San Diego Contrary to common wisdom, the arrival of new Padres honcho Robert J. Vizas portends more litigation -- not less -- for the long-troubled baseball team and its investors, both public and hidden. Vizas, a high-pressure corporate lawyer from the San Francisco Bay Area, has a lot more experience in the courtroom than in a ballpark. He first showed up on the radar here in September 1999, when he was named vice president/general counsel for the team at the same time ex-city manager Jack McGrory came aboard as the Padres' vice president/chief operating officer. Then last year Vizas sued the port district on behalf of JMI Realty, a development outfit run by Padres owner John Moores, for breach of contract in his stalled bayfront-hotel deal. In addition, Vizas represented the team in a case against Lloyds of London filed last August, alleging that the insurer welshed on a claim involving lefthander Randy Myers and his rotator-cuff injury. Vizas is also senior trial counsel for Legal Strategies Group of Emeryville, California, just north of Berkeley. Vizas "acts as lead counsel to Levi Strauss & Co., Raychem Corporation, and a select group of other clients," according to the firm's website. "As a litigator, he has tried a number of significant cases with an outstanding success rate. Mr. Vizas' particular areas of expertise are antitrust, intellectual property, commercial business disputes, and pre-litigation counseling." One bitterly fought trial he was on the wrong side of was a 1998 civil fraud and antitrust case against Raychem, in which a Los Angeles federal jury awarded $64 million to plaintiff Bourns, Inc. A judge subsequently threw out the verdict as excessive and ordered a new trial. But it is his connection to jeans-maker Levi Strauss that is most intriguing to longtime observers of the Padres' downtown-stadium saga. Before the surfacing of Vizas, San Diego's biggest connection to Levi Strauss was UCSD chancellor Robert Dynes and his wife Frances, daughter of San Francisco deal-maker F. Warren Hellman, who sits on Levi's board and owns a big chunk of the company. Dynes has lent his considerable prestige to the Padres' stadium cause and has a seat on the board of Leap Wireless with Padres owner Moores. And last year it was revealed that Hellman and Moores are partners in Blackbaud, a South Carolina software maker. With the ballpark plagued by cost overruns, negotiations between the city and the Padres over how much more tax money the city will ante up are crucial to the project; two subcontractors have already sued Moores-related firms for unpaid construction bills, and more filings are expected. Sources say the Padres, whose ownership structure has never been disclosed, have privately threatened to sue the city if there are further delays. Vizas is expected to bring new legal muscle to the ongoing war.
Another Gary Condit Vice As the Gary Condit/ missing-intern scandal drags on, more San Diego links to the Modesto Democratic congressman are turning up. Latest local Condit connections include Vince H. Hall, ex-campaign aide to Governor Gray Davis, who arrived here last year and immediately began running to succeed termed-out Democratic assemblyman Howard Wayne. Federal records show that Hall gave $250 to Condit's congressional campaign back in December 1999. Condit is known to be a close friend of Davis and, until Chandra Levy disappeared, one of his most effective political connections among the state's mighty agricultural interests. Another local Condit donor is agribusiness consultant Bob L. Vice of Fallbrook, a former Pete Wilson appointee to the Del Mar Fair board and ex-president of the California Farm Bureau. Vice gave $1000 to Condit last October.
Ps and Qs First there was Bob Glaser, the hapless political consultant who sued the city after becoming embarrassed when women invaded the men's restroom at Qualcomm Stadium. Now comes Victor Kops, Ph.D., a San Diego "medical psychologist," who writes in this month's Psychology Today, "I have a fear of urinals." Kops goes on to proclaim, "There is something very intimidating about relieving oneself while standing next to another individual.... To make matters worse, half the male population doesn't wash its hands before leaving the restroom."
Contributor: Matt Potter