Inside the Evander Kane bankruptcy: ‘A vicious cycle of loan after loan’

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In 2017, then-San Jose Sharks forward Evander Kane owed $140,000 to a bookie who went by the pseudonym “Vinny,” and $100,000 to a casino, some of the tens of millions of dollars of debt that Kane, who filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection early last year, accumulated over his career. To make the payments, and others, he frequently borrowed from friends and scores of lenders.

These details emerged in a court motion last week by his top creditor, Centennial Bank, which wants to block the bankruptcy to prevent Kane from walking away from his debts. The bank, which claims it is owed more than $8 million, included with its motion excerpts of a July deposition in which Kane outlined a history of borrowing tens of millions of dollars to pay off loans and other debts, including to bookies.

Centennial is trying to get to the heart of one of the most high-profile athlete bankruptcy cases in years: with over $50 million of career earnings and tens of millions of dollars of borrowings, what happened to the money? “I’m just trying to figure out what exactly, what you’ve done with your funds,” a Centennial lawyer asked Kane early on in the bankruptcy proceedings, during what is known as a 2004 examination, excerpts of which were attached to the bank’s motion.

It doesn’t appear Centennial, which declined to comment through one of its lawyers, yet has an answer.

When Kane, who now plays for the Edmonton Oilers, filed his petition nearly two years ago, he listed assets of $10.2 million and debts of $26.8 million, much of it recently borrowed bank debt. But between 2014 and 2018, Kane also borrowed almost $30 million in 16 separate transactions detailed in the declaration of Centennial lawyer Andrew Ghekas, with the proceeds often used to pay down or retire previous loans.

In the bank’s motion, the lender writes that since 2014, Kane has entered 24 separate lending arrangements.

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“It was a cycle of just taking out new loans to pay off existing loans,” Kane said, in the July 6 deposition, according to the partial transcript included as an exhibit to Centennial’s motion. And referring to the financial firm he retained to arrange the debt, Kane added, “Sure Sports were the ones that were seeking these loans out for me, they were the ones that sought out the loan with you and Centennial Bank, and it was just a vicious cycle of loan after loan that they were able to get me into.”

Sure Sports, which specializes in contract-based loans to athletes and is being sued by the U.S. Bankruptcy Trustee for its role in the Kane bankruptcy, declined to comment.

One of the questions Centennial repeatedly put to Kane in that July 6 interview is while he explained that many of his current debts were incurred to replace high-interest loans, what were these earlier so-called “hard money” loans used for? He often replied he did not know or that they were to take out older loans, according to the deposition transcript.

Kane also borrowed over $2 million from friends and testified those debts were incurred in various cases to help him pay off mortgages, loans from other people, and gambling debts. In one instance, he purchased a $9,000 Pokemon card, he testified, as a form of payment to Tony Veltri, whom the bankruptcy petition lists as owed $320,000.

Kane spent $10 million on real estate, and he listed expenses of nearly $100,000 a month on his January 2021 bankruptcy petition. He also listed $1.5 million in gambling losses, but in its motion to block the bankruptcy petition, Centennial alleged that figure does not hold up. “When reviewing the limited bank statements produced by Kane where supposedly Kane withdrew cash for gambling, the records do not support $1,500,000 in gambling losses,” the bank wrote. “This is because, as admitted by Kane, he has no records that he could look to in order to verify any losses.”

Whether the bank believes there are more or less than $1.5 million in gambling losses is not stated, but the motion and deposition focus in part on the betting issue.

Ghekas asked Kane about the use of four 2017 loans from Thrivest Specialty, which lent the hockey player cumulatively a total of $11 million, according to the lawyer’s declaration. After Kane had said he couldn’t recall what the loans were for, Ghekas followed, “It’s identified that $140,000 was to pay off to Vinny. Do you see that?”

“Yes,” Kane replied.

“And who is Vinny?”

“He’s a bookie, but that’s not like his real name, it’s just a name that was used … It was a name I was given to use to identify him.”

“So would you have any records to support whatever was owed to Vinny?”

Kane replied he did not.

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During Kane’s divorce last year, his now ex-wife Anna Kane alleged her husband bet on NHL games. He denied that, and an NHL investigation cleared him of the charge. In its motion, Centennial mentions Kane gambled at casinos and bet on football, basketball and baseball games, but hockey is not cited.

Kane has admitted in court proceedings to having a gambling problem, and his side views Centennial’s motion as a red herring designed to embarrass him. Centennial argued because Kane does not have records to back up his gambling losses or gains, he runs afoul of the bankruptcy code’s requirement that a debtor has substantive records as part of the Chapter 7 process.

Kane has successfully defended the bankruptcy petition to this point, winning rulings from the court rebuffing the bank creditors’ efforts to stymie the process. The court largely halted the process earlier this year to prepare for a series of adversarial cases akin to trials, including Centennial’s. A group of banks is seeking to convert the case into a different chapter under the business code, and a woman suing Kane for an alleged debt he owes her for obtaining an abortion.

Kane’s lawyer in an email wrote if the judge scheduled a hearing, he would respond to the bank’s arguments, otherwise, the case eventually go to trial.

(Photo: Derek Leung / Getty Images)

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