SANTA ANA, Calif. >> A California court has issued a bench warrant for sports agent Leigh Steinberg in a case involving a $1.4 million judgment owed to a landlord.
The warrant was issued after Steinberg failed to appear in court last week, Carole Levitzky, a spokeswoman for Orange County Superior Court, said on Thursday
Court papers show Steinberg was ordered to pay $1.4 million last year to the Irvine Company in a default judgment for office space he leased in Newport Beach.
Steinberg stopped paying under the terms of his lease in 2009, according to court papers filed by the landlord, which declined to comment on the case.
Steinberg — the agent who was the inspiration for Tom Cruise’s character in the movie "Jerry Maguire" — said he’s not hiding or running from the law, adding he has an office open for business in Irvine and thousands of friends on Facebook and followers on Twitter.
The 62-year-old agent said he’s still representing athletes and he’s acting as a consultant on projects related to sports in movies, television and video games.
Steinberg said he had asked his attorney to change the date of last week’s hearing and was told it was taken care of. Steinberg said he was unaware he had a warrant in the case, which stems from some payments he missed in 2009 before moving to less expensive office space.
"Since when in this country do you put people in jail for having debt?" he said in a phone interview Thursday. "The point is, I had some financial struggles, which I regret. And I am working hard right now to pay the debts I owe."
Steinberg said his financial troubles stem in part from his divorce several years ago. He separated from his wife in 2006.
The Irvine Company earlier this month asked the court to require Steinberg to apply a portion of his income stream to pay the judgment, alleging process servers have been unable to directly contact him.
"Steinberg is a semi famous figure with huge apparent notoriety but shows signs of significant recent deterioration," Brooke Brandt, an attorney for the Orange County real estate company, wrote in a Dec. 9 court filing. "He appears to have a phalanx of security protection around him that prevents process servers from gaining access to him unless he allows it."
The next hearing in the case is scheduled for Feb. 6.
Steinberg appeared last month as master of ceremonies at an event in Orange County honoring local Jewish sports figures.
Steinberg is considered the first super agent in sports, having represented such NFL stars as Troy Aikman, Steve Young, Warren Moon and Ben Roethlisberger, as well as boxer Oscar De La Hoya. He also represents former University of Hawaii football coach June Jones. Steinberg began his career in 1975 and was able to secure huge signing bonuses for some of football’s biggest stars.
Associated Press writer John Rogers contributed to this report from Los Angeles. AP Sports Writer Bernie Wilson contributed from San Diego.