A lawyer for Steve Ballmer says the former Microsoft CEO’s signature was forged on a key document in a lawsuit against Ballmer over an alleged $5 million financial consulting agreement related to his early efforts to acquire an NBA team.
The document, dated Dec. 9, 2009, purports to create an “Agency Agreement” between Ballmer and his longtime friend, former Seattle Sonics trainer Steve Gordon, giving Gordon the authority to act on Ballmer’s behalf in pursuit of an NBA team, long before Ballmer’s current agreement to acquire the L.A. Clippers for $2 billion.
The suit, filed last week in King County Superior Court, alleges that Gordon subsequently struck an agreement with Seattle-based investment advisor Cambrea Ezell to manage $1 billion in funds set aside by Ballmer to fund a pro basketball bid. Ezell claims that Ballmer and Gordon owe her firm, Reign Capital Management, more than $5 million under that financial management agreement.
However, Ballmer was unaware of any agreement with Ezell, and what’s more, he never entered into the original partnership with Gordon, said Andrew Kinstler, a lawyer for Ballmer, in an email to GeekWire this morning. Kinstler provided a copy of a letter from February of this year in which he informed Ezell’s lawyer, Joseph Grube, that the original agency agreement was not real.
Kinstler told Grube in that letter that there was “an apparent attempt at a fraud being perpetrated on my client in this matter.”
Ballmer typically signs his name as “Steven A. Ballmer” on legal documents, but the purported agency agreement with Gordon shows the former Microsoft CEO’s signature as “Steve Ballmer.” Gordon’s name is also misspelled in the document as Steven B. Gordon, rather than his actual name, Stephen B. Gordon.
Kinstler said via email this morning that his office has turned over the issue of the “phony” agreement to the King County Prosecutor’s Office on behalf of Ballmer, and is cooperating with the prosecutor’s office in its investigation into the situation.
“Upon reviewing the attached documents we quickly determined that Mr. Ballmer’s signature on the so-called ‘Agency Agreement’ was a forgery, and that Mr. Ballmer had not signed or ever seen that document before, or any other documents having anything to do with Ms. Ezell or her business,” Kinstler said in his email this morning.
Ballmer’s lawyer added, “While we have strong suspicions regarding who forged Mr. Ballmer’s signature on that document, at this point the only facts we know with certainty is that Mr. Ballmer did not sign the document, and had no knowledge of it, or anything related to it, until the document was sent to us by Mr. Grube. Mr. Grube’s client had contacted Mr. Ballmer previously with a demand for ‘payment’ but had not provided any documentation or other evidence regarding her claims, despite repeated requests for the basis of her strange claim that Mr. Ballmer owed her money.”
We’ve left messages with Grube and the King County Prosecutor’s Office seeking comment on the case.
[Update: Grube says he believes the document and signature to be valid, and his client intends to continue to pursue the case.]
This is the latest legal entanglement involving Gordon, a former Seattle Sonics basketball trainer known as “Hat Man” in NBA circles. In an earlier suit, scientist Thomas Bukowski filed a lawsuit claiming that he’s owed $10 million by Gordon, and alleging that Ballmer is on the hook for $3 million of that debt, based on agreements between Ballmer and Gordon. Ballmer has denied any obligation for those debts.
That earlier suit alleged that Ballmer promised to cover Gordon’s millions of dollars in debt if the former Sonics trainer checked himself into a psychiatric hospital. Ballmer’s relationship with Gordon dates back a couple decades, including early morning basketball training sessions. Gordon has also worked with Paul Allen and his NBA team, the Portland Trail Blazers.