• US Grand Prix

Bitter row overshadows US Grand Prix preparations

ESPN Staff
May 25, 2012 « Bomb experts deal with suspect package | Repeat of 2011 Monaco thriller possible - Pirelli »

The increasingly bitter dispute between the Circuit of The Americas and its former boss Tavo Hellmund continues to overshadow preparations for the US Grand Prix in November.

Hellmund was the public face of the project in its early days and claims he was set to earn $500,000 a year for ten years as chairman of the US Grand Prix. But he was removed from the project earlier this year and is now suing the Circuit for $18 million.

Earlier on Thursday it seemed there was progress in the case when Circuit chairman Bobby Epstein agreed to release certain documents which had been sealed by a Texas court. He had wanted court proceedings sealed because it was claimed they would have divulged business practices that were confidential.

"Our intent from the beginning has been to resolve this matter efficiently through the agreed-upon binding arbitration process," he said. "We feel that unsealing the court records moves us closer to this goal."

But hours later Circuit of The America's attorney Michael Whellan told reporters: "We believe the facts made public through today's filing strongly support our position that Hellmund's claims and accusations, and his misrepresentations to Circuit representatives and the public about his ability to assign Formula One race contracts, only serve to undermine his case.

"We believe the tactics Hellmund and his legal team have employed to date are meant to purposely generate negative public sentiment about Circuit of The Americas in hopes of extracting a large settlement. Unfortunately, we do not expect these tactics to end anytime soon."

Those comment enraged Eric Wetzel, a spokesman for Hellmund's legal team. He said that if Epstein wanted a swift resolution "he can simply honor the $18 million buyout agreement that he signed in September of 2011. If not, Tavo is prepared to amend his pleadings to include charges of fraud and other misdeeds, based on newly discovered evidence. We believe this evidence demonstrates that Epstein intended to force Tavo out of the F1 project from the beginning.

"As required by the September agreement signed by Mr. Epstein, these new claims will be litigated in the Travis County, Texas courts and not in a secretive arbitration proceeding."

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