UPDATE, DEC. 22, 5 P.M.: One-time super-sports agent Leigh Steinberg of Newport Beach has reacted to the bench warrant imposed on him by an Orange County court commissioner, calling the whole thing the result of a mix-up. The 62-year-old tells the Associated Press that he was under the mistaken impression his attorney got the date changed on a hearing last week regarding a $1.4 million judgment the Irvine Co. won against him for unpaid office space rent.
When Steinberg did not show up, Orange County Superior Court Commissioner Jane D. Myers imposed the bench warrant, something Steinberg tells the AP he was unaware of.
"Since when in this country do you put people in jail for having debt?'' he reportedly said, adding the back rent involved a move to cheaper office digs in Irvine. "The point is, I had some financial struggles, which I regret. And I am working hard right now to pay the debts I owe.''
You had me at "since."
ORIGINAL POST, DEC. 21, 1:40 P.M.: A court issued a bench warrant last week for Leigh Steinberg, the Newport Beach super-sports agent and movie lover who helped inspire Tom Cruise's titular character in Jerry Maguire. Steinberg failed to appear at a hearing before Orange County Superior Court Commissioner Jane D. Myers regarding a mountain of unpaid rent he supposedly owes the Irvine Co., including more than $1.4 million for office space and $3,000 for an apartment. It's the legal equivalent of Don Bren shouting at Steinberg to "Show me the money!"
As part of the Irvine Co. case against Steinberg--whose clients have included Troy Aikman, Howie Long and Ben Roethlisberger--the developer has produced a list of others the agent is said to owe, including: former NFL player Chad Morton ($900,000) and Wells Fargo bank ($185,000) for unpaid loans; the IRS ($17,384) and California Franchise Tax Bureau ($10,464) for tax liens; and American Express ($43,000) and Account Management Services (nearly $8,000) for outstanding balances.
Here is the warrant:
Actually, in the case of Morton, an adjudicated settlement was apparently reached regarding the $900,000, but the running back is now suing the Steinberg & Associates LLC sports and entertainment management company for additional punitive damages. An Orange County Superior Court civil trial is scheduled to begin Feb. 21.
Meanwhile, in its comprehensive coverage of Steinberg's debt mess, Sports by Brooks reports that the sports agent also owes the state of New Jersey $73,041.00 in back taxes.
According to the Irvine Co. attorneys, Steinberg is adept at hiding both his assets and himself from those he owes.
"There have been numerous attempts to collect on said Judgment," Brooke Brandt, the developer's lawyer, claims in court documents filed Dec. 9. "Judgment Creditor's counsel has never been able to directly connect with Judgment Debtor LEIGH STEINBERG at any of last known or suspected addresses to serve him. We retained a private investigator to perform a skip trace investigation to no avail."
Investigators have also found no bank accounts for Steinberg, claims Brandt, adding that while Steinberg & Associates still seems to be in business, calls to it are met with a recording stating, "All circuits are busy."
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Despite the Irvine Co.'s claim that Steinberg has remained elusive for months, he has popped up in the media--including this very blog--over the past year. In January, he hosted his 25th annual Super Bowl party, with news and sports news cameras rolling, in Dallas--with former President George W. Bush as an invited guest. As Sports by Brooks notes, Steinberg just two weeks ago lashed out publicly when Arizona State pulled out of a deal to hire his client June Jones as its football coach.
Our post was on Steinberg--a former Newport Beach Film Festival financial backer and, in the interest of full disclosure, a movie reviewer for a newspaper arts section yours truly edited--signing his first entertainment clients, Italian filmmaker brothers Antony and Fulvio Sestito, at an August ceremony before cameras in Hollywood.
The Irvine Co. claims a "phalanx of security" around Steinberg prevents the developer's representatives from getting to the sports agent. Perhaps Donald Bren should get his investigators press credentials.