09/10/2006 12:00AM

Investors sue ClassicStar


A group of investors have filed separate lawsuits against ClassicStar, the Kentucky-based commercial breeding company that was to begin dispersing its broodmares in November.

In a pair of lawsuits filed in Kentucky and Washington state, four groups of investors have accused ClassicStar of defrauding investors of $500 million in a ClassicStar mare-lease program.

It was not clear on Sunday how the suits might affect the planned sale of about 75 ClassicStar mares - including Grade 1 producer Hookedonthefeelin and Turko's Turn, dam of 2001 Horse of the Year Point Given - at Fasig-Tipton Kentucky's fall mixed sale on Nov. 5. Fasig-Tipton chief operating officer Boyd Browning did not return phone calls on Sunday. Calls to ClassicStar Farms on Sunday were not returned.,

West Hills Farms and Arbor Farms of Portland, Ore., and Nelson Breeders of Bellevue, Wash., filed suit in July in U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of Kentucky. That suit followed one filed in Seattle last October by the investment company Anderson Corporate Finance and Investments.

The Kentucky suit accuses ClassicStar, operated at the time by David Plummer and Tony Ferguson, of selling "mare lease programs with a total value of tens of millions of dollars greater than the Thoroughbred interests owned by the defendants," selling $160 million worth of mare leases when ClassicStar actually owned only $40 million in bloodstock. Among other allegations, the suit contends that ClassicStar used investor funds to purchase more than $9 million in broodmares in 2004, when investors had been told they were buying into bloodstock ClassicStar already owned. In 2004, ClassicStar was a leading buyer of breeding stock, purchasing 12 mares for $9,835,000.

Both the Kentucky and the Washington suit allege that a loan program operated by ClassicStar, which allowed investors to borrow from National Equine Lending Company to make payments for the mare leases, was illegal because it was closely connected to ClassicStar and its parent company, Ferguson-owned GeoStar.

That "circular loan structure and the ownership of NELC by Plummer's brother-in-law, a fact not disclosed to plaintiffs, together with other irregularities in defendants' transactions have led to a criminal investigation by the Internal Revenue Service, of the programs and practices of ClassicStar and its affiliates," the Kentucky suit contends.

The IRS raided ClassicStar Farms on Feb. 23, but IRS officials have not returned calls seeking comments on the status of any investigation involving ClassicStar or its principals.

Plummer and his son, Spencer, left ClassicStar earlier in Feburary, but Ferguson remains affiliated with the operation. There was no answer at Ferguson's Tampa home on Sunday.