The key figures
Meet the people involved in Yahoo! Sports' investigation of Reggie Bush and his dealings with prospective agents while at USC.By Yahoo! Sports September 14, 2006
Role: The former USC running back and his family allegedly received improper benefits from a prospective agency and his current marketing representative while leading the Trojans to the national championship in 2004 and winning the Heisman Trophy in 2005.
Why he's important: The cash and gifts Bush and his family received are in violation of NCAA rules and could jeopardize USC's 2004 national championship and Bush's 2005 Heisman Trophy.
Where he stands now: Bush denies receiving any illegal benefits from agents while playing for USC. He began his NFL career last Sunday and, as the second overall pick of the 2006 draft, figures to be an impact player for the New Orleans Saints.
NEW ERA SPORTS & ENTERTAINMENT
Role: Sports agency founded with the goal of building a clientele around former USC running back Reggie Bush.
Why it's important: New Era Sports is the failed marketing firm at the center of an ongoing dispute over alleged payments made by prospective agents Michael Michaels and Lloyd Lake. According to Michaels and Lake, Bush and his parents used the prospect of the agency being built around Bush to take over $100,000 in cash and gifts while the USC star was still playing in college.
Where it stands now: New Era Sports allegedly fizzled out when Bush signed with other representation.
MICHAEL MICHAELS (aka MICHAEL PETTIFORD)
Role: New Era Sports & Entertainment financial backer.
Why he's important: A member of the Sycuan Indian Tribe, Michaels was approached in October 2004 by friend Lloyd Lake and Reggie Bush's stepfather, LaMar Griffin, about founding a sports marketing firm New Era Sports featuring Bush as the anchor client. Michaels alleges he laid out over $100,000 in cash to Bush and his family to pay off debts, purchase a car and pay for hotel stays.
Where he stands now: Michaels was dismissed from his role as a business development officer with the Sycuan tribe, largely due to his involvement with Bush's family. He says he and his lawyers are continuing to build a lawsuit against both Bush and his parents in hopes of recouping $300,000 he invested in New Era Sports. The agency never got off the ground, something Michaels and other sources say happened when Bush signed with another agent and marketing representative.
Role: New Era Sports & Entertainment co-founder.
Why he's important: Lake was the friend of Reggie Bush who introduced LaMar Griffin to eventual New Era backer Michael Michaels. Lake also did much of the legwork in helping establish New Era Sports as a corporate entity, and he invested an unknown amount of money in the venture.
Where he stands now: Lake was sent to prison in Victorville, Calif., in February for a federal parole violation. He contends that, like Michaels, he is building a lawsuit against Bush and his family to recoup money and damages from his investment in New Era Sports.
LAMAR AND DENISE GRIFFIN
Roles: Mother and stepfather of Reggie Bush.
The Griffins have kept quiet. (AP) Why they're important: LaMar Griffin is alleged by both Michael Michaels and Lloyd Lake as the man who pitched the initial idea of forming a sports agency and using Bush as the anchor client in October of 2004. An attorney representing Lake and formerly representing Michaels alleges the Griffins began using Bush's future as a potential New Era client to collect over $100,000 in cash and benefits from Michaels and Lake before the USC star eventually signed with other representation.
Where they stand now: The Griffins have been silent throughout the allegations made against them, and they are expected to be primary targets in lawsuits that are being prepared against Bush and his family.
Role: Reggie Bush's adviser/marketing agent.
Why he's important: Ornstein is alleged to have given thousands in cash and gifts to Bush and his family during USC's 2005 season. Bush's ties to Ornstein first came to light when he took an internship in Ornstein's office in the summer of 2005. By November, Ornstein had begun to advise Bush's family on its search for an agent to negotiate the Heisman Trophy winner's NFL contract.
Where he stands now: Ornstein was hired in January of 2006 as Bush's marketing agent.
Role: San Diego-based agent who was contacted by New Era Sports about potentially negotiating Reggie Bush's NFL contract.
Why he's important: Caravantes was approached by New Era Sports representatives Lloyd Lake and Michael Michaels about becoming a partner in the agency. Though Caravantes' name appeared on documentation tying him to New Era, his ultimate participation in the firm was contingent on Bush signing with the agency. That never occurred, and Caravantes' relationship with the company dissolved.
Where he stands now: Caravantes was cited in an ESPN report as a partner in New Era Sports who was being investigated by the NFLPA and NFL security for allegedly attempting to extort cash from Bush. The NFLPA subsequently determined Caravantes had no role in any extortion plot. He is no longer linked to New Era and the firm's ongoing turmoil with Bush's family.
Role: New Jersey sports memorabilia dealer who sought Reggie Bush as a client.
Why he's important: During the Heisman Trophy ceremony in New York City, DeMartino says he was asked by then-Bush adviser Mike Ornstein for $500 in cash so Ornstein could make a payment of over $1,500 to Bush's family. DeMartino says Ornstein also said he had purchased suits for the Heisman ceremony for Bush's stepfather LaMar Griffin and Bush's younger brother.
Where he stands now: DeMartino and Ornstein settled a financial dispute for an unrelated memorabilia deal last week, with DeMartino receiving an undisclosed amount from Ornstein.
Role: Attorney for Reggie Bush and Bush's family.
Why he's important: Cornwell has been at the forefront of deflecting allegations made against Bush's family, while also stimulating NFLPA and NFL security investigations into what he alleges is an extortion attempt by New Era Sports against Bush. Cornwell is alleged to have made a $100,000 settlement offer to New Era Sports financial backer Michael Michaels, who was seeking compensation for finances he laid out to Bush's family and time he invested in the failed sports agency.
Where he stands now: Cornwell is still acting as Bush's attorney and awaiting the filing of lawsuits that have been threatened by New Era sports financial backer Michael Michaels and agency co-founder Lloyd Lake.
Role: Head of CWC Sports.
Why he's important: Pfeifer is in the midst of filing a lawsuit against Mike Ornstein for breach of their partnership in CWC Sports. Pfeifer, who is the head of CWC, said he brought Ornstein in as a partner in 1997 and their business relationship continued until April 2005. Pfeifer, who provided information regarding the travel arrangements that Ornstein's company purchased for Bush's family, said the business relationship fell apart when he said he discovered that Ornstein was diverting clients from the business and working with them on his own.
Where he stands now: Pfeifer, who has been traveling in Europe and Israel for nearly two weeks, says he will continue his lawsuit against Ornstein, seeking to get 50 percent of the money Ornstein earned with clients such as Bush.
JAMES "JAMIE" FRITZ
Role: Employee for Sports Link and former CWC Sports employee.
Why he's important: Fritz is an employee of Mike Ornstein, the marketing agent for running back Reggie Bush. Fritz's American Express credit card was used to pay for travel for Bush's family to Oakland in November, including plane fare and a limousine service for Bush's mother, stepfather and stepbrother.
Where he stands now: Fritz remains an employee of Ornstein and refused to comment Wednesday night after being contacted by Yahoo! Sports.