The Gwynns -- who own a sports-marketing company called Gwynn Sport, Inc., dealing in sports memorabilia -- claim Seltzer, Caplan tricked them into attending an autograph-signing party at the law firm. "Upon discovering that [Seltzer, Caplan] was using the reception 'in his honor' for nothing more than an opportunity to trade off his goodwill and to give his appearance to clients," Gwynn wanted to leave the party. But the complaint says he decided to stay and sign baseballs and T-shirts "in order to avoid any possibility of negative publicity for his employer (the San Diego Padres), the Tony and Alicia Gwynn Foundation, and himself."
Gwynn claims that the law firm failed to pay for its sponsorship of a golf tournament he put on to benefit his charitable foundation. "To add insult to injury, [Seltzer, Caplan] claimed it did not have any obligation to honor its pledge to the TAG foundation or to pay its promised sponsorship because it was throwing a party in honor of Tony Gwynn and the party had gone over budget."
The battle for sponsorship is competitive. In the case of the Padres, sponsors with less than stellar reputations have become closely involved with the team. An example is the pair of entrepreneurs behind Metabolife, a diet-drug maker that has reportedly spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on Padres sponsorship fees as well as giving $50,000 to the 1998 pro-stadium campaign. Michael Ellis, who founded Metabolife while on probation for a 1988 federal conviction stemming from methamphetamine-making in Rancho Santa Fe, fought a long but unsuccessful legal fight to keep his criminal case sealed. When it was opened in November, it and related civil cases revealed that Ellis and his friend and codefendant Michael Blevins (who allegedly dealt marijuana and cocaine for 20 years) were allegedly promoting real-estate deals on Otay Mesa done with cash the government said was from Blevins's drug trade. Blevins, who served three years in prison on the methamphetamine rap, and who a government agent claimed was once an associate of reputed Chicago mob boss Sam Sarcinelli, is also a founding partner of Metabolife.
As a private company, the Moores partnership that owns the Padres is not required to disclose its sponsorship or other financial arrangements; the Union-Tribune reported in May 1999 that Metabolife "is closely associated with the ball club and is one of the team's 1999 corporate sponsors. It pays for Qualcomm Stadium signage that is visible on television, sponsors the 'Seventh Inning Stretch' during the game, and advertises on the Padres' radio broadcasts. In those commercials, Padres announcer Ted Leitner endorses Metabolife's herbal dietary supplement, 'It changed my life!'"
Jay Emmett is said to be an advisor to the Padres on deals like Metabolife and other sponsorship and marketing arrangements. An old friend of team co-owner Larry Lucchino, Emmett, 71, whose home base is a Central Park South apartment in Manhattan and who reportedly serves on the Padres board, has enjoyed a low profile in San Diego. Although he has a phone line at the Padres' Mission Valley headquarters (he did not respond to repeated requests for comment left on his voice mail there), Emmett has never taken public roles such as advocating the new downtown stadium, as has his fellow Padres boardmember, Washington Post columnist George Will.
Some say Emmett, who was president of a New York corporation called Entertainment Sports International, Inc., until it was dissolved last March, is lying low for good reason.
Twenty years ago, Emmett was one of the most powerful executives at Warner Communications, Inc., which owned Warner Brothers studio and other entertainment-related assets, including the defunct New York Cosmos soccer team. In September 1980, Emmett was indicted for bribery, racketeering, and "violating his fiduciary duties to Warner" for his role in the infamous Westchester Premier Theatre scandal. The theater, built in the early 1970s on a dumping site near New York's Tappan Zee bridge, became noted as the place where Frank Sinatra was photographed in 1976, beaming alongside New York's top mafiosi, including Thomas Marson, Carlos Gambino, Jimmy "the Weasel" Fratianno, and Paul Castellano.
As recounted by Constance Bruck in her 1994 biography of the late Time-Warner CEO, Steve Ross (Master of the Game), the theater was a Mafia front from its inception. The partners included "organized crime soldiers Richard ('Nerves') Fusco, with the Colombo crime family, and Gregory De Palma, with the Gambino family (he would become a 'made' member in 1976). Later, Salvatore Cannatella, who, the government would allege, was connected to the Genovese family, would put $1.4 million into the theater and assume a dominant role. The Westchester Premier Theatre was nothing if not eclectic."
Besides performances by Sinatra, Bruck notes, the theater was the scene of all manner of rackets. "Skimming was incessant, with cash looted from the box office to pay back some of the 'shylock' money that had been used to start the theater and to line the pockets of those at the theater. Another more creative form of skimming was accomplished through the theater's 61 'phantom seats.' After the auditors had come, one of the theater's hidden owners had added 61 chairs. As he would later explain, 'The theater was practically empty during the week. But 61 chairs were always the first ones sold -- I promise you, there was never an empty chair in those seats. We used to make about $4500 a week on those. We'd put it in a separate envelope and split it four ways.'"
Sinatra, who was a major stockholder in Warners, "had been recruited to appear at the theater by Louis ('Louie Dones') Pacella, who worked for Frank ('Funzi') Tieri, head of the Genovese family." Bruck writes that Jimmy Fratianno, by then a government witness, implicated Sinatra in the theater's skimming operation. "Fratianno told prosecutors that De Palma had paid Sinatra $50,000 or $60,000 in cash, in Las Vegas, to persuade him to play the theater in 1977."
Another theater investor was West Coast mobster Tommy Marson, a former New York plumbing contractor who had relocated to a sprawling mansion in Rancho Mirage near Palm Springs. He frequently did business in San Diego County and owned property on Otay Mesa. "Among Marson's other friends were mobsters de Palma, Jimmy ('the Weasel') Fratianno, Mike Rizzitello, Dominic Brooklier, and Frank ('the Bomp') Bompensiero [later to be found shot to death in a Pacific Beach phone booth]."