A tennis broadcaster is suing an architect and his spouse for defamation, alleging that their false statements in public that he was a wife-beater caused him to be banned from the Brentwood Country Club.
Justin Gimelstob, who is also a retired professional tennis player, brought the lawsuit against Richard Landry, president and founder of the Landry Design Group, and Landry’s spouse, Christopher Drugan, on Monday in Santa Monica Superior Court, seeking unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.
“As a result of the publication of these false and defamatory statements with actual malice, Gimelstob was deemed persona non grata at Brentwood and has not been allowed on its premises at any point in time subsequent to Landry and Drugan’s verbal assault of him…,” the suit states.
A representative for Landry and Drugan could not be immediately reached.
Landry is a Canadian-born American architect. Known as the “King of the Megamansion,” he has designed many residences for celebrities.
Gimelstob is currently the President of FBR Group, which specializes in the insurance needs of wealthy clients. He has raised more than $1 million through his Justin Gimelstob Children’s Fund, benefiting children with pediatric cancer, as well as other youth charities, the suit states.
In August and September, 2020, Gimelstob was involved in an attorneys’ fees trial in his divorce case and he subpoenaed Landry to testify regarding a home being designed and constructed for the plaintiff’s ex-wife, the suit states.
“The manner in which Landry was served with the subpoena and the substance of his ensuing trial testimony created significant resentment and hostility toward Gimelstob,” according to the suit.
A few weeks after Landry testified after the men’s singles final of the U.S. Open, Gimelstob went to the Brentwood Country Club to play tennis with two friends, one a member at Brentwood, the other a professional tennis player who had just returned from playing in the U.S. Open, the suit states
Gimelstob was a frequent guest at Brentwood for many years after retiring from playing professional tennis, the suit states. In mid-September 2020, Gimelstob was on a tennis court hitting tennis balls with one of the friends with whom he had gone to Brentwood that day, the suit states.
Gimelstob noticed that Landry and Drugan were playing on an adjacent court and at one point a tennis ball rolled into the corner of the plaintiff’s court, the suit states. When Gimelstob went to retrieve it, he saw Landry near a fence, the suit states. Gimelstob jokingly said to Landry, “Who’s better, you as an architect or me at tennis?,” according to the suit.
Landry and Drugan immediately became enraged and, walking toward Gimelstob, said, “Get out of my club, you don’t belong here wife beater, you’re a criminal, we don’t want you in our club,” according to the suit.
The pair’s remarks were loud enough for the wife and two young sons of Gimelstob’s friend to overhear, the suit states.
Gimelstob was stunned by the remarks, but managed to go back to his own tennis practice area and he and his friend continued to play, the suit states. A short time later, Drugan returned to where Gimbelstob and his friend were playing and yelled a few inches from Gimelstob’s face, “Get out of my club, wife beater. I dare you to hit me, I dare you. I know you’re on probation. Why don’t you hit me like you hit your wife and son? I dare you to hit me,” according to the suit.
The statements were made in front of Gimelstob’s friends and a professional tennis player with whom Gimelstob has worked and represented, the suit states.
Drugan eventually returned to the clubhouse, the suit states.
Landry and Drugan’s alleged statements were “made with the intent to harm Gimelstob both personally and professionally” as both were aware that accusing someone of domestic violence would substantially damage that individual’s personal and professional relationships, particularly given that Gimelstob is a high-profile person, the suit states.
Gimelstob later learned that Landry and Drugan were continuing to make “outlandish accusations and false statements” about him to others at Brentwood and the plaintiff was prohibited from returning to the club as a result, the suit states.