News

Atherton venture capitalist Michael Goguen and former mistress sue each other

He asks for the $10 million back he already paid her

In a "he said-she said" tale writ large, Atherton venture capitalist Michael Goguen and his former mistress, Amber Baptiste of Los Angeles, have filed dueling lawsuits in San Mateo County Superior Court.

She says he "abused her sexually, physically and emotionally for 13 years" while he alleges she extorted $40 million from him in vengeance after he rejected her, but he stopped paying after $10 million because she continued to harass and threaten him.

Mr. Goguen, 52, was a partner in Sequoia Capital, a venture capital firm with headquarters on Sand Hill Road in Menlo Park, until late last week. He filed a countersuit on Monday, March 14 in response to the suit filed by Ms. Baptiste, 35, on Tuesday, March 8.

On March 11 Sequoia sent out this message on its Twitter account: "We understand the allegations about Michael Goguen are unproven and unrelated to Sequoia. Still, we decided his departure was appropriate."

The stories told in the two lawsuits are very different, although some facts are the same in both. Both use emails sent by the other as evidence of their claims.

Her lawsuit, claiming breach of contract, says Ms. Baptiste "submitted to Mr. Goguen' s constant sexual abuse, relying on his promise that he would help her break free of the human traffickers who held her in perpetual debt." The suit says they were together while he was married to three different women and that he paid her money through two sham companies for many years.

Ms. Baptiste's lawsuit says that she first decided to sue Mr. Goguen after he reneged on an agreement to pay "her expenses" after she suffered a physical injury during a sexual encounter with him and also was diagnosed with human papillomavirus (HPV).

She says he got her to drop the lawsuit and instead, in May 2014 had her sign an agreement that gave her $40 million in four installments in return for agreeing "to keep confidential all information relating to their relationship" and drop any claims against him.

He paid her an initial $10 million on May 30, 2014, the suit says. "After paying her $10 million, Mr. Goguen refused to honor the rest of his agreement," the suit says, alleging that he changed his mind after he and his third wife were divorced.

Ms. Baptiste's lawsuit asks that Mr. Goguen be forced to fulfill the 2014 agreement and pay her the remaining $30 million as well as attorneys' fees, interest and damages.

Ms. Baptiste's lawyers are Patricia L. Glaser and G. Jill Basinger from Glaser Weil Fink Howard Avchen & Shapiro, LLP of Los Angeles.

Mr. Gouguen's counterclaim accuses Ms. Baptiste of extortion, breach of contract and invasion of privacy among other things. His attorneys are Diane M. Doolittle and Nicole Y. Altman of Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, LLP of Redwood Shores.

Mr. Goguen asks to have the agreement the two signed in 2014 to be declared null and void and to have the $10 million he already paid returned to him. In addition he asks for damages, and to have recordings she secretly made of their phone conversations to be destroyed because they violate California privacy law. He also asks for a restraining order against Ms. Baptiste.

His suit claims that Ms. Baptiste was "consumed by anger, obsession and jealousy that her decade-long, mutually consensual love affair with Mr. Goguen had ended." She threatened to "publicly accuse him of false, horrific acts unless he paid her $40 million in hush money," his suit says.

After he agreed to pay the money in return for her silence, however, she continued to contact him, his suit says, sending "thousands of emails and texts."

Many of the claims in Ms. Baptiste's lawsuit appear to be refuted by emails from her that are in Mr. Goguen's lawsuit. Her lawsuit says she was "the victim of human trafficking since she was 15." It also says: "In 2001, Ms. Baptiste was brought to America to be sold as a dancer to a strip club."

But an email dated Jan. 8, 2010, from Ms. Baptiste (who was 21 in 2001) said she had gone to Texas after meeting a girl who "told me it was good (and) that the clubs were nice."

She said she started working in a club that didn't require an American work visa (she is a native of Canada according to Mr. Goguen's lawsuit). "A few weeks later was when I met you. I remember it so very clearly I remember what you were drinking what you were wearing what I was wearing. I remember I went back to my hotel after work and I called you."

Other emails show her traveling freely. An email dated March 25, 2002, says: "I can't wait to see you again but it will most likely not be in April. I have a wedding and a family reunion to attend. ... I have an offer to go to New York at the end of April but I'm still waiting for details."

In a July 23, 2005, email, Ms. Baptiste talks about her dreams for the future: "I want to take language courses cooking classes learn a martial art attend yoga class paint horse back ride among many other things. I want a life of peace and balance. I know if given the chance I will do great things. I have so many goals and dreams that I want to see through. You don't have time to do volunteer work so you can do it through me."

Ms. Baptiste's lawsuit says that early in their relationship, Mr. Goguen told her he had divorced his first wife, but did not tell her when he later remarried, "insisting that he was single and she was his only sexual partner." But her emails refer to his wife and children.

In an April 10, 2009, email she says: "You have married and I understand if you think that it is best we no longer see one another. But I would like if we were to be the passion of each others lives. I will never tell anyone. Even if we were to run into one another I would not say anything."

Her lawsuit also uses an email to refute his claims that he was extorted into signing the agreement to pay her $40 million. The suit says the emails was sent the day the agreement was signed, May 23, 2014.

"Do you understand that by having a signed settlement agreement in your hand you are in a much more powerful position no matter what happens??" the email says. If anything goes wrong, it says, "you are in very powerful and simple position to say that I have a valid legal contract that Michael broke, and I want it enforced. It would be extremely straightforward and hard to argue with."

Both sides have asked for a jury trial.

Comments

13 people like this
Posted by Drama Fun
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Mar 16, 2016 at 1:26 pm

Let me get this right, a VC partner with degrees from Cornell and Stanford signed an agreement, paid 1/4 and then refused to honor the rest of the contract and now its extortion. This story sounds like the making of a juicy book.


4 people like this
Posted by Curious
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 16, 2016 at 1:40 pm

"He filed a countersuit on Monday, March 15 in response to the suit filed by Ms. Baptiste, 35, on March 8."

Monday was March 14th. When the small facts are wrong, readers naturally question the large facts, as reported. It does your good paper a disservice not to have a good copy editor.


3 people like this
Posted by Uncurious
a resident of Atherton: other
on Mar 16, 2016 at 8:38 pm

Yes, let's dismiss the entire article since one date is incorrect. Ridiculous...


6 people like this
Posted by Analysis
a resident of Atherton: other
on Mar 16, 2016 at 10:11 pm

A couple of things jump out at me:

1. It doesn't make a lot of sense as to why he would have ever agreed to pay her $40M unless he did something wrong to her...unless he's so rich that a divorce would have cost him a lot more than that, I guess, or his judgment was really impaired. Maybe he's so wealthy that it was worth it to him to not have to deal with exposing the affair and the salacious allegations.

2. His cross complaint alleges that after making the first installment, she kept trying to blackmail him. If this is the case, and is supported by texts/emails (they agreed not to contact each other any more in the $40M agreement to avoid exactly the continuing extortion scenario), I can understand why he wouldn't want to make the additional payments. He was buying peace and didn't get it.

[part removed. Sorry, we don't have time to research these allegations in another case from the 1970s.]

Bottom line is that if she felt she was being horrifically abused, stop seeing him, call the police, certainly don't continue writing love letters. He has not behaved perfectly or used good judgment in this situation, but I feel extortion and blackmail are far, far worse things to do.


1 person likes this
Posted by paulinsf
a resident of Atherton: Lloyden Park
on Mar 18, 2016 at 8:57 am

paulinsf is a registered user.

"a VC partner with degrees from Cornell and Stanford signed an agreement, paid 1/4 and then refused to honor the rest of the contract and now its extortion. "

Extortion is not relevant to his education and documentation of extortion does not make it less illegal. Extortion is doing something you don't want anyone else to find out and then having a witness blackmail you to keep it private.

"It doesn't make a lot of sense as to why he would have ever agreed to pay her $40M unless he did something wrong to her."

Paying to keep the silence an affair with a stripper for a decade and a half while being married 3 times with 5 kids and holding an important job that probably pays over a hundred million dollars from an entity that relies on its credibility makes sense to me.


Like this comment
Posted by Michael G. Stogner
a resident of another community
on Mar 18, 2016 at 5:46 pm

Michael G. Stogner is a registered user.

Drama fun says

"Let me get this right, a VC partner with degrees from Cornell and Stanford signed an agreement, paid 1/4 and then refused to honor the rest of the contract and now its extortion.

Here is a simple question, Did Michael Goguen and his attorneys craft and produce the $40,000,000 agreement?


Like this comment
Posted by Thoughtful
a resident of another community
on Mar 18, 2016 at 9:12 pm

Thoughtful is a registered user.

I posted the above comment under "Analysis" before Almanac locked the thread, so I am now using my account.

Michael Stogner, yes, from reading the legal complaints, I believe he did. But I'm not sure this is really relevant.

What is relevant, in my opinion, is he didn't just give her the money. He required that she sign the contract to get the money. She did. This means she made some promises to him also (part of any contract). The key promise she made that he is alleging she reneged on is to stop contacting him/stop extorting him.

If in the lawsuit it's proven that she did renege on this, and the jury believes it was a key part of the contract (from what I can see, it's the only thing she was actually required to do), then he is justified in not paying her the additional installments and in fact asking for the funds already paid back. (Good luck on that, by the way).

To The Almanac: not much research is required to find the Bloomingdale case (my comment that you deleted). It's famous. It's on Wikipedia. Google for "Bloomingdale mistress."


Like this comment
Posted by Michael G. Stogner
a resident of another community
on Mar 19, 2016 at 1:51 pm

Michael G. Stogner is a registered user.

The allegation that Michael Goguen gave her the HPV virus might have something to do with him offering $40M.

He is claiming there is no test for men to determine if they are HPV positive. He would know how many sex partners he had unprotected sex with.

I personally understand how deadly the HPV virus is my daughter China died 11 months after being diagnosed with cervical cancer and HPV.


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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