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Real-life Jerry Maguire files for Chapter 7 bankruptcy

Many sports and movie fans in Mesa have probably seen the popular movie, "Jerry Maguire." Earlier this month, the sports agent who was the inspiration for the movie filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy as he faced debts of several million dollars.

The man is Leigh Steinberg and he has represented star NFL players including Troy Aikman, Warren Moon, Steve Young and Ben Roethlisberger. In a statement he released shortly after the filing, he said he has been drowning in debt for some time but he delayed filing for bankruptcy for years, having borrowed the money in good faith and desiring to pay it back.

In Mesa, many people delay filing for bankruptcy for similar reasons, or because they are worried about what others will think or about losing their property. However, bankruptcy protection exists in the U.S. so that Americans who struggle with debt can start fresh and go back to being productive and successful members of society. Many Americans have gone on to achieve fame and wealth after starting anew with a bankruptcy filing.

In Steinberg's case, he was finally pushed to file after facing creditor harassment and negative publicity that hindered his ability to find work. Without working, there was no way he could repay his debts.

Steinberg's financial troubles were created by a variety of decisions and difficult circumstances. He reportedly struggled for years with alcoholism, which made it difficult for him to exercise sound judgment over his affairs, which led him to plunge into debt and other problems.

Then, a difficult legal battle in 2003 greatly damaged his image and made it difficult to earn money. The lawsuit took place after one of his employees took a $300,000 loan from one of his NFL clients-something that is banned by the NFL. The NFL player fired Steinberg and went to a competitor agency. Litigation that ensued has kept Steinberg out of work.

Since he could not find work, due to many complexities and a negative public image that resulted from the litigation, he has been unable to earn money to pay his debts.

Steinberg said in his statement that he is confident that he has many working years ahead of him, and after bankruptcy he hopes to "make a positive impact on athletes and the world," according to a news report. This is a good outlook to have, as Chapter 7 bankruptcy truly offers a chance to start fresh. It wipes out almost all bills, and in exchange for this discharge, a trustee sells some of the filer's assets to pay creditors. However, the filer may usually keep many assets like furniture, appliances, and the house he or she lives in.

Source: Associated Press, "Sports agent Leigh Steinberg files for bankruptcy," Bernie Wilson, Jan. 12, 2012