US Equestrian Sponsor Joe Zada Owes $75 Million to Creditors, Newspaper Reports

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Joe Zada's "barn" in Wellington, Florida. © 2009 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
Joe Zada's $12 million (€8.235 million) barn in Wellington, Florida. © 2009 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

DETROIT, Michigan, Oct. 4–Joe Zada, a longtime sponsor of equestrian events in Florida and Michigan, owes creditors such as nine-time U.S. Olympian Robert Dover and Russian hockey star Sergei Federov $75 million (€51,5 million), according to Sunday’s Free Press newspaper.

In a lengthy article under the headline, “Is this horseman really a con man?” the newspaper reported Zada’s rise in 20 years from a penniless riding instructor to the owner of multimillion dollar mansions in Wellington, Florida and Detroit where he hosted extravagant parties. The newspaper cited October, 2007 credit card bills of $67,000 (€46,000) for a stay at the Dorchester Hotel in London and $4,000 (€2,745) at Palm Beach Massage as a reflection of his lifestyle.

At the peak of his involvement in the U.S. equestrian community, he sponsored horses for Dover, his partner, Robert Ross, and Eventing Hall of Fame rider and Olympic gold medalist David O’Connor.

A 2003 public relations release detailed sponsorship by his Zada Enterprises, LLC of Dressage at the National during the 120th National Horse Show in Wellington. It quoted him about his sponsorship: “It certainly isn’t to make money. It does cost, and that’s why I feel that I basically put my money where my mouth is. I just love the sport.”

The Free Press quoted former friends and associates as well as lawsuits describing Zada, 51, as a “Bernie Madoff-style swindler who parlayed the trappings of wealth to sweet talk them out of millions.”

The money, the newspaper reported, went to a lavish lifestyle that included massive homes including a marble-floored, $12-million horse-training estate in Wellington the “looks like an architectural collaboration between Julius Caesar and William Randolph Hearst.”

Robert Dover and Robert Ross sued Zada in 2008. Zada agreed to pay each $4 million (€2.745 million). Neither has been able to collect, the Free Press said.

A judge, it reported, had ordered Zada to pay Federov $60 million (€40.175 million).

The newspaper said the Federal Bureau of Investigation has subpoened Zada’s bank records and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is asking questions.