Mike Pegram

Mike Pegram

Anne M. Eberhardt

Pegram Defamation Case With Jamgotchian Ends

Attorney for defendant agrees to $879,536 settlement in Nevada, it was announced.

A defamation lawsuit brought in Nevada by prominent Thoroughbred owner Mike Pegram against fellow owner Jerry Jamgotchian has been brought to an end with a settlement of $879,536, it was announced June 12 by Pegram.

Attorney J. Robert Smith, representing Jamgotchian, signed an acceptance of offer of judgement in Nevada's Ninth Judicial District Court May 14. The amount covers costs, pre-judgement interest, and attorney fees. According to a statement by Pegram, Jamgotchian was also ordered by the court to pay an additional $5,500 in sanctions for violating court orders and destroying evidence.

Pegram, who has a Kentucky Derby (gr. I) victory, two wins in the Preakness (gr. I), five Breeders' Cup championships, and a Dubai World Cup (UAE-I) title as an owner, filed the lawsuit against Jamgotchian alleging defamation and false light in December 2011. Pegram is currently chairman of the Thoroughbred Owners of California Board of Directors.

Jamgotchian had, through a long series of e-mails, called Pegram and the TOC Board "criminals" who had "stolen" and "misappropriated" TOC funds through a "slush-fund," among other charges. Pegram alleged that Jamgotchian made the accusations knowing they were false in order to harass him and harm his businesses. Pegram owns two Nevada casinos and numerous McDonald's restaurant franchises in the western United States.

The allegations by Jamgotchian concerned money he claims was misappropriated for a failed attempt by the TOC to initiate the purchase of Santa Anita Park during the time that former track owner Magna Entertainment Corp. was in bankruptcy proceedings.

"Mr. Jamgotchian's payment to me of nearly $880,000 is clear proof that his e-mail campaign against me and the TOC was misguided and reckless, and that his statements about me were total lies," Pegram said in a statement. "As I said when I filed this lawsuit, Mr. Jamgotchian has the absolute right to express his opinions concerning the direction of the TOC and California horse racing.

"But telling the public, including my colleagues, friends, and the press, that I'm a thief crossed the line and was a lie, forcing me to bring this suit. Now, he has paid the price for broadcasting false and defamatory statements about me. His recklessness is harmful, not only to me, but to the horse racing industry nationwide."

Asked for a response, Jamgotchian provided a statement saying he had not paid "one penny" to Pegram in the way of a settlement, had issued no apology, and does not believe in any way that his "statements were reckless or untrue." He also promised further legal action.

"Thanks to Pegram's (defamation) action, Mr. Jamgotchian has now uncovered through discovery and depositions overwhelming evidence that more than $600,000 in TOC funds were secretly paid to politicians and wasted on the ill-fated Santa Anita acquisition. This evidence shows that more than $350,000 was taken without any TOC Board approval by various TOC Board members and insiders."