Portland agent: Basketball corruption probe ‘seismic’

An executive at adidas is one of 10 people facing federal charges

Lynn Lashbrook, the head of Sports Management Worldwide in Portland, September 26, 2017 (KOIN)
Lynn Lashbrook, the head of Sports Management Worldwide in Portland, September 26, 2017 (KOIN)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A high-ranking executive at Portland-based adidas is one of 10 people facing federal charges in a basketball corruption investigation. Four college coaches are also facing charges in the bribery case that one local sports agent calls the “tip of the iceberg.”

Lynn Lashbrook, the head of Sports Management Worldwide in Portland, told KOIN 6 News he saw all this coming because there’s been an ethical erosion in the business. He also thinks the layers of the onion are just now starting to peel back.

He isn’t surprised by the charges that allege schemes in which agents, 2 adidas executives and financial advisers bribed coaches at some top college basketball programs to direct players to them.

A sign on the adidas headquarters in Portland, September 26, 2017 (KOIN)
A sign on the adidas headquarters in Portland, September 26, 2017 (KOIN)

“It’s a big issue, and where there’s smoke there’s fire,” Lashbrook said. “I think we’ve lost our ethical compass in general. It’s not been illuminated. It’s been eroded and I think this might be the tip of the iceberg.”

The high-stakes game of talent discovery is what drives business in all sports, he said. So what US Attorney Joon Kim revealed Tuesday — “the company affiliates and the managers and advisers paying cash to families, players and their families” — may be happening in more than just the basketball world.

“More questions are going to be asked, more families are going to be nervous, more athletic directors are going to be nervous of shoe deals and more nervous about doing things,” Lashbrook said, “so it’s going to make us more transparent.”

At the center of the investigation is Jim Gatto, the head of Global Sports Marketing for adidas basketball. Gatto faces charges of wire fraud and money laundering, accused of disguising the payments in adidas’ books by using fake invoices and false entries. (Jim Gatto on Twitter)

In a statement, adidas told KOIN 6 News:

“We are learning more about the situation. We’re unaware of any misconduct and will fully cooperate with authorities to understand more.”

Lashbrook made his first response via Twitter: “This could be seismic.”

“Sounds corny, but it’s a major reset,” he told KOIN 6 News. “I go back to my original statement: it’s seismic what’s happening here. It’s seismic and we don’t know where it ends.”