Michael Goguen, a prominent venture capitalist and philanthropist whose local contributions include The Whitefish Trail and the Two Bear Air search and rescue program, is accused of sexually and physically abusing a woman over the course of 13 years.
The allegations surfaced in a breach of contract complaint filed against Goguen on March 8 in San Mateo County Superior Court in California.
Attorneys for Amber Laurel Baptiste claim Goguen abused Baptiste sexually, physically and emotionally after the pair developed a relationship in 2001. After Baptiste retained an attorney in 2013 and threatened a lawsuit, Goguen signed a contract to pay Baptiste $40 million “as compensation for the horrors she suffered at his hands,” the March 8 complaint states.
Goguen released a statement to the Beacon Saturday afternoon, saying he plans to file a countersuit claiming extortion.
“Unfortunately anyone can make horrific allegations about anyone else that they have an axe to grind with, especially after a long relationship ends badly. Being successful and high profile can make you a target for the worst kind of threats or reputation damage in such a situation,” Goguen stated.
Sequoia Capital, the venture capital firm in Menlo Park, California, where Goguen, 52, has served as a managing partner since 1996, said the part-time Whitefish resident was no longer with the firm.
“We understand the allegations about Michael Goguen are unproven and unrelated to Sequoia. Still, we decided his departure was appropriate,” the company said in a statement released March 11.
According to her attorneys, Baptiste has been a victim of human trafficking since she was 15. In 2001, she was brought to America and sold as a dancer to a strip club. Baptiste was introduced to Goguen at a strip club in Texas shortly after her arrival in the U.S. Goguen began regularly contacting Baptiste, the lawsuit alleges, and he said he would help her break free of the human traffickers and he would protect her and help her get an education.
The lawsuit states that Goguen paid Baptiste’s living expenses and other costs, including medical bills, for over a decade in exchange for maintaining their sexual relationship. The complaint, which contains graphic descriptions of alleged abuse, claims that the relationship included verbal abuse, nonconsensual sex and “demeaning sexual acts” from 2001 to 2013.
At Goguen’s request, Baptiste formed two companies, including a charitable organization called Every Girl Counts, in or around 2010 so that Goguen could wire money directly to Bapiste through these companies, according to the complaint.
In 2013, Baptiste threatened to sue Goguen and retained an attorney who drafted a complaint for personal injury and a demand letter for mediation. After receiving the draft complaint, Goguen convinced Baptiste to fire her attorney and rely on his attorneys to draft a settlement agreement, according to the lawsuit.
On May 23, 2014, Goguen and Baptiste signed the settlement agreement that sought to keep the details of their personal relationship confidential while Goguen agreed to pay Baptiste four installments of $10 million.
According to the 26-page lawsuit, Goguen paid Baptiste $10 million on May 30, 2014 but later refused to pay the remaining $30 million. In December 2014, Goguen sent a letter to Baptiste rescinding the contract and claiming the agreement was null and void because it was procured under extortion, court records state.
Goguen said he plans to file his countersuit on Monday.
“Since court filings are protected by legal privilege, the most despicable things can be said about someone in a court filing without fear of being sued for defamation. But what ultimately matters is the evidence,” Goguen said in his statement. “At my direction, a cross complaint will be filed with the court first thing Monday morning. That cross complaint alleges extortion and will contain an enormous amount of evidence, including Ms. Baptiste’s e-mails and text messages that span many years.”
Following the complaint, Baptiste’s attorneys are seeking a jury trial.
In a separate statement released by attorney Diane Doolittle on Goguen’s behalf, Goguen said, “This matter is purely personal and has no connection to Sequoia. My departure from there allows me to focus with full force on clearing my name and vigorously pursuing justice – starting on Monday morning with the filing of my cross complaint alleging extortion.”
Goguen built a home along Whitefish Lake over a decade ago and has become a well-known philanthropist in the community. He donated a large land easement and spent over $10 million in personal funds on an expansive state trust land plan that transformed into the popular Whitefish Trail. He has invested untold millions more into an assortment of local causes and community investments, as well as business ventures, including Casey’s Bar and PROOF Research.
His contributions include Two Bear Air, a search and rescue resource and aviation program that includes two helicopters that serve the Pacific Northwest. Goguen has invested over $11 million in the program and covers all of its operating costs.
In 2014, Goguen donated $2 million over five years to the state’s Internet Crimes Against Children task force in an effort to protect kids from online predators.
Mike Goguen’s full public statement to the Beacon
“Unfortunately anyone can make horrific allegations about anyone else that they have an axe to grind with, especially after a long relationship ends badly. Being successful and high profile can make you a target for the worst kind of threats or reputation damage in such a situation.
“Since court filings are protected by legal privilege, the most despicable things can be said about someone in a court filing without fear of being sued for defamation. But what ultimately matters is the evidence.
“At my direction, a cross complaint will be filed with the court first thing Monday morning. That cross complaint alleges extortion and will contain an enormous amount of evidence, including Ms. Baptiste’s e-mails and text messages that span many years. Those messages show that she pursued me romantically, repeatedly professed her love, respect and affection for me, include consistent and multi-year statements about my kind and compassionate interactions and treatment of her, as well as her ultimate demands for money after things turned sour.
“While I know it is unusual to present so much evidence so early in a case, I insisted on doing so because I want readers to understand what is really going on here. I’d welcome anyone interested to read the full counter-suit once it is made public on Monday.”