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France: Ex-wife threatened to ruin him with recordings

- gwright@charlotteobserver.com
Wednesday, Aug. 03, 2011

NASCAR Chairman Brian France has accused his former wife of repeatedly threatening to use secretly recorded phone conversations to ruin his career if he didn’t pay her substantial sums of money.

“You have to help me out if you don’t want me to ruin your career,” Brian France alleges his ex-wife told him during one telephone conversation.

“I’ve got a big lifestyle, including the apartment in Paris I need to buy. Charlotte is a small community – NASCAR central – and I can find ways to do what I need to do. And if you don’t care now, you’ll surely care by the time these calls get out.”

Brian France sued his former wife, Megan France, in federal court in April, accusing her of tape recording telephone conversations to extort money from him.

The latest allegations are contained in an amended lawsuit Brian France filed under seal in June. He had asked a federal judge to seal all the documents in the court case surrounding the telephone conversations.

But last month, he withdrew his request to have the documents kept secret. On Wednesday, a federal judge unsealed the amended complaint.

Megan France acknowledges recording phone conversations with her former husband, but denies recording them to extort money from him. She also denies threatening to use those conversations to ruin Brian France’s career.

In one court document, Megan France said her ex-husband was trying to “bully and intimidate” her from lawfully recording her conversations with him.

“Ms. France recorded the calls in order to have an accurate record of Mr. France’s false statements, unrealistic demands and bullying and intimidating tactics in their ongoing marital support and custody action now pending in Mecklenburg County District Court,” the document said.

Brian France alleges in the amended complaint that his former wife told him during one of the conversations that “she knew how to splice the tape recordings of their telephone calls to make them more damaging” to him, and that she had “access to websites and a radio station that would be more than willing to publicize portions of her secretly recorded and doctored tapes.”

Brian France claims in the amended complaint that his ex-wife’s threats included “demands for large sums of money, ranging from $50,000 to $100,000 on each occasion.” He said he refused the give her the money.

Megan France denies those allegations.

Brian France alleges that his former wife’s “illegal and extortionate demands” have caused him “substantial mental anguish” and have interfered with his efforts to maintain his relationships with his children.

“Plaintiff, as the chairman and CEO of NASCAR, holds a very public position and is therefore vulnerable to attacks such as those threatened by defendant,” Brian France’s complaint says.

“If defendant carries through on her threats… plaintiff is genuinely concerned that such disclosure would cause him great harm and damage, including damage to his reputation in the community and to his professional career with NASCAR.”

Brian France claims that if Megan France is allowed to continue “this threatened vendetta against him,” it will result in “substantial economic damage” to him.

Brian France has asked that a federal judge issue an injunction prohibiting his former wife from tape recording any more of their telephone conversations.

Megan France has asked the judge to dismiss her ex-husband’s complaint against her.

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