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Louganis, Ex-Agent in Dispute : Olympic Diver Says in Court Papers He Feared for His Life

March 29, 1989|GRAHAME L. JONES | Times Staff Writer

In written testimony presented in Los Angeles Superior Court Tuesday, Olympic gold medal-winning diver Greg Louganis said he "feared for his life" and asked that his fired business manager, Jim Babbitt, be restrained from having any contact with him.

"After being held hostage for over four months since my retirement from diving and my return from the 1988 Seoul Olympics, I felt that I could no longer tolerate the abuse and threats," Louganis wrote in seeking a temporary restraining order from Superior Court Judge Dzintra Janavs.

Responding with a written statement of his own, Babbitt, who was fired by Louganis two weeks ago, denied ever having harassed the diver, a gold medal winner in springboard and platform diving at both the Los Angeles Games in 1984 and the Seoul Games last year.

"I have never threatened his personal safety in any way," Babbitt said in a declaration for the court.

Nevertheless, Janavs ordered Babbitt to stay away from Louganis but did not order him out of the Malibu home he and Louganis have shared for four years. Ownership of the home is in question, with Louganis claiming sole possession and Babbitt contending he is a co-owner.

Louganis alleged in his statement that Babbitt had threatened to destroy his personal belongings and had threatened to shoot him if he tried to enter the house. He quoted Babbitt as saying, "I made you and I can destroy you."

"I fear for my life," Louganis wrote. "I believe that Babbitt is unstable and capable of violent acts of aggression. I sincerely believe that he intends to harm me."

Louganis, who fired Babbitt on March 13, said in his declaration that Babbitt had threatened to expose "confidential and private facts" about him to the media "unless I either (agree to) his employment on new terms which he will dictate or pay 50% of all my present and future earnings (to him) and deed over my home to him."

Janavs ordered the two to stay at least 500 feet away from each other unless there was mutual consent to approach each other. Louganis claimed that Babbitt's presence in the house threatens his work because it makes him unable to prepare for personal appearances.

He alleged that Babbitt had told him that he (Babbitt) knows where his personal appearances are and had said: "I can make things and your life ugly."

Louganis testified that he learned late last year that Babbitt had transferred more than 80% of his (Louganis') earnings to his own name. Babbitt promised to make full restitution, Louganis said, but had failed to provide an accounting of the money.

Louganis' attorney, Debbie Shon, said in court documents that the case is one in which an athlete "discovers after his retirement from sport (that his) money and assets have been used by and for the benefit of his manager and to the athlete's detriment."

However, John West, the attorney representing Babbitt, denied that there had been any improper financial transactions and said that nothing was done without Louganis' knowledge.

In denying he had threatened Louganis, Babbitt said he does not even own a gun. During the more than six years that he was Louganis' manager, he said, "we earned a great deal of money together."

Freezing their joint financial assets, Babbitt said, "will leave me absolutely destitute."

Janavs allowed Babbitt to withdraw $5,000 in living expenses from the joint account and scheduled an April 12 hearing to determine whether to issue a preliminary injunction.

In a related court matter, sportscaster Keith Olbermann of Channel 2 reported Tuesday night that Louganis had denied claims that he violated his amateur standing by accepting money directly from several manufacturers and companies for his endorsement of their products, rather than going through the Swim Fund.

Details of the latter court action were not available Tuesday night.

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