It was just a matter of time, I suppose. I’ve had my fingers crossed and kept hoping for the best, but deep inside I couldn’t help feeling that there was no way Tiger Woods and Roger Federer could be represented by the same company and some of Tiger’s stench not end up rubbing off on Federer.
My grandmother used to say “show me your friends and I’ll show you who you are”. I always had mixed feelings about that statement because it implied that if I hung around losers, or hos, or thieves, or any other element of humanity she did not approve of, it meant that she could accuse me of being the same even sans evidence. I also always felt that there was a judgmental aspect to her position that made me uncomfortable. Did she not trust my ability to use my own judgment, to not succumb to negative influences?
And yet I’ve also felt that there is some truth to the notion of guilt by association. And I hope that this will be Federer’s defense – that he is the innocent bystander, that he is just passing in the rush, and that he is guilty only of knowing the man whose name has become mud, both in and outside the world of golf. More than anything I do not want him to be found guilty of some of these distasteful allegations.
At issue is a massive lawsuit filed today against IMG, arguably the biggest sports management firm in the world. IMG is supposedly owned by a man named Theodore Forstmann. And Forstmann is being sued by a printing company named Agate Printing, Inc, which claims that it served as a go-between for IMG and placed millions of dollars of bets on Forstmann’s behalf. Agate is alleging that Forstmann breached an agreement to give the company printing business, and left them responsible for millions of dollars in tax liabilities as a result of his gambling losses.
What does any of this have to do with Roger Federer? I wish that none of it did. I wish that all of the allegations had remained focused on Tiger Woods and Forstmann’s apparent hatred for the golfer, so much so that he allegedly placed bets against him despite representing him. Sadly, Agate has also named Federer in its lawsuit.
According to the lawsuit, filed today in the L.A. County Superior Court, Agate claims that Federer gave Forstmann inside information on the 2006 French Open final he played against Rafael Nadal. The suit claims that as a result of the information provided by Federer, Forstmann raised his bet from $10,000. to $40,000. Federer lost that match.
I have no idea if Forstmann gained or lost from the transaction, but if I had to hazard a guess, I would say that he probably lost money on that match. Agate is claiming that it has become stuck with this among other bad debts.
This is not the first time that Agate has sued Forstmann. They filed a similar suit in 2008 which was apparently dismissed. At least this is the version of events put out by Michael Sitrick, Mr. Forstmann’s representative. Sitrick claims that Agate sees Forstmann as the lottery. He claims that Agate is only spreading lies and falsehoods.
The only reason I even care about any of this is because Roger Federer’s name is being included in the new and revised version of Agate’s lawsuit. I’m not going to pretend that I even understand all of the ins and outs of the wealthy and how they legally attack each other. I’m not even going to defend Roger against the slurs against his name because at this time, he has not made a statement and I don’t know his version of events.
What I do know is that my heart is sick with the worry about how this will all play out. And I do know that the stench of this scandal is one that Roger Federer can’t afford. His reputation has been too carefully manicured, his position as the Player’s representative too assiduously courted, his achievements in tennis too daintily accomplished, his manner of dealing with the press too graciously elegant, to allow this kind of gutter slime-balling.
Because no bones about it, someone seems to be slinging mud. This is not just a lawsuit. It’s a nasty, gutter smear campaign. I just hope that Roger comes out of it smelling like roses.