Lonzo Ball severed ties with a part owner of Big Baller Brand and his father’s best friend, over his belief that the man took money without permission.
Gregory Alan Foster was accused by Ball’s financial planner, Humble Lukanga, of taking money from Big Baller Brand and general mismanagement of the Lakers point guard’s finances. ESPN reportedly has seen documentation that Foster took $1.5 million from Ball’s personal and business accounts and could not account for that money. The Times has not seen any such documentation.
In a statement provided to The Times, Ball said he directed Lukanga, his manager Darren Moore and his agent Harrison Gaines to “pursue all options to recover the money that was taken from my accounts. This has been a very difficult decision as I have a great deal of love and respect for Alan. But the time has come for me to take responsibility for my own career.”
Ball’s camp has retained legal counsel in the past week to determine how to proceed on potential civil remedies, according to a person familiar with their plans.
Foster did not respond to numerous phone calls and text messages requesting comment. Lukanga, a Beverly Hills-based business manager whose clients include athletes and entertainers, and Moore also declined to comment.
Gaines posted a statement on social media that read in part: “This is a cautionary tale and I’m glad Foster’s actions have been discovered. Lonzo has now empowered me to take a more active role in his career. I look forward to continuing as his agent and providing guidance that will support his growth as a person and a player.”
Foster was convicted of mail fraud and money laundering in 2002 along with a partner named Steven Woods, according to court documents reviewed by The Times. Foster and Woods told investors they had professional athletes as clients as a way to legitimize their fictitious business, Capitol Management Team. Foster was found to have defrauded 75 people of $4 million and forced to pay back nearly all of it. Foster was sentenced to 87 months in prison and served five years.
In 2009, Foster was sent back to prison for five months after he violated the terms of his probation.
Foster met the Ball family not long after his second prison stint. They met when his son Enzo McFly, whose birth name was Gregory Foster II, was in middle school with Lonzo, and Ball and McFly have recorded music together.
Foster introduced Woods to the Balls, and Woods would occasionally housesit for the family.
LaVar Ball became close with Foster and empowered him to handle the family’s business interests. In an application for LLC status in California, Foster was listed as a director for Big Baller Brand, along with Lonzo and LaVar Ball.
The company originally was registered in Wyoming. While the status of its license lapsed into delinquency there multiple times, it was reinstated March 15 after the company rehired a registered agent in the state to file the paperwork.
Since its inception in 2016, Big Baller Brand has struggled with its products and customer service. The company was investigated by the Better Business Bureau in October 2017 and the agency could not confirm its authenticity. The bureau gave Big Baller Brand an F rating.
In January 2018, Big Baller Brand was sued by Chino company Closet Collection, which was responsible for screen printing and embroidering its apparel and claimed it was owed $25,000.
Big Baller Brand possibly caused problems for Ball on the court, too. Ball has sustained multiple ankle injuries through his first two NBA seasons, and according to people familiar with the Lakers’ thinking, the team has wondered if the shoes have had an impact. However, Ball does not always wear Big Baller Brand shoes. Due to quality concerns, Ball had to diversify what shoes he wore during his first NBA summer league, an event that was supposed to be Big Baller Brand’s first big showcase.
Ball sustained his latest ankle sprain Jan. 19. It was a Grade 3 sprain that ended his season.
Follow Tania Ganguli on Twitter @taniaganguli