NBA Union Chief Hunter Fires Family After Nepotism Report

NBPA Executive Director Billy Hunter
Billy Hunter, executive director of the National Basketball Players Association, speaks during a news conference in New York on Nov. 11, 2011. Photographer: Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

Billy Hunter purged family members from roles in the National Basketball Association players union that he runs after a report that criticized nepotism at the organization.

The moves dismissing personnel including his daughter and daughter-in-law were disclosed in a letter from Hunter to members of a special committee of players established prior to the investigation by the law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison. A copy of the letter, dated Jan. 23, was obtained by Bloomberg News.

The New York-based union paid almost $4.8 million to Hunter’s family members and their professional firms since 2001, according to public records as reported by Bloomberg News in April. Hunter makes $3 million a year as union chief.

“Hopefully this decision will alleviate any concerns raised by their employment,” Hunter wrote in the letter. “These measures are being taken although the report noted that both of them were highly qualified, not overpaid, and were contributing members of the NBPA staff.”

Robyn Hunter, the director’s daughter, ceased working at the National Basketball Players Association on Jan. 25, according to the letter. Megan Inaba, his daughter-in-law and director of special events and sponsorships, will leave on Feb. 17 after the NBA’s All-Star weekend.

Prim Capital

Hunter, 70, also secured a letter of resignation from Prim Capital, which employs his son, Todd.

Hunter, through union spokesman Dan Wasserman, declined to comment on the letter or his family’s employment changes.

Joe Lombardo, Prim’s managing director, didn’t immediately return a voice message left at his office seeking comment on the company’s contract with the union.

The changes come about two weeks after the independent investigation of the union’s business practices found that Hunter, the organization’s leader since 1996, put personal interests ahead of the association, failed to manage conflicts of interest, and lacked proper approval for his five-year, $15 million contract as director.

The investigation by Paul, Weiss also concluded that Hunter didn’t do anything illegal. It said players should consider a change in leadership. The report also said players could decide it was possible for Hunter to rectify the problems he created and serve as an effective executive director.

Hunter’s letter to the committee, comprised of James Jones of the Miami Heat, Matt Bonner of the San Antonio Spurs, Anthony Tolliver of the Atlanta Hawks and Matt Carroll and Etan Thomas, who aren’t currently on rosters, said the union would adopt policies related to conflicts of interest, hiring and document retention.

Jobs Eliminated

Hunter said in the letter he would eliminate unspecified positions at the union and adjust the salaries of others to bring them in line with market rates.

Arn Tellem, one of basketball’s most prominent agents, sent a letter to his clients two days ago that said Hunter must be fired as head of the association. He accused Hunter of “treachery” in the letter, a copy of which was obtained by Bloomberg News. Tellem is the first agent to call for Hunter’s ouster.

“Mr. Hunter works for you, though he clearly doesn’t realize it,” Tellem said in the letter.

Players’ Interests

Hunter said yesterday in a statement he has always looked after the players’ interests, even when some agents haven’t. He didn’t name specific agents.

“The reality is that the agents have never been satisfied that they cannot control the union for their own agendas,” Hunter said in the statement.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan started investigating the union after the association’s president, Derek Fisher, called for a review of business practices, including nepotism.

Besides Hunter’s son, daughter and daughter-in-law, another daughter, Alexis, is special counsel at a law firm used by the union. Hunter’s letter didn’t refer to Alexis Hunter.

The Paul, Weiss report stated that Prim Capital didn’t cooperate with its investigation.

According to the union’s most recent filing with the U.S. Department of Labor, Robyn Hunter received a salary of $89,695 last year. Inaba received $167,100, while Prim, which conducted financial education seminars for NBA players, was paid $594,900.

Steptoe & Johnson, the firm that employs Alexis Hunter, was paid $296,246.

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