Thoroughbred Owners of California board chairman Mike Pegram has filed suit against California Thoroughbred owner Jerry Jamgotchian, alleging “defamation and false light.”
Pegram’s attorneys made the complaint public Dec. 22.
The complaint claims Jamgotchian distributed numerous false e-mails to as many as 148 separate e-mail addresses at a time, including to members of the press, stating Pegram and the TOC board of directors are “criminals” that had stolen and misappropriated TOC funds through an off-the-books slush fund.
The complaint states Jamgotchian knew the accusations were false but circulated them in order to harm and harass Pegram. Jamgotchian had no evidence of wrongdoing, knew Pegram was not on the TOC board during the time period in which the alleged misappropriations occurred, and admitted to a former TOC official his accusations were untrue.
Pegram owns and operates two Nevada casinos as well as McDonald’s franchises and is a prominent Thoroughbred owner. He has won classic races alone or in partnership.
Pegram alleges Jamgotchian’s actions could impact his Nevada casino licenses as well as McDonald’s franchise agreements.
“Mr. Jamgotchian has the absolute right to express his opinion concerning the direction of the TOC and California horse racing,” Pegram said in a statement. “But telling my colleagues, my friends, and the press that I’m a thief crossed the line and forced me to bring this suit. His recklessness is harmful, not only to me, but to the horse racing industry nationwide.”
The lawsuit is pending in the Ninth Judicial District Court in Douglas County, Nev. In addition to seeking compensatory damages, the complaint requests punitive damages.
Jamgotchian, when contacted by The Blood-Horse Dec. 22, said the legal action will force disclosure by the TOC.
“As a TOC member, I expect all TOC board members, including Mr. Pegram, to act in a responsible manner and not waste or misuse valuable and diminishing TOC assets,” Jamgotchian said. “I further expect that Mr. Pegram and all other TOC board members would fully investigate and seek the return of any TOC funds which have been improperly given to or improperly taken and used by former or current TOC board members and/or employees from the TOC’s non-pari-mutuel and other bank accounts.
“Based upon Mr. Pegram’s legal action, the TOC will now be required to produce all of the books and records relating to the $600,000-plus which was taken from the TOC’s secret non-pari-mutuel account as well as fully disclose the TOC’s working relationship with Betfair and other parties or groups who are working against the best interests of California Thoroughbred horse owners.”
Betfair, which owns the TVG horse racing network, plans to launch exchange wagering in California in 2012. In his e-mails Jamgotchian has called for transparency in the relationship among Betfair, the TOC, and the California Horse Racing Board.