SBJ/February 6-12, 2012/Labor and Agents

Players sue attorney over casino investments

Five current or former NFL players, including Terrell Owens, have individually filed lawsuits against an attorney who they contend helped them invest in an Alabama casino project that is now in Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

Atlanta linebacker Mike Peterson and Buffalo wide receiver Roscoe Parrish filed suit in Palm Springs County (Fla.) Court last month against attorney Pamela Linden and the law firm Greenberg Traurig, where Linden is a partner. Late last year, former NFL cornerback Duane Starks and free agent running back Clinton Portis, as well as Owens, sued Linden and Greenberg Traurig over their investments in the Center Stage venture in Cottonwood, Ala.

Resorts Development Group, which operates Center Stage, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last month, claiming $68 million in debt and $13.2 million in assets, according to the filing.

Linden did not return a call to her office at Greenberg Traurig in West Palm Beach, Fla.

However, Jill Perry, managing director at Greenberg Traurig in New York, replied via email after that call was placed to Linden. “While we counseled the players involved on separate matters, we did not represent them in this specific investment,” Perry wrote.

Attorney Martin Simkovic, who represents Portis in his lawsuit, did not return a phone call. Attorney Michael Simon, who represents Owens, Peterson, Starks and Parrish in their lawsuits, declined comment other than to say the lawsuits speak for themselves.

The lawsuits contend that Linden created limited liability companies in the state of Florida for the players to invest their money into the Alabama casino project. The lawsuits contend that the players were told they could achieve better-than-average returns on their investment.

The Florida Department of State Division of Corporations website shows that the five players who are suing Linden were named individually as the managing members of five different limited liability companies created on the same day, March 10, 2008. Each entity uses the initials of the player’s first and last name and the words “Miami Group, LLC.”

The documents show that Linden signed the Articles of Organization of TO Miami Group, LLC; MP Miami Group, LLC; RP Miami Group, LLC; CP Miami Group, LLC; and DS Miami Group, LLC. The documents state, “The company is to be managed by one or more members and is, therefore, a member-managed company. The name and address of the initial member is: ... .” Each document then states the player’s name.

In addition to those five players, nine other current or former NFL players are listed as managing members of LLCs using their initials and the words “Miami Group, LLC” as of that same day, March 10, 2008, according to Florida state records. Those players are Plaxico Burress, Samari Rolle, Santana Moss, Santonio Holmes, Lito Sheppard, Kenard Lang, Gerard Warren, Frederick Taylor and Jevon Kearse. Linden signed all 14 documents as the person who had “executed these Articles of Organization” on March 7, 2008, three days before they were filed with the state, the documents show.

Perry would not answer a question as to why Linden executed these documents for the 14 players. “We will address specific questions in our court filings,” she said via email.
Attempts to reach the players were unsuccessful. Agent Drew Rosenhaus, who represents or has represented 10 of the players, would not comment. Agents Tom Condon, Joel Segal and Lamont Smith, who represent or have represented the other four players, did not return calls for comment.

The lawsuits state the players met Linden through their former financial advisory firm, Pro Sports Financial, which was owned by Jeff Rubin. Pro Sports Financial, which was based in Miami and had about 50 NFL player clients, is no longer in business. Attempts to reach Rubin, who left the firm to become CEO of Resorts Development Group, were also unsuccessful.

In the lawsuit Portis filed, it states, “Linden created an LLC for Portis, without his knowledge or authorization, that she named CP Miami Group, LLC,” about the time he agreed to invest $1 million in the Alabama project. In Peterson’s lawsuit, it states that “promptly after Peterson agreed to invest in the entertainment project, although unknown to Peterson at the time, in or around March 2008, in order to facilitate the investment, Linden drafted and prepared articles of organization of the MP Miami Group, LLC.”

The Peterson lawsuit also states that Florida Department of State records show that Linden prepared and filed several other Articles of Organization for other investors in the casino project “who were active or retired professional football players and also clients of Pro Sports and GT.”

The project was originally planned to feature gambling-style bingo, and players said they invested based on the premise that the business would generate large returns on investment, but that type of gaming was not implemented.

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