Jay Z’s Roc Nation Sports Hit With $20 Million Lawsuit
Jay Z and his new boxing agency attempted to lure away a rising young boxing star with promises of fame and fortune even though he was signed with rival promoters, a new lawsuit claims.
The Bronx-based promoter Joe DeGuardia of Star Boxing and Artie Pelullo of Banner Promotions filed a $20 million suit on Wednesday in New York State Supreme court alleging that Jay Z’s Roc Nation Sports “intentionally interfered with an Exclusive Promotional Agreement” it has with world champion Demetrius Andrade.
According to a copy of a complaint obtained by the Daily News, Jay Z’s Roc Nation Sports offered to give Andrade $550,000 to reject a fight DeGuardia and Pelullo had negotiated with Showtime under the guise that Roc Nation would buy out his contract and become his new promoter.
The suit adds that Andrade pulled out of the Showtime deal, but the former WBO junior middleweight champion never received the money he was promised by Roc Nation, which also never purchased his contract from DeGuardia and Pelullo. Making matters worse, Andrade was stripped of his WBO title on Friday for inactivity.
Roc Nation Sports declined comment on Thursday.
The suit also names D.C. attorney Jeffrey Fried, alleging he is a former consultant with Roc Nation and was involved in the power play to help Roc Nation sign Andrade.
Sold on the vision of Jay Z and thinking he would become a crossover star like other Roc Nation clients, Andrade rejected the fight deal that DeGuardia and Pelullo worked out with Showtime for him, according to the complaint.
Rhode Island’s Andrade (21-0, 14 knockouts) has not fought since June of last year at Barclays Center.
The suit says that Roc Nation and Fried “acted willfully, maliciously, recklessly, wantonly and with intent to injure Star Boxing and Banner Promotions,” which co-promotes Andrade.
They are seeking two causes of actions totaling “at least” $20 million in damages as well as punitive damages, the suit says.
“Roc Nation’s promise to Andrade was made under false pretenses, namely, that Roc Nation was negotiating to purchase Andrade’s contract from the promoters and thereafter would negotiate a more lucrative bout for Andrade on HBO,” the lawsuit says. “Ultimately, Andrade agreed to Roc Nation’s false inducements and spurned the professional boxing match the promoters had negotiated with Showtime.”
According to the suit, Roc Nation rolled out a full-court press on Andrade to get him to leave his promoters.
On Sept. 23, 2014, Roc Nation’s higher-ups — Jay Z confidante Desiree Perez, president of Roc Nation Sports Juan Perez, head of marketing/branding Michael Yormark, Fried and head of Roc Nation boxing David Itskowitch — allegedly met with Andrade and his father, as well as manager Ed Farris, at their ritzy Manhattan offices.
At the meeting, Roc Nation tried to impress upon Andrade his untapped out-of-the-ring potential in the areas of a clothing-line endorsement, advertising sponsorships and even modeling assignments, the suit says.
Jay Z’s Roc Nation Sports boasts a roster of some A-list talent.
The suit alleges that Roc Nation officials told Andrade they wanted to make him the first signing of their newly created boxing division, which opened in the summer of 2014.
“We look forward and would be honored to work with him and have him be the boxer to bless our boxing division by being first,” Desiree Perez allegedly wrote in an email to Farris on Sept. 24, 2014, according to the suit.
When told Andrade already had promotional representation, Fried said he planned to contact DeGuardia and Pelullo about purchasing his promotional rights and it was represented to Farris that up to $2 million would be paid to accomplish this, according to the suit.
Then, sometime in November of 2014, the suit alleges, Fried told Harris that Jay Z had personally signed off on giving Andrade $550,000 to reject an offer by DeGuardia and Pelullo for Andrade to fight Jermell Charlo on Dec. 13, 2014, at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas as part of a lucrative four-fight deal with Showtime.
The suit alleges that Fried informed Andrade’s manager that Roc Nation was already “negotiating with senior HBO executives” about Andrade fighting on the rival network and that once Roc Nation became his full-time promoter a deal would be worked out allowing Andrade “a lesser opponent for more money” on HBO.
Farris and Andrade ended up passing up the Showtime deal as a result of his dealings with Roc Nation, the complaint says. The suit claims that neither Roc Nation nor Fried ever tendered Andrade the $550,000 even after he pulled out of the Dec. 13 fight. Moreover, no serious efforts were ever made to purchase his promotional contract from DeGuardia and Pelullo, the suit says.