Wade’s Childhood Buddy As Biz Manager: Disaster

This week Dwyane Wade has gone from one ugly legal situation to another. In the latest chapter of his three-year custody battle with estranged wife Siohvaughn Wade, Mrs. Wade was briefly jailed Tuesday after not showing up for two scheduled court appearances on Monday.

Dwyane Wade and LeBron James

(LeBron: Pay Attention)

Mr. Wade is seeking full custody of his two young boys and wants Mrs. Wade to undergo a court-ordered psychiatric examination. Meanwhile, last week Siohvaughn Wade filed a lawsuit against Dwyane Wade’s current girlfriend Gabrielle Union, claiming Union and her husband engaged in “sexual foreplay” near the couple’s children.

Can’t get any worse than that for Dwyane Wade, right?

Depending on your perspective, it can.

Today Wade was back in court for jury selection in a $25 million breach-of-contract lawsuit filed against him by two former partners in a failed restaurant venture.

The suit was actually originally filed in July, 2008, by West Palm Beach restaurant developer Mark Rodberg and a British national named Richard von Houtman.

Rodberg and von Houtman claim that Wade didn’t fulfilling his marketing obligations in what was to eventually be a national chain of restaurants called D. Wade’s Place. That marketing deal reportedly included, “four visits a year (by Wade) in each Florida restaurant, plus the VIP openings. In exchange, Wade was to be paid $1 million, plus a 10 percent stake.

So where does the $25 million figure come from?

Jose Lambiet provides some context PALM BEACH POST in a 2008 follow on the story:

(Rodberg and von Houtman) already spent millions (on the restaurant locations). Some of the money went to buy the 13 Florida places, including nine existing Hops microbreweries to be transformed into D. Wade’s.

Some more cash went to buying a $350,000-plus Rolls-Royce with Wade’s Heat number, 3, etched in the center of the wheels. Some more cash, $30,000, was used to throw Wade a world-class birthday bash in January.

So far, however, only two restaurants were opened: a small one in Boca; the other, a large place in Fort Lauderdale. Both were closed within weeks. And work at the chain’s flagship restaurant in Aventura is more than six months late. Construction, however, is winding down, and the place is supposed to open before the end of the year, despite the lawsuit.

Word is that Rodberg and Von Houtman spent nearly $3.5 million on that restaurant alone.

The Aventura location never opened.

The same von Houtman was profiled by Gus Garcia-Roberts of the MIAMI NEW TIMES reported in July, 2009. In the piece, Garcia-Roberts reported Houtman:

  • Was sued by “American Express for $440,514.96 that the company claims he owes on a black, or no-limit, card issued to him in 2006.”
  • Had his “Isle of Venice crib, which he purchased in 2007 for $1.85 million,” foreclosed on.
  • Claims to have inherited “a fortune from his family: His mother, Dorothy, was heiress to the Blue Bonnet margarine company (New Times was unable to verify that claim with ConAgra Foods, the conglomerate that now owns the brand).
  • Alternately claims he made his money as a commodities trader brokering, “jet fuel and oil deals with foreign countries,” and as “a real estate speculator working for a Dutch businessman named Klaas Bruinsma. Nicknamed ‘The Minister,’ Netherlands-born Bruinsma was Europe’s most notorious Mob boss in the 1980s, orchestrating the import of hundreds of tons of hashish from Pakistan to Europe. U.S. Customs seized von Houtman’s Bruinsma-funded Boca house because it had been purchased with proceeds from drug trafficking.
  • And finally: “He’s been married five times and has a long, court-recorded history of violence against women. After one wild episode in the late 1990s, he was convicted of battery on three Palm Beach County cops.

von Houtman is the confidence man who brokered the entire Wade restaurant venture.

So how the hell did a figure as notorious as von Houtman pull off a deal with Wade of that magnitude?

He went through Wade’s childhood buddy and “business manager,” Marcus Andrews.

More from the NEW TIMES:

Wade entrusted the business of profiting from his fame to a childhood friend, Marcus Andrews, who is president of Wade Global Enterprises LLC. In 2007, Wade earned an estimated $12 million in endorsements, putting him at number ten on Fortune magazine’s list of most marketable athletes.

Which is to say that Wade’s reputation was worth hundreds of millions of dollars when the baron met Andrews in late 2006 through a third party. (Andrews declined to be interviewed, but in response to von Houtman’s myriad claims, he responded only: “Not true!”)

Von Houtman says he was initially offered the chance to buy the rights to Wade’s likeness for T-shirt production. The cost: $1 million. “I had no idea who Dwyane Wade was at the time,” the baron recalls. “I assumed he was a rapper. When I looked into him and realized he had the potential to be a megastar, I immediately wanted to get my hooks into him.” 

The T-shirt concept met an early demise. Wade had a clothing contract with Converse, says von Houtman. But the conversation evolved to include a chain of Hard Rock Café-like restaurants, complete with memorabilia and clothing stores. A group of restaurateurs joined the project, most prominently Mark Rodberg, co-owner in Bucky’s Bar-B-Que in Boca Raton and Bucky’s Grill in Fort Lauderdale.

On August 6, 2007, according to court documents, von Houtman, Rodberg, Wade, and Andrews signed their names to contracts sealing their partnership in an “upscale restaurant concept to be named D Wade’s.”

Four months after the Fort Lauderdale location opened, von Houtman sold his stake in the restaurants. The new owners entered negotiations to expand the chain with former Kentucky governor and KFC founder John Y. Brown — “unbeknownst to Mr. Wade.”

What Wade business manager Marcus Andrews wasn’t counting on was the restaurants being an operational disaster. The two stores that did open were shuttered almost immediately.

With the first two stores already failing, von Houtman requested $1 million in cash from Wade to open the Aventura store. When the NBA player declined, the entire venture imploded.

In July, 2008, Rodberg and von Houtman followed with their breach-of-contract lawsuit.

From the New Times:

Beginning in late 2008, von Houtman began firing off emails to Riley lobbying the Heat president to “influence” a settlement to the restaurant lawsuits. And in February 2009, he launched a smear campaign against the Heat superstar, meeting with reporters from the Palm Beach Post and New Times to make allegations about Wade’s personal life.

I chronicled those allegations on SbB at the time in 2008, but with the revelations about von Houtman’s background now out in the open, I won’t be recounting von Houtman’s claims about Wade’s personal life here.

That’s not to say that I’m siding with Wade in this situation, but based on von Houtman’s background and the verifiable facts of the case, it appears that Wade’s childhood friend-turned business manager Marcus Andrews may have misjudged von Houtman’s ability to fund and operate a legitimate restaurant chain bearing Wade’s name.

Now for the best part of this entire story: From today’s ASSOCIATED PRESS account of jury selection for the trial:

Of the jurors called for consideration, only two said they had no idea who Wade was. The court building is in the same downtown portion of Miami as the Heat’s home arena and three jurors told the court they would not be able to listen fairly to testimony because Wade was their favorite player.

“He’ll be right in my eyes,” said potential juror 13, as Wade and associate Marcus Andrews simultaneously took notes with blue pens.

Marcus Andrews? Again? So now Wade’s consulting his legal expertise?!

Wonder if Andrews has let Wade know that von Houtman has every intention of continuing his public relations campaign (Exhibit A) against the NBA player while litigating this case until the bitter end. (Hopefully Wade has attorneys on retainer by now.)

It’s pretty obvious that this entire situation could’ve been completely avoided had Wade had someone with more sophisticated business experience overseeing his off-court affairs.

That is, obvious to everyone but Wade. And LeBron James.