In a case that’s almost too strange to be true, even for far-out Silicon Valley, venture capitalist Michael Goguen admitted in court papers Monday that, yes, he paid the first $10 million of a $40 million contract to the woman he had a sexual relationship with for 13 years and who was not his wife; but, no, she was never his “sexual slave” and he only agreed to sign the unusual contract because he worried about a “shakedown” featuring “false and libelous claims” of abuse.
But then Goguen failed to pay up. Some $30 million remains on the contract today. Both sides agree on that, at least.
And so now his former paramour, Amber Laurel Baptiste, has gone to court – unleashing both a hard-to-read dispute and a wealth of tawdry details that has shocked the hard-to-shock tech community and had Goguen’s former employer, Sequoia Capital, taking to Twitter this weekend to gamely send their managing partner packing: “We understand the allegations about Michael Goguen are unproven and unrelated to Sequoia. Still, we decided his departure was appropriate.”
Baptiste’s breach of contract lawsuit, filed last week in San Mateo County District Court in California, accused Goguen of “sexually, physically and emotionally” abusing her. She alleged that she endured the treatment because Goguen promised to free her from the human traffickers holding her in perpetual debt. The contract, according to Baptiste’s lawsuit, was intended to compensate her for the years of abuse.
Goguen, in his counter-suit, denied any wrongdoing and, in turn, accused Baptiste of extortion – describing her as “a woman scorned.”
Reading the two filings side-by-side, Baptiste and Goguen agree on the outlines of many incidents. It’s in the details and interpretations that they clash.
Goguen admitted that they had an unusual sex life, but he claims it was entirely consensual. His lawsuit features many snippets of texts purporting to show Baptiste’s adoration for him throughout the relationship. His lawsuit even includes color photographs of Baptiste posing in her underwear, like something out of a Victoria’s Secret catalog, which Goguen claimed she emailed to him at what was allegedly the heights of her abuse.
But Baptiste painted a much starker picture of their relationship. She described a life of being required to participate in “increasingly demeaning sexual acts.” According to her lawsuit, Baptiste also was required to grovel and refer to Goguen as a king and emperor.
Both parties pointed to one night in a London hotel in 2012, when Goguen and Bapiste engaged in anal sex.
She claimed in her suit that she suffered a tear that left her “nearly hemorrhaging to death” and requiring emergency aid. Later, she had a surgical repair.
But Goguen, in his court filing, wrote that “the supposed anal tear was so minor that Mr. Goguen was unaware of it until Ms. Bapiste emailed him after the fact gushing about how wonderful the night was and noting she was scheduled to have a ‘small surgery’ that was ‘not a big deal.’”
Goguen alleged that Baptiste was motivated by jealousy of Goguen’s wife. He claimed he agreed to the $40 million contract only to avoid the lawsuit he now finds himself in.
Goguen, who grew up outside Boston, is a well-known investor and philanthropist. His specialty is identifying companies in computer infrastructure and security. He was part of the Sequoia team that took cybersecurity firm FireEye public in 2013. He was on the 2015 Forbes Magazine’s Midas List of the world’s top tech investors.
In Whitefish, Mont., where he keeps a home, he was lauded for spending $10 million to buy two helicopters for area law enforcement and search and rescue teams, according to The Flathead Beacon. He also has set up a land trust to protect land from development.
Prior to the Baptiste lawsuit, Goguen sat on the board of about 10 companies. According to news reports, he has stepped down from at least one board as of Monday.