Saturday, December 6, 2008

Andre Agassi Saga Turns Very Ugly

A very, very weird Vegas feud nobody quite saw coming has exploded into court proceedings this weekend. Native son Andre Agassi has had his childhood pal Perry Rogers managing his affairs for many years. As recently as this spring when I did my big piece for The New York Times on the young moguls of Vegas, I was required to have Perry in on the roundtable along with the Fertitta brothers and Tim Poster and Tom Breightling of Golden Nugget fame. It was made clear to me by all involved that Perry was the brains behind Agassi's business endeavors.

The two had what was termed as an amicable split in October. But this weekend, Rogers filed this rather odd lawsuit against Agassi's wife, tennis great Steffi Graf, for a whopping sum of, uh, $50,000. In the very brief legal filing, Rogers says that's the sum he's owed by Graf in commissions from investments she has in an account he manages for her through Bear Stearns. She hasn't paid him since ... October.

A few things here:

* $50,000 seems like peanuts for these people. Certainly, it's a small sum to sue over if one is trying to salvage a lifelong personal friendship that made Rogers very rich.

* The lawsuit says that Graf hasn't paid Rogers his commissions since October 2008 which is only five weeks ago. It says she paid up like clockwork prior to that. Suing over chump change after such a short dereliction? Tough customer.

* I have no idea whether this is relevant, but Bear Stearns was one of the first major U.S. investment houses to collapse in the subprime mortgage disaster. It was bought for peanuts by JP Morgan Chase in March. The lawsuit said Graf had an account in excess of $20m there, thanks to Rogers. Could it be that the value of her investments fell precipitously amid this downturn and, thus, created the friction between Rogers and Agassi/Graf? If Rogers put Graf's money into bad investments that are now coming home to roost, odds are fairly good he did the same for Agassi, right?

Bottom line: Something tells me the root cause of this could very well be the horrible economy and all those risky investments. They weren't just made by CEOs like Sheldon Adelson and Gary Loveman with corporate money and they weren't just made by overly ambitious low-income people who ignored or never saw the fine print.

Could the Agassi-Graf-Rogers problem show that the risky investments that went into the toilet were also made by rich people with their own money, too?

This will be interesting to watch. Why would Graf just stop paying her fees ... unless she can't? Or unless the account balance fell below the threshold indicated in the lawsuit for Rogers to get a cut? There were already rumors that Graf didn't care for Rogers personally, but that would be easy to overlook when times were good, yeah?

My theory could be meritless. But the Bear Stearns angle here seems like a red flag.

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

Wasn't Mr. Rogers fired by the ATP earlier this year by the tennis players themselves? All very interesting and perhaps telling.

Anonymous said...

I don't think it's that she can't pay it. After all, Bear Stearns final collapse was in May. She still paid him after that. I think its more of that she probably won't pay it because as you mentioned, Rogers probably made bad investments for her and Agassi. Notice that the payments stopped the same time that Agassi dissolved his business relationship with Rogers. Why didn't Graf care for Rogers? That is a very interesting tidbit. I do have one theory on this though. As much as I adore Agassi and have found him to be very smart in that "Zen" kind of way I have never found him to be smart in that X's and O's booksmart kind of way. Steffi on the other hand I think is. You have to also remember that she at one point went through a financial crisis of her own with her father's tax problems so you can bet that she keeps close tabs on all her finances. She probably advised Agassi that Rogers wasn't making the wisest investments and probably expressed some concerns over the direction of her and Agassi's finances. Remember, that deal they had with Tamarack also went up in flames. So who knows if they lost money there also. My theory continues this way. I bet Rogers gets wind of Graf's concerns and the tension starts. There is no doubt that there has to be some tension before all of this between Agassi and Rogers too. This is all very interesting and sad too. Andre and Perry were friends for a very long time and of course the root of all evil-money-gets in between them. I hope that for the sake of Andre and Steffi's children that this doesn't trickle over into their marriage.

Anonymous said...

Rogers was fired in May from the ATP Board by the players themselves! That speaks volumes. Maybe has less to do with money than personality??? What kind of agent sues an icon and the wife of his best friend over such a measley sum? He can't be that smart of an agent. Wonder what his other clients think of that???

Met Rogers once and was not that impressed at all.

robertw4771 said...

The lawsuit is not for 50K. I read it. It is for 15% or the investment returns that the 20 million brings in. The documents show the case is for more than 50K. They are not disclosing the total as that number might be moving higher.

Anonymous said...

Funny how Rogers fails to attach any exhibits (i.e., written/documented support for his claim(s)! This reeks of being a bogus suit brought by a real a-hole. some friend he is. The guy is despised by many in the Vegas community - much like his petulant old man.

Anonymous said...

Anyone know whatever happened to this dispute? It got real quiet real fast. Makes you wonder if there was more to the story than just the dirt?? Wonder what Perry is doing these days now that he lost Andre and Steffi. My guess: not much!

Anonymous said...

Rumor mill swirling that Perry was canned by more than just Andre. What comes around, goes around as they say. A classic douche bag has finally gotten his.

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