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Monday, May 1, 2006
Updated: May 2, 7:52 AM ET
Caravantes described as New Era Sports employee

Associated Press

SAN DIEGO -- An attorney and a promotional brochure for a fledgling sports marketing firm that tried to sign football star Reggie Bush described NFL agent David Caravantes as an employee, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press.

Caravantes has tried to downplay his connection to New Era Sports & Entertainment, which is at the center of a controversial arrangement with Bush's family.

San Diego attorney Brian E. Watkins described Caravantes as a New Era Sports employee in both an e-mail and a letter sent in early March to Atlanta lawyer David Cornwell, who represents the Bush family.

In a telephone interview Monday night, Caravantes' attorney, Thomas DiPaolo, said his client was approached by New Era's founders with the idea that he would play an instrumental role in the company if it were to land Bush as a client. Bush didn't sign with New Era or with Caravantes.

"He was not an owner, not an employee, not an officer of that company," DiPaolo said.

Watkins told the AP on Monday that he was merely acting as an "intermediary" in order to shield Caravantes from Cornwell's attempts to contact him.

In an e-mail to Cornwell on March 1, Watkins wrote: "Our Office represents the New Era Sports Management Co. and all its employees including but not limited to Mr. Dave Caravantes." Watkins made the same representation in a letter to Cornwell the following day, in which he listed Caravantes among a group of New Era Sports Management Co.'s employees and investors.

Cornwell declined to comment.

Caravantes is under investigation by the NFL Players Association for his role in New Era Sports' dealings with the Bush family.

The agent said he called Watkins after receiving a letter from the NFLPA late last week, "to ask him if he knew anything about letters sent to the Bush family."

Asked if he'd spoken with Watkins earlier in the year, Caravantes said: "I don't recall."

Caravantes said he was worried about being decertified, "But I think you'll see I've done nothing wrong."

Watkins said he is preparing to sue Bush's parents for fraud and will seek $3.2 million. He said the plaintiffs will be Michael Michaels, who owned the suburban San Diego house the Bush family lived in for nearly a year, and Michaels' partner, Lloyd Lake, a documented gang member serving time in prison for a probation violation.

"That demonstrates, obviously, that David was not involved in the demands because if he was, he'd be a plaintiff," DiPaolo said.

The Pac-10 has said it will investigate whether any NCAA rules were violated when Bush's family lived in Michaels' $757,000 Spring Valley house while Bush was still playing for Southern California last season. The NCAA prohibits student-athletes and their families from receiving extra benefits from agents or their representatives.

In a recruiting packet put together by or for New Era Sports, Caravantes is listed as CEO and is described in glowing terms as the group's "nucleus" and its creator.

Caravantes "is widely regarded as one of the hardest-working agents in the country," the brochure reads. "Over the years, he has distinguished himself as one of the top negotiators in the industry by negotiating numerous record-breaking NFL contracts."

Watkins said the brochure might have been written by Lake.

DiPaolo said his understanding was that the brochure was "solely to make a presentation for Sycuan."

The Sycuan Tribe said it was approached last fall by Michaels, a tribal member, about becoming a partner in New Era Sports. The tribe declined.

During Lake's sentencing hearing on Feb. 6 for a probation violation, Caravantes told the court that he and Lake "and some members of Sycuan and others, have put together a company called New Era Sports and Entertainment."

At the same hearing, Lake's attorney, Marc X. Carlos, mentioned the brochure and Bush. "And I guess that matter is in litigation right now due to, I guess, representations made by Bush and his family to Mr. Lake's group," Carlos said.

Lake told the court that he felt bad "because I got Dave to leave a big company he was with, called BC Sports. And they represent Randy Moss, some big names. And I kind of feel like I let them down for leaving that company to form this company."

Caravantes formerly worked for Bus Cook, the founder of B.C. Sports, Inc., who has negotiated big contracts for Brett Favre and Steve McNair, and helped negotiate an extension for Moss.

Caravantes said he used to work with Cook, but couldn't recall the years.

Cook hasn't responded to phone and e-mail messages seeking comment on Caravantes' employment history with B.C. Sports.

Including Caravantes' resume in the New Era Sports brochure might have been an attempt at lending prestige to the business, Watkins said.

Referring to Michaels and Lake, Watkins said New Era "basically was founded by a bunch of nobodies in the business."

NFLPA records show that Caravantes represents seven players, none of them considered stars.

"To me, it looks like somebody's out to get Reggie's money, a classic case of people trying to create some kind of opportunity based on another guy's good fortune," Southern California coach Pete Carroll said Monday. "I don't know all the facts. I don't know that there is something wrong here."

Bush won the Heisman Trophy last year and was expected to be the first pick in Saturday's NFL draft. But he was bypassed by the Houston Texans and went to New Orleans with the second pick.