Shaq has been served. After three months of chasing basketball great Shaquille O’Neal, lawyers handling a class action lawsuit served the basketball star and one-time FTX promoter outside his Atlanta home on Sunday.
O’Neal is among more than a dozen celebrities and sports teams who are being sued for promoting FTX, the now-bankrupt crypto exchange. He had at one point been so supportive of FTX that the company dubbed him “Shaqtoshi," referencing Satoshi Nakamoto, the name of the person who apparently wrote the white paper on Bitcoin.
Lawyers have been hunting him down for three months. O’Neal has been hiding in plain sight. He appears regularly on TV, has his own podcast and is a touring DJ under the name “DJ Diesel.” Still, process servers struggled to give O’Neal official notice that he is the target of a lawsuit.
Lawyers finally served O’Neal at his home on Sunday afternoon, and say the exchange was captured on video. The case was filed by Oklahoma man Edwin Garrison, an FTX customer, and is being handled by attorneys Adam Moskowitz and David Boies. The news was first shared with The Block.
“We just served personally Shaquille O’Neal outside his house with a copy of our complaint at 4pm,” Moskowitz said in an email. “We took Judge Moore’s instructions very seriously and are glad to finally end this silly sideshow.”
Desperation in the hunt for O'Neal
Lawyers had been so desperate to find O’Neal ahead of a Monday deadline that they asked a judge to allow them to serve O’Neal via Twitter, Instagram and email. After that request was denied, Moskowitz’s firm resorted to tweeting at him from outside the TNT studios in Atlanta, where O’Neal is a fixture on “The NBA on TNT.”
The exchange between O’Neal and a process server was captured on video, lawyers say, though it has yet to be released. O’Neal did not respond to a request for comment.
“His home video cameras recorded our service and we have made it very clear, he is not to destroy and/or erase any of these security tapes, because they must be preserved for our lawsuit,” Moskowitz said. “Mr. O’Neal will now be required to appear in federal court and explain to his millions of followers his ‘FTX: I Am All In’ false advertising campaign.”
Other celebrities targeted in the lawsuit include football star Tom Brady and “Seinfeld” creator Larry David. O’Neal, who Moskowitz said had "been hiding and driving away from our process servers for the past three months,” was the final figure to be served on Sunday.
The case was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida.
Threats & tough times serving celebs
The lengthy struggle to serve O’Neal was so dramatic that lawyers claim one process server gave up after he received a text message that seemingly threatened his wife, Beth Shaw.
“Shaq lives in the Bahamas u stupid fuck give Beth Shaw my regards,” the text message said, according to court filings. It is not clear who sent the message.
The case illustrates how difficult it can be to serve a celebrity, even one who often appears in public. O’Neal has homes in Florida, Georgia, Nevada, California and the Bahamas, according to court filings. Lawyers had focused on his Texas residence because O’Neal is expanding his Big Chicken restaurant franchise there.
O’Neal has sought to distance himself from FTX in the wake of the company’s collapse. “I was just a paid spokesperson for a commercial,” O'Neal said after the company went bankrupt.
Former FTX CEO Sam Bankman-Fried has pleaded not guilty to criminal fraud charges, while three other executives from the company pleaded guilty in federal court.
Disclaimer: The former CEO and majority shareholder of The Block has disclosed a series of loans from former FTX and Alameda founder Sam Bankman-Fried.
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