they could contact top college players, Jernigan and Rowan already had relationships.

Now, Rowan and Jernigan have parted ways, and they are being represented by separate attorneys in the legal actions that have been filed against them and CMG, according to Rowan’s attorney.

“My advice to Mr. Rowan is he should have separate counsel from Mr. Jernigan,” said Allen Miller, attorney for Rowan. He added that Jernigan resigned from CMG in September 2009.

Rowan spoke to SportsBusiness Journal briefly about a month ago but referred inquiries last week to Miller. Attempts to reach Jernigan for comment were unsuccessful, and his attorney declined to comment for this story.

Said Miller, “I am sure you know that there are people who would like nothing more than to continue to spread allegations regarding Rowan and CMG, allegations that have only been lodged in civil lawsuits that Mr. Rowan and CMG categorically deny.”

The lawsuits filed by Brown and Davis allege that they lost money in an investment founded by businessman Bryce Karl (see story below). “Mike Rowan was not involved in recommending any investments related to Bryce Karl,” Miller said.

Miller would not comment on CMG’s NFL player client list or if players had left CMG. “Mr. Rowan’s and CMG’s client list is probably one of the most proprietary things they have,” Miller said.

Miller said he also was “not at liberty to comment” about whether Rowan was contacted by an investigator from the North Carolina secretary of state’s office. The secretary of state revoked CMG’s certificate to operate in North Carolina after the company failed to file annual reports this year, but it was reinstated recently.

A spokeswoman for the North Carolina secretary of state would not comment on whether an investigator had contacted the company or why the office would reinstate the company’s license if an inquiry were under way.

The NFLPA has authority to regulate agents, but financial advisers are not required to have an NFLPA certification, although the union does have a voluntary program. Rowan was never registered with the NFLPA, but Jernigan had been in the past. “Jason Jernigan has not been registered with the NFLPA since December of 2008,” said George Atallah, NFLPA assistant executive director of external affairs. He declined further comment.

Meanwhile, Rowan said last month that the company was in the process of merging with another firm. Numerous sources said Rowan had already begun working for rival financial advisory firm Pro Sports Financial in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and had helped that company recruit this year’s No. 2 overall NFL draft pick, Ndamukong Suh.

Jeff Rubin, owner of Pro Sports Financial, did not return numerous phone calls last week, but last month he said he was not sure whether the firms would merge. “We just want to see how it plays out with everything that is going on and nothing has been formalized,” Rubin said.

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