Basketball: Lakers guard Lonzo Ball fires family friend after US$1.5M goes missing

Lonzo Ball said that he has put together a team of trusted advisers to further investigate the matter. PHOTO: AFP

LOS ANGELES (REUTERS) - Los Angeles Lakers guard Lonzo Ball said he no longer is working with a family friend after US$1.5 million (S$2 million) from Ball's personal and business bank accounts apparently remains missing.

The second-year player told ESPN that the man, Alan Foster, "used his access to my business and personal finances to enrich himself. As a result, I have decided to sever all ties with Alan, effective immediately."

Foster owns 16.3 per cent of the family's Big Baller Brand and also has managed the family companies. He met the Balls about a decade ago through his son, who became friends with Lonzo Ball in seventh grade.

Family patriarch LaVar Ball has said it was Foster's idea to launch the Big Baller Brand rather than have Lonzo, and eventually his younger brothers LaMelo and LiAngelo, sign with Nike, Adidas or another shoe and apparel company.

In a lengthy report released on Friday, ESPN said it reviewed documents and correspondence, including communication from Lonzo's financial adviser, who said that neither the tax returns of the player or the company could be filed because of the US$1.5 million in question.

The network said Lonzo had told his father several times that he was concerned by Foster's dealings but that LaVar said he would handle things.

And despite the warnings of the past few months, LaVar only this week reviewed all the communication, and he said in a statement to ESPN that the situation was "devastating."

"Regretfully, I put my complete trust in Alan Foster to manage my son's business affairs," LaVar said.

"At the end of the day, family comes first, and I support Zo wholeheartedly. Together, we will make this right." Foster initially agreed to arrange to meet with ESPN to give his side of the story, but then put it off, saying he was "super busy."

It wasn't immediately clear if police in Southern California are investigating Foster in this case, but he does have a criminal record.

ESPN said federal court documents showed that Foster was sentenced to more than seven years in prison in 2002 after pleading guilty to one count of mail fraud and two counts of money laundering. He also was ordered to pay restitution of US$3.7 million to the 70 victims of the crime.

Lonzo, 21, said he was unaware of that prison sentence.

Foster has two other marks on his criminal record: a conviction in 1999 for carrying a concealed handgun without a license, and in 2009, a five-month prison sentence after being arrested for an unspecified violation of his supervised release in the 2002 case.

Lonzo's personal manager, Darren Moore, issued a statement regarding Foster this week.

"Alan Foster was more than a trusted adviser," Moore said. "He was a mentor, a father figure and someone Lonzo and I respected, loved and listened to. ... I'm proud of Lonzo for waking up and taking back his power. Together, we will fight for justice."

Lonzo said in his statement to ESPN that he has put together a team of trusted advisers to further investigate the matter.

"This has been a very difficult decision as I had a great deal of love and respect for Alan," Lonzo said.

"But the time has come for me to take responsibility for my own career both on and off the court."

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