MIAMI (CBS4) — Heat star Dwyane Wade is used to being on the offensive on the hardwood, Tuesday; he finally got a chance to go on offense in his trial concerning a breach of contract that led to a failed restaurant deal. The lawsuit, filed by Wade’s former business partners Mark Rodberg and Lauren Hollander, centers on the deal Wade signed with the two in 2007.
Rodberg and Hollander’s attorney, Richard Bales, only needed around five minutes Tuesday to wrap-up his direct examination of Wade. Bales questioned Wade for hours over three days. In the interim, Wade’s lawyer, Michael Kreitzer, began presenting Wade’s story.
Wade told Kreitzer he was committed to making the restaurant project work and he thought the plaintiffs in the case could make it happen. Wade also talked up how the restaurants were marketed at Heat games and how he looked forward to bringing family and friends to the restaurants.
“I was really focused on getting Aventura open,” Wade said, “and making Fort Lauderdale a success before thinking of other plans.”
Rodberg and Hollander say Wade broke his contract to have restaurants that would bear his name after he demanded higher compensation than was agreed to, then abandoned the deal completely in 2008. They’re suing him for $25 million.
Wade said he was justified in walking away after warning Rodberg and Hollander about problems with the restaurant deal.
“I was kind of like, ‘let’s get our house in order,’ and like I have said before, we had a failed restaurant in Boca and questions about our one in Fort Lauderdale,” Wade said, “and questions about the one in Aventura that might not open. I was not excited in light of that with having 9 more restaurants on our plate.”
Wade continued saying he prodded both Hollander and Rodberg for information about the restaurants. “I kept asking to see the books about the restaurant at that meeting,” Wade testified.
Dwyane Wade also said a third former partner, Richard von Houtman, wasn’t living up to his end of the deal. “He wasn’t helping out with any of the problems,” Wade said. “He was not doing things to help this joint venture.”
Wade said his former partners gave him $100,000 in cash in order to bring in former Miami Heat star Shaquille O’Neal in as a partner with the restaurants. “I know to me, that’s a lot of money, $100,000 cash in hand,” Wade said.
Wade said even though O’Neal couldn’t join the restaurant venture, his partners told him he could keep the cash as a signing bonus with them. Wade said he did and declared the income with the IRS.
The all-star guard said O’Neal told him he couldn’t be in on the restaurant deal because it was a “conflict of interest.” Still, Wade said there was still hope for the restaurants.
“I still went forward with my partners to do what they wanted because I hoped to have a successful restaurant chain,” Wade said.
Only two restaurants bearing Wade’s name opened but closed fairly quickly. Wade said he the right to get out of a deal that had gone sour and did so reluctantly.
“I didn’t want to terminate the joint venture agreement,” Wade said. “As I stated, getting involved in these restaurants was something that I always wanted to do, so I just trying to find a way to make it work, Mr. Bales, not terminate it.”
Wade is becoming a familiar face in courtrooms in Chicago and Miami. He is currently embroiled in a bitter divorce with his soon-to-be ex-wife. Wade will attend a hearing on his divorce in Chicago on Friday, so no trial will be held at the Miami-Dade Courthouse.
When the trial resumes on Thursday, one of the former business partners, Mark Rodberg, will take the stand.