(Bloomberg) -- Genstar Capital Chairman Jean-Pierre “J-P” Conte was sued by his former longtime girlfriend, who alleges the head of the $49 billion private equity firm assaulted her in the Aspen home they shared and then launched a smear campaign against her.
Hillary Thomas filed a lawsuit against Conte Thursday in Colorado state court in Aspen. Along with assault, battery and other claims, she’s suing him for allegedly violating commitments he made under a May 2021 separation agreement they entered into at the end of their nearly decade-long relationship.
In a statement, a lawyer for Conte denied the assault allegation and called the suit a “money grab” by Thomas. “Mr. Conte never attacked or abused her,” the lawyer, Kerry Wright Garvis, said.
“This case against Jean-Pierre Conte is about holding to account an abusive man who believes his power and privilege puts him above the law,” one of Thomas’s lawyers, Sigrid McCawley of Boies Schiller & Flexner, said in a statement. The suit asks for an unspecified amount in damages.
San Francisco-based Genstar currently manages about $49 billion in assets, according to its website. It focuses on middle-market companies in the financial, health care, industrial and software sectors.
In addition to his private equity role, Conte serves on the board of trustees at Colgate University, from which he graduated in 1985, Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, the Pan American Development Foundation and the California Pacific Medical Center Foundation. He was part of a group of investors who put up to $100 million to back John Textor’s acquisition of French soccer team Olympique Lyonnais.
Conte lives in California, but most of the allegations outlined in the suit are said to have taken place in Aspen, where he and Thomas, an interior designer, shared a house valued at $24 million, according to county records. They also lived together in a San Francisco mansion that she renovated and which was featured in Architectural Digest in 2018.
Thomas said the assault took place at the Aspen house in January 2022 while the two were attempting a reconciliation. According to her suit, after a night out with friends, Conte became “enraged” over a remark she made about his approach to parenting one of his children. She claims he later burst into the room where she was trying to sleep, dragged her out of bed and pinned her to the floor as he tried to remove a ring from her finger and a watch from her wrist, verbally berating her at the same time.
According to the suit, she managed to get out from under him, but Conte chased her and continued to attack her in other rooms in the house before she found refuge in the basement room where Conte’s private chef was staying. She cites the chef as a witness, saying he asked Conte to leave and advised her to call someone she loved. Thomas said she called her sister to come pick her up that night.
After the alleged assault, Thomas claims Conte terminated her health insurance and refused to reimburse her for therapy she was seeking, even though the coverage was included in their separation agreement. She said he also told mutual friends at a dinner in Malibu and on other occasions that she was making up stories, that he had never been violent with her and that she had hired a lawyer to try to “get money from him.” Thomas said in her suit that Conte had previously been verbally and physically abusive during their relationship.
According to his lawyer’s statement, Conte provided Thomas “millions of dollars in cash, gifts and support for her children during their relationship.” Conte claims he first received a letter from Thomas’s lawyer raising an allegation of abuse after refusing her demands for more money following their split.
Thomas also claims in her suit that Conte has hurt her professionally. According to her suit, she designed the interiors of some of Conte’s properties, including his Napa Valley and San Francisco homes, and also helped him with real estate projects in Aspen and elsewhere. Since the alleged assaults, she said she believes that he’s cut her out of those projects and also maligned her to other potential clients.
According to his personal website, Conte was born in Brooklyn, New York, to immigrant parents — his father from France and his mother from Cuba. He says he worked his way through Colgate and Harvard Business School working as a bouncer and waiter, and rose to lead Genstar within three years of joining the firm in 1995.
The case is Thomas v. Conte, 23CV30102, Colorado District Court, Pitkin County (Aspen).
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