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Jockeys' Guild Fires Its Boss

Gertmenian had been severely criticized by a congressional subcommittee for letting accident-insurance policy lapse in 2002.

November 16, 2005|Bill Christine | Times Staff Writer

L. Wayne Gertmenian's tumultuous term as president and chief executive of the Jockeys' Guild ended Tuesday when the organization's reconstituted board of directors fired him and his consulting company.

Gertmenian, an economics professor at Pepperdine University recommended by jockey Chris McCarron before the guild hired him in 2001, lost face after a congressional subcommittee severely criticized him during a hearing in Washington last month.

Gertmenian allowed the jockeys' $1-million accident-insurance policy to lapse in 2002 without notifying many of the riders. One of them, Gary Birzer, was subsequently partially paralyzed in a spill in West Virginia and has been left with more than $500,000 in hospital bills.

Many of the guild's 28 senate members met by telephone Tuesday, reorganizing a board of directors who then terminated Gertmenian and his company, Matrix Capital Associates. Gertmenian and Matrix were being paid about $500,000 a year.

Gertmenian had testified in Washington that he was Matrix's only employee and that the guild was Matrix's only client. The subcommittee said that its investigation showed that Gertmenian had not done some of the things he'd listed on his resume.

McCarron testified that bringing Gertmenian to the guild "was the worst mistake of my life."

Darrell Haire, a retired jockey, a guild employee before Gertmenian's hiring and once one of Gertmenian's strongest supporters, was named temporary national manager.

Attempts to reach Gertmenian were unsuccessful, but there was indication that he might not go willingly. As Haire was being interviewed on the phone at the guild offices in Monrovia, a loud voice could be heard in the background: "Get out. Get out, or I'll call the police."

Haire was asked whether that had been Gertmenian.

"Yes, it is," he said.

Barry Broad, a former lawyer for the guild, said Tuesday night that there was a scuffle in the office and that Monrovia police appeared. But no arrests or charges were made.

In an interview with Blood-Horse magazine over the weekend, Gertmenian was quoted as saying: "It's very hard to come in and solve the problem without money, and then they accuse you of being irresponsible."

During Tuesday's teleconference, David Shepherd was unseated as board chairman and replaced, on an interim basis, by John Velazquez, the Eclipse Award-winning jockey.

The rest of the new board consists of Tomey Jean Swan, vice chairman; Alex Solis, secretary; Jeff Johnston, treasurer; and Mike Luzzi, G.R. Carter, Jerry LaSala, Larry Reynolds and Jon Court. Velazquez, Swan, Johnston, Carter and Reynolds are holdovers from the previous board.

The new board dismissed Lloyd Ownbey as general counsel and replaced him with volunteers Broad and Tom Kennedy. Broad, a lobbyist for the guild for 11 years, had resigned from the organization last month, expressing his disappointment with Gertmenian.

The board delegated Haire to initiate a "recovery plan" for the organization, which according to Haire represents 1,300 jockeys.

Broad, referring to the 2009 extension of Gertmenian's contract, which came last year, said the agreement was unenforceable and would not result in the guild paying Gertmenian any more money.

"If anything," Broad said, "Matrix may owe the guild some money."

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