WEST PALM BEACH, Calif. — A document uncovered during the discovery process in the drawn out battle between Camping World and RV dealer Gigi Stetler suggests that the company had no grounds to seek criminal charges against her, nor to seek her removal from the grounds of an equestrian event.
The trouble started with an email from Camping World CEO Marcus Lemonis sent at 3:11 p.m. Feb. 11, 2010, to John Sirpilla, the former president of Camping World retail operations, and to Mark Bellissimo, the organizer of the event. Lemonis noted, “Why are we having to deal with this?”
Stetler claims Bellissimo Entities required her to forward her confidential client list, her budget, copies of client contracts, financial information about her clients, a profit and loss statement, her business model for the campground operation as well as her entire business plan — before the amount of rent was determined. She contends that information was later passed on to Camping World, which became the official sponsor of the event.
As a result of Lemonis’ email, Sirpilla sent an email to Meg Krueger, with Equestrian Sport, Feb. 11 at 3:20 p.m. claiming, “I got a call from Ila (Lemonis, Marcus’ wife) and Frank Crum concerning GiGi. Looks like we have problems again and charges that she broke into our units. Ila is really upset and tired of hearing how she is hurting Camping World’s name. We need your help. She is hurting our business, name and creating problems for many of your Wellington patrons.”
Krueger responded 55 minutes later with a promise, “I am sorry to hear this. I have contacted Mark and Michael and we will address this immediately. I will call you as soon as I can.”
Five days later, Stetler received a trespass warning letter Feb. 16, 2010, from attorney Craig Gale warning her that “you are not permitted on any of the land owned by the companies. So that there is no confusion, the land owned by the companies includes the main horse show grounds, the Littlewood property, and the stadium where the steeplechase event is held. If you come on any of the properties, you will be trespassing and the companies will have you removed.”
Gale represented Far Niente Stables V, Far Niente Stables VI, Far Niente Stables IX, Polo Field One, Stadium North and Stadium South.
Stetler had participated in an equestrian event on the property for years, and even sponsored the RV park that she built on the grounds of the event. However, she lost that contract and was ordered to stay away shortly after Camping World acquired rights to take over the campground. Stetler charges that Camping World conspired with event planners to attain her business plan, list of customers and financial information.
As a result of the letter sent by Gale, Stetler received another letter Feb. 22 from the United States Equestrian Federation informing her that she would not be allowed to compete that year or in any future competitions. Stetler had participated in the event many times in the past, she explained.
However, in a letter to Bellissimo dated March 2, 2010, attorney Daniel Rosenbaum, with Katzman, Garfinkel and Rosenbaum, provided additional insight into the controversy.
“First and foremost, contrary to the impression that everyone was under, Mike Senior did not witness, nor was there a break-in into a recreational vehicle belonging to Camping World,” he wrote. “Mike only saw Ms. Stetler standing on the stairs of one of the recreational vehicles being displayed by Camping World, with her hand on the doorknob. It was clear that the deadbolt on that particular recreation vehicle (and others to my knowledge) was secure and at no time was there a break-in as originally thought.
“Thus, the entire dynamics of the response changed, and instead of relying upon the commission of a of a third degree felony (breaking and entering) as we had thought, the response had to be written to address a situation where there was no crime committed even though police had been called,” he added.
“Instead, the issue was primarily a commercial dispute between two competitors. The primary concern I have with our response is that the landowners employed a complete ban on Ms. Stetler for an unlimited time duration, when perhaps less drastic means may have been available to reconcile the situation with the Federation rules,” he wrote.
Stetler is pushing for a trial to begin this summer.