Settlement reached in Bush civil case

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SAN DIEGO – A source has told Yahoo! Sports that former University of Southern California running back Reggie Bush has reached a settlement in a civil case brought by Lloyd Lake, one of the financiers of failed marketing agency New Era Sports & Entertainment. The settlement comes just days before Bush was expected to give a court-ordered deposition in the suit, centering on $300,000 in unpaid rent, cash and other benefits allegedly provided to the Heisman Trophy winner and his family while he was at USC.

The amount of Bush’s settlement with Lake is not known. When reached by Yahoo! Sports on Tuesday night, one of Lake’s attorneys, Paul Wong, declined comment. Messages left for Lake’s other attorney, Brian Watkins, were not returned.

Reggie Bush warms up for the Saints prior to the Super Bowl in February.
(Mark Humphrey/AP Photo file)

The settlement with Lake should mark the last chapter in Bush’s saga involving New Era Sports. The relationship between Bush and New Era was first revealed in a Yahoo! Sports investigation in April 2006, sparking an NCAA probe into the running back that eventually grew to encompass the entire Trojan athletics program. The NCAA recently wrapped its investigation into USC and is expected to reveal its findings as early as next month. However, it is believed investigators would have sought transcripts of this week’s depositions – particularly that of Bush, who denied any wrongdoing in an interview with the NCAA in the summer of 2009.

If the NCAA rules that Bush received extra benefits during his playing career at USC, he could be deemed retroactively ineligible. Since some of the benefits date back to the 2004 season, the Trojans’ national championship that year could be rescinded. USC could face further NCAA sanctions and Bush’s 2005 Heisman Trophy could be in jeopardy. The Heisman ballot indicates that an athlete must meet NCAA eligibility requirements to be considered for college football’s most prestigious award.

This marks the second settlement by Bush with a New Era Sports founder in the past three years. In April 2007, Bush ended a civil suit brought by Lake’s former New Era Sports partner, Michael Michaels, settling for between $200,000 and $300,000.

Settlement talks appeared to be in the works since Monday morning, soon after San Diego Superior County Judge Steven R. Denton ordered that Lake, Michaels and Bush all submit to depositions in hopes of moving the civil suit forward. Lake was scheduled to appear in a San Diego courtroom Monday to give his deposition, but that was scuttled when Bush’s attorneys asked for a one day continuance in hopes of opening talks between the two parties. Lake’s deposition then failed to take place on Tuesday as well, apparently canceled after reaching a settlement with Bush. Michaels’ deposition was expected to come Wednesday, and Bush’s on Friday, but both are expected to be canceled as the civil suit against Bush, who now plays for the New Orleans Saints, and his family is withdrawn.

Michaels and Lake were key figures in the NCAA’s investigation into Bush, whose family lived rent-free for almost a year in a $757,237 Spring Valley, Calif., house Michaels said he purchased for the family in April 2005. Lake and Michaels had both previously alleged the house and other benefits were given to Bush as part of an agreement the USC star and his family had to work with New Era when Bush went to the NFL. Bush ultimately signed with contract agent Joel Segal and marketing rep Mike Ornstein. Ornstein is also alleged to have given Bush and his family benefits while he was at USC.