Jess Jackson’s California lawsuit against Emmanuel de Seroux was settled Sept. 24, one week before a trial over the blockbuster case was scheduled to start, attorneys affiliated with the case have confirmed.
De Seroux, who was part of a group of horsemen accused of collaborating to defraud the billionaire vintner on purchases involving horses and the former Buckram Oak Farm in Kentucky, will pay out $3.5 million to settle the case.
The settlement also includes a dismissal of de Seroux from a separate Kentucky state court action that primarily focuses on the 2005 sale of the former Buckram Oak Farm.
“Both of us agreed to dismiss all claims against each other in the San Diego action, in which (de Seroux) was the only remaining defendant, and to dismiss Mr. de Seroux out of the Kentucky action related to the farm,” said Kevin McGee, Jackson’s California-based corporate attorney. “We are pleased with settlement, and it pretty much speaks for itself.”
Besides de Seroux, other defendants originally named in the California suit filed in 2005 were Buckram Oak Holdings, Continental Bloodstock, Fernando Diaz-Valdez, Bruce Headley, Brad Martin, Frederic Sauque, and Narvick International.
Continental Bloodstock and Narvick International, which are entities affiliated with de Seroux, were also dismissed as part of the Sept. 24 agreement. Headley and Martin each previously settled for $900,000 and $250,000, respectively, as did Diaz-Valdez in an agreement in which no money was exchanged.
Buckram Oak Holdings and Sauque were both dismissed from the California action on jurisdictional grounds, but are still part of the Kentucky action, along with Martin.
The settlement, which was also confirmed by The Blood-Horse via brief e-mail and telephone communications with de Seroux’s attorney, Michael Meuser, was put together exactly one week before the trial was scheduled to begin Oct. 1 in San Diego Superior Court.
“Anytime you get a case that travels towards a trial date, settlement talks become a logical part of the conversations that you have with the other side,” McGee said.
As part of the settlement terms, de Seroux also agreed to drop a counter-claim filed against Jackson in early 2006. That action claimed, in part, that Jackson did not pay the entirety of an agreed 5% commission due on more than $60 million in alleged transactions involving about 140 horses.
One of the attorneys for de Seroux issued a post-settlement statement that painted an unflattering portrait of Jackson, who checked in tied for 204th on the recent "400 Richest Americans" listing annually produced by Forbes. The business publication credited the founder of the Kendall-Jackson winery with a net worth of $2.2 billion.
"Learning our lesson from how Jackson spent years battling Gallo in a losing effort, a conscious decision was made to pay the ransom fee to liberate Narvick International and Emmanuel de Seroux from the shackles of being held hostage to a never-ending litigation process," California attorney James R. Morgan wrote in the four-paragraph statement. "The wrath of billionaire Jackson was vented in a well-funded effort to destroy Emmanuel de Seroux.
"There is no admission of any fault or wrongdoing by either party. There is a negotiated peace."
McGee responded to Morgan’s strong comments by saying, “The settlement speaks for itself. Morgan’s comments have noting to do with the case, and have everything to do with an out-of-work attorney looking for free advertising.”
The remaining legal battle in Kentucky state court focuses on the $17.5-million sale of the former Buckram Oak Farm in 2005, which Jackson has since renamed Stonestreet Farm. In that case, Jackson claims Buckram Oaks Holdings, then headed by the late Saudi Arabian diplomat and horseman Mahmoud Fustok, worked in collusion with Sauque, Martin, and others to fraud the California businessman out of at least $1.5 million in secret commissions.
The case, which also involves some horse transactions, was originally filed in Kentucky federal court, but was later dismissed and re-filed at the state level.