American Pharoah’s Owner Accused of Libel

     NEWARK (CN) – The owner of American Pharoah, the famously misspelled name of this year’s Triple Crown contender, accused a New York “Super Lawyer” of trying to extort him, the latter claims in Federal Court.
     J. Joseph Bainton says the dispute stems from his representation of a client in a $1.65 million contract dispute with American Pharoah’s owner, Ahmed Zayat.
     In the decade since Zayat helped sell an Egyptian beer brand to Heineken in 2002 for $280 million, the New Jersey man has gone on to run one of the largest and most successful horse stables in the United States, Bainton’s June 1 complaint states.
     Marring Zayat’s reputation, however, is “uncomplimentary press about the topic of gambling,” Bainton says.
     Choosing his words carefully, Bainton only hints at the nature of his client’s contract claim against Zayat. Using a reference to an unrelated securities case against Citigroup, Bainton says “the thought of defendant agreeing to settle a $1.65 million gambling-based obligation by making weekly payments without admitting liability seems rather insignificant by comparison.”
     Bainton allegedly had Zayat’s reputation in mind when he intentionally left the word “gambling” out of the complaint, meeting the minimum civil procedure standards “for the express reason of avoiding attracting any attention to the case by the press.”
     Even though Zayat’s counsel never proposed the protective order for the case to which Bainton consented, the case went months without attracting media attention, the attorney says.
     Vague language went out the window, however, when Zayat’s attorneys moved for summary judgment in the contract case.
     “As a matter of obvious necessity, the papers filed on behalf of defendant by his able counsel [on March 31, 2015,] … used the word ‘gambling’ many times,” the complaint states.
     Bainton says he was preparing his response to that summary-judgment motion in May when Zayat’s horse, American Pharoah, won the Kentucky Derby last month,
     American Pharoah went on to win the Preakness on May 16 and is “poised to become the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978.”
     That success put a spotlight on Zayat, however, and members of the press who read the public court record went on to write “a great many articles … about the allegations of the breach of contract action.”
     Zayat then told an Associated Press reporter that the contract action is “a fraud.”
     “It’s a scam from A to Z,” Zayat said, according to the complaint. “It’s total fiction. It’s a total lie. It is a case of blackmail by a criminal.”
     Bainton, a practicing attorney for over 35 years, says Zayat’s libelous statement accuse him of a crime, and have been reprinted in many places where he conducts business including the UK and Ireland.
     Zayat’s attorney Joseph Vann said Bainton claim “has no legal merit, [and] we expect it will be thrown out by the court.”
     After the case is dismissed Zayat will consider bringing a malicious-prosecution action, Vann added.
     Zayat told The Daily News that his opponents in the contract case “are trying to extort him,” Bainton notes.
     Observer.com meanwhile printed an interview with Zayat in which he allegedly accused Bainton of trying to capitalize on his horse-racing success.
     “These [accusations] are fraud,” Zayat said, according to the complaint. “I’m a victim of it. … it’s an insanity.”
     Bainton calls Zayat’s remarks a “blatant and knowing lie.”
     “In short, all of defendant’s libelous declarations represents a childish temper tantrum caused by the fact that he and his lawyers simply forgot to attempt to keep from the public what are in fact public records,” the complaint states.
     Bainton’s client in the contract action, Howard Rubinsky, is not a party to the attorney’s June 1 complaint.
     He seeks punitive damages of $10 million for libel. The attorney with BaintonLynch is representing himself in the action. Three days after he filed the suit, a federal judge granted Zayat’s motion for summary judgment in the Rubinsky action.
     In an email, Bainton said his complaint speaks for itself, relying on materials that are “virtually all, if indeed not entirely all,” matters of public record,
     American Pharoah has 3-5 odds to win Saturday at the Belmont Stakes, leg three of the Triple Crown.

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