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Bush Knows Marketer

However, he says he doesn't know all the details about his family's living situation.

April 27, 2006|Gary Klein and David Wharton | Times Staff Writers

NEW YORK — Days before he is expected to become the top pick in the NFL draft, Reggie Bush acknowledged Wednesday that he knows the man at the center of a controversy surrounding his parents' living arrangements.

Bush, however, said he would not comment on whether the family paid rent to Michael Michaels, an aspiring San Diego sports marketer trying to sign him as a client, because he was still gathering information about the situation.

"It would be very unprofessional for me to speak on that if I don't know all the details on it," Bush said after he announced a promotional deal with Adidas at one of the company's Manhattan stores. "I think it's best for me, obviously, to find out all the information and make sure everything I know is true before I speak on that."

But Mike Ornstein, Bush's marketing representative, said Michaels was a longtime family friend of Bush's stepfather and mother. Ornstein said Michaels knew LaMar and Denise Griffin were having difficulty paying rent at another residence, so he allowed the couple and Bush's teenage brother, Jovan, to stay in a Spring Valley home he purchased for $757,500 last year.

"They were having a financial problem. So this guy came to them and said 'Move into the house,' " Ornstein said. "And so they did and they worked out an arrangement to pay him. That's what I understand."

There was at least one apparent sign of the Griffins' money problems. On Jan. 26, in San Diego Superior Court, a collection agency won a judgment against LaMar Griffin for $1,954.45 in unpaid bills to a cellphone company, a debt that according to court records dated to late 2001.

Michaels and a man named Lloyd Lake wanted USC's Heisman Trophy-winning running back as the star client of their fledgling company, New Era Sports & Entertainment.

Bush ultimately chose other representation. The Griffins moved out of the house this month.

Neither the Griffins nor Michaels could be reached for comment. Lake, who is in prison on an unrelated criminal charge, also could not be reached.

In January, Lake's sister, Lisa, a San Diego television news anchor, was mentioned in a court hearing as part of the business, but on Wednesday she denied any involvement with New Era.

Meanwhile, the Pacific 10 Conference and NCAA continued their investigation of the Griffins' housing arrangement and other matters that might have violated rules regarding "extra benefits."

If investigators discover that the family lived rent-free or at a reduced rate during the 2005 football season, Bush could be declared retroactively ineligible. USC might be forced to forfeit games and Bush's status as the Heisman winner could be jeopardized even if Bush and the school had no knowledge of the violations.

David Cornwell, an Atlanta-based attorney who represents Bush and the Griffins, has hired a veteran investigator who formerly worked for the NCAA to look into the situation, Ornstein said. Ornstein, however, said he did not know the investigator's name, and Cornwell did not return a phone message.

Bush said Wednesday that he did not know his parents' rent situation when he was playing for USC last season.

"Obviously not. I was in Los Angeles trying to help my team win the national championship," he said.

Bush, though, has paid careful attention to his growing business interests, which have already earned him millions. Along with the multiyear Adidas contract, he also has contracts with Subway and a memorabilia company. Other deals are pending.

"I'm very much involved in knowing the details of what I'm signing, what deals I'm doing," Bush said.

"I like to know everything."

Said Ornstein: "He's read every contract, line by line, all 46 pages."

Though the draft is Saturday, the NFL invited potential top picks here early for a round of appearances and events. Bush, USC quarterback Matt Leinart, Texas quarterback Vince Young, North Carolina State defensive end Mario Williams, Maryland tight end Vernon Davis and Virginia offensive tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson were the invitees.

On Wednesday, after he was introduced in the Adidas store amid music and videos of his touchdown runs, Bush reiterated that he thought his situation had been blown out of proportion.

Later, he said he would not be distracted by the controversy and intended to fulfill his goal of becoming the top pick.

"I'm a very focused individual," he said. "I've always worked hard all my life. It's all I've known."

Klein reported from New York, Wharton from Los Angeles.

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