Updated on 09/15/2011 1:05PM

Giovanni sues Jockey Guild


John Giovanni, the former head of the embattled Jockeys' Guild, has sued the Guild, four jockeys on its board of directors, and the head of the group now managing the organization for allegedly slandering him before and after he was removed as the Guild's national manager in June.

According to a lawsuit filed Sept. 20 in the circuit court of Fayette County, Kentucky, where the Guild is incorporated, Giovanni is seeking his salary through the full two years of his contract plus unspecified punitive damages. Giovanni stepped down under pressure from board members six months into a two-year contract.

"This is not something I wanted to do," Giovanni, a former jockey and the head of the organization for the past 14 years, said Monday. "I've been a member of the Guild since I was 17. But I wasn't making any headway and this is the last resort."

Named in the lawsuit are Matrix Capital Associates, the California-based management consulting group brought in to oversee the Guild after Giovanni's removal; Wayne L. Gertmenian, Matrix's founder; and jockeys Chris McCarron, Robert Colton, Mike McCarthy, and Tomey Swan, a former Quarter Horse jockey who is now serving as the Guild's acting president.

Giovanni said he had been attempting to negotiate a settlement with Matrix over the payment of his salary during the last several months. But the two sides were unable to agree, he said.

Gertmenian, a Pepperdine professor, was said to be out of town and unavailable for comment until Wednesday.

Thomas Brondum, manager of the Guild's Lexington office, was also unavailable for comment. Thomas Richardson, a Matrix employee in the Guild office on Monday, said Brondum is the only employee authorized to comment on the matter.

Matrix was brought in to manage the Guild after a June 15 conference call that resulted in the firing of the entire Guild staff. Details of the conference call have been disputed by several board members, and the management change resulted in the resignations of former Guild presidents Pat Day and Jerry Bailey from the board.

McCarron, who was tabbed by several ex-Guild employees as the leader of the effort to bring Matrix on board, declined to comment on any aspect of the lawsuit or the Guild when reached on his cell phone Monday morning. Gertmenian and McCarron have known each other for several years, associates have said.

Giovanni's lawsuit alleges that McCarron, Colton and McCarthy made appearances at racetracks before the June 15 conference call and made "false, defamatory and disparaging comments" about him to other riders. The lawsuit also alleges that Gertmenian accused Giovanni of "dealing unethically with the finances of the Guild."

Colton did not return a phone message left on his voice mail, and efforts to reach McCarthy were unsuccessful.