Charles Banks is a 49-year-old wine executive who runs Terroir Capital, an investment firm that’s put some $200 million into a variety of California wineries. Banks also invests in hotels and owns half of Mayacamas Winery, a 128-year-old winery in Napa, California. Banks met Tim Duncan in 1997 and Duncan agreed to let Banks manage some of his finances shortly afterwards. Banks also managed the finances of Kevin Garnett.
Court documents show that in 2012 Banks convinced Duncan to invest $7.5 million into Gameday Merchandising LLC, a sputtering sports apparel company that was struggling to pay off its debts and meet obligations to its clients, including the Washington Nationals. However, Gameday was not as financially healthy as Banks said they were and Banks didn’t use Duncan’s money as he said he did. As the failing company’s principal financier, Duncan ended up on the hook with Comerica Bank for a $6 million loan Gameday had taken out.
Text messages between Banks and Duncan while the Spurs were playing in the 2013 NBA Finals show that Banks was deliberately misleading Duncan about the nature of his investment. He claimed that Gameday was healthy and growing (e.g.: “Gameday is crushing”), while at the same time, trying to assure Gameday that he could lock down Duncan’s signature and save he company (e.g.: “I need to be careful asking as I don’t want to make him nervous.”) Duncan filed a fraud lawsuit against Banks in 2015 and Banks was indicted on federal wire fraud charges in Sep. 2016. Gameday went under in January, leaving Duncan theoretically responsible for the Comerica loan.
Yesterday, Banks admitted to defrauding Duncan. He’ll be sentenced in June, and he could get up to 20 years in prison. Please enjoy the following exchange between Banks and federal judge Fred Biery over what exactly “crushing” means:
“That is a term of art,” Biery said. “What does ‘crushing’ mean?”
“It meant that the company was doing very well at the time,” Banks replied.
“So what you were telling him was untrue?” Biery asked after reading more of the texts quoted in court records.
“That is correct,” Banks replied.
Here is Tim Duncan’s 2015 complaint against Banks.