"I'm not fighting the world here," said Jess Jackson, the California winemaker whose lawsuit against his former bloodstock advisers heated up last week after additional charges and defendants were named and subsequent legal filings unveiled possible supporting evidence in a case alleging fraud and misrepresentation in the private and public purchase of horses and farmland on Jackson's behalf.
"We've invested substantial funds, and we are in this business for the long haul," Jackson said. "I look forward to long, positive working relationships with the entire industry. I'm here because I enjoy the business, and I've found some weak points that have hurt me and have hurt others.
"We've named the people we have identified as working together to defraud my family, and we are not intending to include anyone else," Jackson said Sunday concerning the allegations in his lawsuit against Emmanuel de Seroux and his Narvick International, agents Brad Martin, Frederic Sauque, Fernando Diaz-Valdez, trainer Bruce Headley, and the Buckram Oak Holdings of the late Mahmoud Fustok. "It may be obvious from a distance that we've struggled to protect consignors and farms. We have no knowledge that any of them knew I was being defrauded. I'm not going to bring them into court and don't want to."
Nevertheless, a March 16 motion in Woodford County District Court in Kentucky to subpoena records from Airdrie Stud included transcripts of a sworn deposition given Feb. 24 by Airdrie's owner, Brereton C. Jones, the former Kentucky governor and chairman of the Kentucky Equine Education Project that has been lobbying state government for racetrack casino legislation. Jones admitted paying over $130,000 in commissions and consulting fees to Headley, who at the time was a partner and adviser to Jackson, after Headley purchased horses from Jones at Keeneland sales in 2003 and 2004.
Jackson's attorney, Richard Getty, said Airdrie and Jones have fully cooperated, balking at producing some records only after Headley and others objected to a subpoena.
"We don't think it's right," Jackson said of undisclosed commissions paid to his advisers, "but we have no knowledge that it's part of a fraudulent scheme. Most consignors I've interviewed are very straightforward. They say, 'We didn't know you didn't know.'"
Jackson said he has heard from dozens of people applauding his lawsuit and supporting his efforts to get legislation passed in Kentucky to more closely regulate bloodstock transactions. Some said his filing of a lawsuit already has made a difference.
"I got an e-mail from a woman who said she had 10 hits for kickbacks from agents last year. This year she had one," Jackson said.
"People are conscious of the reputation the industry has and congratulated someone for standing up and fighting," he added. "I'm a private person, yet this is so important for the little guys and for Keeneland, to make a level playing field to protect the people coming in and to protect the consignors who don't have a chance when they are being swindled."
Meanwhile, attorneys for de Seroux and Narvick on March 17 filed a cross-complaint in California against Jackson, alleging breach of contract and unjust enrichment. The cross-complaint states Narvick is entitled to "5% compensation for all horses, or interests therein, acquired by Jackson through Narvick's efforts, plus expenses" and that "Jackson has failed to pay Narvick the full amont he owes it."
Jackson acquired more than 140 horses for about $60 million, according to de Seroux's attorneys. Jackson contends Narvick's role was limited to private acquisitions in which he was to seek 5% commission from the sellers.
Getty said he is "confident that all legitimate services ever billed by Narvick or Mr. de Serouxo have been paid in full. The cross-claim is thus entirely without merit and plaintiffs will be seeking its dismissal at the earliest possible time."