The Hamptons’ first polo club, which litigated its way into the local landscape, has become embroiled in courtroom drama itself with one of the principal shareholders in the Southampton Polo Club suing the founder and manager for embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars from the club’s revenues.
Frank MacNamara has been the face of Southampton Polo Club and one of the primary proponents of the sport’s growth on the East End. But his longtime partner in the club, Randy Aversano, and two former shareholders in the club are accusing Mr. MacNamara and his wife, Patricia, of pocketing more than $750,000 and paying for expensive cars and club memberships for themselves with club money.
Earlier this summer, a state Supreme Court judge appointed a receiver to oversee the financial business of the club while the legal accusations are straightened out. A trial is scheduled for this fall.
Mr. MacNamara has flatly denied any wrongdoing and said last week that he would be vindicated in court.
“This is going to trial and at that point all of these ridiculous accusations will be proven false,” said Mr. MacNamara, who was recently touted in a profile in Hamptons Magazine as the man who brought polo to the Hamptons. He declined to comment further on the accusations leveled at him by his former partners and referred comment to his attorney, Bill Maloney of Esseks, Hefter and Angel in Riverhead. Mr. Maloney did not return several phone calls seeking comment.
Mr. Aversano could not be reached for comment either, but another of the plaintiffs in the case, Christopher Nelson, a former shareholder and son of another Southampton Polo Club founder, the late Richard Nelson, said that Mr. MacNamara has claimed that money he took out of the club’s proceeds from memberships were repayment for loans he had made over the years to the club for operating expenses. He also said Mr. MacNamara has been unable to show any proof the loans were made.
“He said he has loaned money to the company and that he’s getting paid back,” Mr. Nelson said last week. “We said, fine, show us the notes for the money you put in. So he hired what he called a forensic accountant to do an audit. But the auditor found no evidence of any loans to the company.”
An accountant hired by the plaintiffs to review the auditor’s report issued a brief, which was submitted as evidence in the case. It claims there is no evidence Mr. MacNamara loaned money to the club and points out that after he was challenged he refiled the club’s tax returns for 2006 and 2007.
The Southampton Hunt and Polo Club was founded on Millstone Brook Road in 1989 and was instantly embroiled in a years-long legal battle with Southampton Town over whether a horse farm could be considered an agricultural use. The town had purchased the development rights to the property in an effort to preserve it as farmland and insisted that a polo pony operation was an inappropriate use in an agricultural reserve. But in 1991, a New York State appellate court declared that raising polo ponies was an appropriate agricultural use for the land.
Mr. MacNamara has been the driving force behind the club. It was not until 2006 that Mr. Aversano raised questions about his management of the club and Equus Associates, the horse stables associated with the club. The questions were prompted, Mr. Nelson said, by Mr. MacNamara’s claims that the club was losing money and was worthless.
But the plaintiffs claim that Mr. MacNamara had used club money to purchase an Aston Martin for his wife and for memberships in pricey clubs such as the International Polo Club in Palm Beach, Florida.
Mr. Aversano filed suit in April of this year and received a temporary restraining order against Mr. MacNamara prohibiting him from taking any revenues from the club. After Mr. MacNamara withdrew $20,000 in what Mr. Nelson said was club revenues, claiming that it was rent for barns that he owns—Mr. Nelson claims that Mr. MacNamara owns no barns—the judge appointed the receiver to oversee the club.
The club draws revenues from the membership fees and boarding fees for horses housed at the property.