Artie Pelullo of Banner Promotions and Joe DeGuardia of Star Boxing, who co-promote junior middleweight world titleholder Demetrius Andrade, filed suit against Jay Z's Roc Nation Sports on Wednesday in New York Supreme Court, accusing the company of intentionally interfering with their exclusive agreement with Andrade.
Also named in the suit is Washington, D.C., attorney Jeff Fried, an experienced boxing lawyer and former Roc Nation Sports consultant. The suit claims Fried also "participated in the wrongful conduct."
According to the lawsuit, a copy of which was obtained by ESPN.com, Pelullo and DeGuardia are seeking at least $20 million in damages plus punitive damages, alleging "Roc Nation and Fried acted willfully, maliciously, recklessly, wantonly and with intent to injure Star Boxing and Banner Promotions."
Roc Nation Sports spokesman Ron Berkowitz said the company had seen the suit but declined to comment.
Pelullo and DeGuardia, who also declined to comment to ESPN.com, allege in the suit that Roc Nation Sports, which entered the boxing business last August, tried to negotiate a promotional agreement with Andrade even though it knew he was under contract.
They also accuse Roc Nation Sports executives of offering Andrade $550,000 to refuse to participate in a bout Pelullo and DeGuardia negotiated for him on Showtime. Pelullo and DeGuardia negotiated for Andrade to defend his 154-pound title against Jermell Charlo on Dec. 13 on a Showtime-televised card at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, a fight that would have kicked off a three-fight contract with the network.
Ultimately, Andrade (21-0, 14 KOs), 27, of Providence, Rhode Island, rejected the Showtime deal, did not get any money from Roc Nation Sports and has not fought since making his first title defense in June 2014. Because he has not fought for so long, Andrade recently was warned by the WBO that he risks being stripped of his belt for inactivity.
"Roc Nation's promise to Andrade was made under false pretenses, namely, that Roc Nation was negotiating to purchase Andrade's contract from the promoters and thereafter would negotiate a more lucrative bout for Andrade on HBO," the lawsuit claims. "Ultimately, Andrade agreed to Roc Nation's false inducements and spurned the professional boxing match the promoters had negotiated with Showtime."
According to the suit, Andrade; his father/trainer, Paul Andrade; and manager, Ed Farris, met with Roc Nation executives Desiree Perez, Juan Perez, Michael Yormark and David Itskowitch, along with Fried, on Sept. 23, 2014, at their New York offices "under the guise of offering Andrade assistance in marketing and branding." At that meeting, according to the suit, "representatives of Roc Nation explained to Andrade that they were not merely interested in marketing him but wanted to become his promoter."
After Andrade and his manager reminded Roc Nation's representatives that he had a contract with Star Boxing and Banner Promotions, Fried said he did not want to discuss the matter further for "legal reasons," but represented that Roc Nation "would inquire with Star Boxing and Banner Promotions about purchasing Andrade's promotional rights" for up to $2 million.
The suit cites emails from Desiree Perez to Farris discussing the meeting and the company's excitement about potentially promoting Andrade. The plan, according to the suit, was to complete the purchase of Andrade's contract from Star Boxing and Banner Promotions before the end of 2014.
However, in late October, according to the suit, Farris told Roc Nation that Star Boxing and Banner Promotions had gotten an offer for Andrade to fight Charlo in December.
The suit contends that Roc Nation and Fried "embarked on a campaign to convince Farris and Andrade that Andrade should not sign the agreement negotiated by Star Boxing and Banner Promotions with Showtime. Specifically, Fried told Farris that Roc Nation and Jay Z did not want Andrade to fight on the Showtime card and that Roc Nation, even though it did not promote Andrade, had already been negotiating with senior HBO executives about Andrade fighting on their network.
Fried further stated, the suit alleges, that once Roc Nation became Andrade's promoter, he would get a much better deal with HBO -- a lesser opponent for more money, according to the suit.
The suit went on to say that "Fried created a false fear that Charlo's representative, Al Haymon, was too influential at Showtime and, as a result, Andrade would not be treated fairly."
According to the suit, Farris pushed for Andrade to sign the Showtime deal after the network offered Star Boxing and Banner Promotions $750,000 for him to fight Charlo, of which Andrade would receive $550,000 with Banner Promotions and Star Boxing splitting the remaining $200,000.
"On or about November 7, 2014, Farris spoke with Fried, who told Farris that he had personally discussed the situation with Jay Z and Jay Z personally authorized Roc Nation to pay Andrade $550,000 -- the same amount he was to receive for fighting Charlo -- if he rejected the fight with Charlo," the suit claims. "Fried also reiterated Roc Nation's intention to purchase Andrade's [contract] from Star and Banner."
Andrade turned down the Showtime deal, and a few days later, the suit says, Roc Nation invited Andrade to its Manhattan offices on Nov. 18 to finalize their deal and meet with Jay Z personally.
According to the suit, Andrade, Farris and others met with Roc Nation executives, including Jay Z, and Andrade was promised he would be paid $550,000 as soon as the negotiations with Banner Promotions and Star Boxing to buy his contract were completed.
"Contrary to Roc Nation and/or Fried's promises, no substantive or serious efforts were made to purchase Andrade's exclusive promotional rights from Star Boxing and Banner Promotions," the suit claims.
Andrade remains under contract to Banner Promotions and Star Boxing, and they have apparently repaired their relationship. They have been working on various potential fights, including a proposed fight in Australia with former super middleweight titlist Anthony Mundine, which ultimately did not come off because the WBO would not sanction it because Mundine is not in its rankings.