SBJ/October 3 - 9, 2005/Labor Agents

House panel won’t get all it wants, Jockeys’ Guild attorney says

An attorney for the Jockeys’ Guild said he won’t produce all the documents that were subpoenaed by the U.S. House of Representatives. Some of the documents don’t exist, said Lloyd Ownbey, and others fall under attorney-client privilege. The deadline for turning over the documents is today.

“They may have to go to federal court and get a court to say the jockeys are in contempt of Congress,” Ownbey said.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations issued subpoenas Sept. 20 for documents that the guild, a labor organization that represents about 1,200 jockeys nationwide, had failed to supply to the subcommittee in response to two prior written requests.

Jockey Gary Birzer found that he was not covered for $800,000 in medical bills.
Jeff Miles, spokesman for Rep. Ed Whitfield, R-Ky., who is chairman of the subcommittee investigating the Jockeys’ Guild, would not comment on what would happen if the guild fails to produce the documents. “We will cross that bridge when we come to it,” he said.

Among the documents listed in the subpoena were records relating to a decision by the guild to allow the lapse of a $1 million insurance policy that had covered jockeys for racetrack accidents.

Many jockeys became aware that the policy had expired only after Gary Birzer, a West Virginia jockey, was paralyzed in an accident last year and discovered that he was not covered for more than $800,000 in medical bills.

Additionally, the House issued a subpoena to Matrix Capital Associates, a firm owned by guild CEO Wayne Gertmenian, requiring production of tax returns reflecting payments to Matrix by the guild.

Ownbey said the tax returns may be covered by attorney-client privilege. “That is another thing we have to determine,” he said.

Ownbey said he would turn over some documents in response to the subpoena, but he would not identify which ones. He also would not identify which documents he believes are privileged or say which ones do not exist.

Ownbey has been critical of the congressional investigation, calling it a “witch hunt” and saying that it should be directed at horse-racing tracks. Rather than providing the documents the subcommittee requested in its second letter to the guild, Ownbey sent a lengthy letter criticizing the investigation.

Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., the ranking Democrat on the subcommittee, said in a statement that Ownbey’s comments about the congressional investigator were “unsupported and incorrect.”

Ownbey’s letter “is a prime example of challenging the integrity of an investigation when faced with the production of possibly incriminating documents,” Stupak said.

OCTAGON SIGNS SPEED SKATER DAVIS: Octagon has signed speed skater Shani Davis for representation. Davis is seen as one of the most marketable American athletes headed to the 2006 Winter Olympics.

Speed skater Shani Davis, who qualified for the U.S. short-track team in 2002, is seen as a possible breakout star at the 2006 Olympics.
Davis earlier this year became the fourth American ever to win the overall championship at the 2005 World Allround Championships. He is off back-to-back spots on the world team in both the short- and long-track disciplines, and in 2002 he became the first African-American to qualify for the U.S. Olympic short-track speed skating team.

The Washington Post, in a lengthy profile of Davis earlier this year, called him “the early favorite to win as many as four Olympic medals next year,” and “a seemingly sure-fire, made-for-television star.”

Davis will be represented by Peter Carlisle, director of Octagon’s Olympic Division.

“Shani is truly a pioneer in the sport of speedskating, displaying the rare ability to dominate in both short- and long-track disciplines,” said Carlisle, in a statement. “His story is very appealing and there is no question he is going to be one of the biggest stories of the 2006 Games.”

Carlisle represented four Olympic medalists in snowboarding in the 2002 Winter Olympics, including gold medal winner Ross Powers.

FEGAN SIGNS GREEN: NBA player agent Dan Fegan has signed Gerald Green, who was picked by the Boston Celtics in the No. 18 slot in this year’s NBA draft, for representation.

Green hired Fegan and his Los Angeles-based Fegan Sports Management Partners after he fired his original agent, Andrew Vye of Malibu-based Kauffman Sports Management Group. Vye had already negotiated Green’s rookie contract with the Celtics, as well as a shoe deal with Reebok, before he was terminated. Vye had no comment.

Fegan could not be reached for comment, but his partner, Paul Nadel, confirmed that the firm had signed Green.

BLUE GIRAFFE SIGNS GOLFER: Blue Giraffe Sports has signed golfer Nicholas Thompson for representation and has negotiated a club, ball, shoe, glove and headwear deal with Titleist Golf.

Thompson was ranked No. 1 on the Golfweek/Titleist Men’s Amateur rankings earlier this summer and was a four-time NCAA All-American at Georgia Tech. He was a member of the 2005 U.S. Walker Cup Team. Thompson will attend PGA Tour Qualifying School.

Bobby Kreusler and Matt Judy, principals of New York-based Blue Giraffe, will serve as Thompson’s primary agents. Kreusler and Judy formerly worked in the sports division of Wilhelmina Models, but left to form Blue Giraffe in 2003.

The agency also represents PGA Tour players Brett Quigley, Matt Kuchar and Justin Bolli. Additionally, the company does marketing work for Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Dhani Jones and Utah Jazz forward Matt Harpring.

Liz Mullen can be reached at lmullen@sportsbusinessjournal.com.

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