The Alliance of American Football is being sued by a Los Angeles venture capitalist who claims he came up with the idea for the upstart league and is entitled to 50% ownership.
Robert Vanech, the co-founder and chief financial officer of Trebel Music, said in a lawsuit filed Friday in Los Angeles County Superior Court that he had a “handshake agreement” with Charlie Ebersol, who is acknowledged as the AAF’s co-founder with Bill Polian, over ownership of the league.
In a text exchange included in the lawsuit, Ebersol disputed that such a handshake ever took place.
Vanech pitched the league to Ebersol in February 2017, according to the lawsuit, and proposed some of the business ideas the AAF went on to adapt. In addition to financial damages and equity in the league, Vanech also is seeking “public acknowledgment of his co-founding role.”
Ebersol has yet to comment on the lawsuit. The AAF released a statement on Monday.
“Mr. Vanech’s claim is without merit,” the league stated. “There was never any agreement, oral or written, between Mr. Vanech and Mr. Ebersol relating to the Alliance.”
The AAF debuted earlier this month. Last week, the Athletic reported that a $250-million investment from Tom Dundon, owner of the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes, helped the league avoid missing payroll after the first week. The AAF denied it was a bailout, with Ebersol calling Dundon a “dream investor.” Dundon is now listed as the league’s chairman.