Lappen Sues WFA for Breach of Contract

By Josh Gross Dec 7, 2006
World Fighting Alliance CEO Jeremy Lappen has sued the Nevada-based fight company and its owners, Ross Goodman and Luis Pallazo, for breach of written contract and is seeking damages to the tune of nearly $133,000, according to a civil complaint obtained by Sherdog.com that was filed on behalf of Lappen in a Los Angeles County Superior Court on Nov. 15.

The suit alleges Lappen’s salary — $250,000 per year — has gone unpaid since June 15, 2006, a full five weeks before the WFA was set to return with a card in Los Angeles headlined by Quinton Jackson (Pictures) and Matt Lindland (Pictures).

Lappen is asking for back wages of just under $99,000 and expenses totaling roughly $33,000.

Attempts to reach Lappen went unreturned.

Jay Tan, assistant to Lappen in the WFA Los Angeles office and head of talent development, told Sherdog.com he was surprised by the suit, which became public Wednesday evening on MMAweekly Radio. Tan declined any further comment.

Lappen went to work for the WFA beginning in late February 2006, taking the title of CEO. According to the complaint, Lappen fulfilled his duties and was paid for several months based on the terms of the contract.

However, by the middle of June 2006, around the time Lappen alleges he stopped receiving compensation for his work, the WFA was already suffering from “financial difficulties,” according to the document.

Appearing as an exhibit along with the complaint is a letter signed by Goodman and Pallazo that appears to guarantee Lappen’s pay for a minimum of two years. The same letter also promised at least three live WFA events in the company’s first 12 months.

The first pay-per-view event came in July, however follow-up cards have since been postponed twice, first in October and again early December.

Fighters, of course, have felt the brunt of WFA’s difficulties.

“[The WFA] did a very professional job, were men of their words on the first one,” said Ken Pavia of Pavia, Ciscone & Associates, which represented five fighters on the July 22 card , including Ricco Rodriguez (Pictures), Ivan Salaverry (Pictures), Jason Miller, Rob McCullough (Pictures) and Martin Kampmann (Pictures).

“We’re very disappointed in the rumors we’re hearing that they’re not going to have a second one,” he continued. “I believe my guys are very marketable and they welcome the opportunity, if it were to present itself, to be free agents. Competition is good for the sport, and it’s unfortunate if the rumors are true and the WFA is not going to be competition.”

Pavia told Sherdog.com that McCullough, Alex Stiebling (Pictures) and Zach Light were scheduled to appear on the WFA’s Dec. 9 effort. When asked if he’d attempt to determine whether agreements between WFA and his fighters were still binding, Pavia said it was something he planned on immediately exploring.

Pallazo and Goodman, both attorneys based in Las Vegas, could not be reached for this story. The pair took over as majority shareholders from previous WFA owners John Lewis (Pictures) and John Huntington, and in late 2005, the complaint asserts, Lappen was asked to join the WFA as an employee. By Feb. 28, 2006, Lappen had entered into agreement with Pallazo and Goodman to become CEO of the WFA.

From the time the complaint alleges Lappen received his last payment up until Nov. 6, the former CEO is said to have made repeated requests to be paid. “Lappen received constant assurances from Palazzo, Goodman, and the WFA that Lappen would be paid soon,” it says in the suit.

Lappen has since given notice.
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