The greatest hockey player of all time, Wayne Gretzky, is being sued by the owner of a natural gum company who claims the NHL legend lied about the gum’s role in weight loss and cost the owner $10 million, according to reports.
The suit claims that the plaintiff, Steven Sparks, created a natural gum to help manage weight loss. A product he called Overeating Management Gum (OMG). Sparks originally hired Gretzky’s wife, Janet Jones, to serve as a company spokesperson.
The issue is that Sparks claims Gretzky (Wayne) made up a lie stating that after using the gum for approximately two months it contributed to the hockey great losing 35 pounds.
The assertion made by Gretzky artificially inflated the value of the company according to Sparks, by boosting the company stock. The suit also claims that Gretzky secretly purchased company stock under his family’s name.
Sparks claims he believed Gretzky was telling the truth, so he reinvested additional capital into the business. But the OMG owner says Gretzky eventually owned up to the lie, causing the company to tank financially. So Sparks is suing for damages and lost capital $10 million plus.
This is a wild story.
The valuation of a company goes up because a famous person makes a positive claim and the markets react accordingly. Great for you if you were able to exit from your position then. But it turns out the famous person lied and now you’re left holding the bag.
This isn’t the first shady incident involving the Gretzkys.
In 2006 an illegal nationwide gambling ring was uncovered by New Jersey State Police. Phoenix Coyotes assistant coach Rick Tocchet, a member of then-head coach Gretzky’s staff, and Jones were under investigation for their involvement.
Jones was never indicted, but Tocchet pled guilty to conspiracy and promoting gambling. At the time she vehemently denied that her husband had bet on any NHL games or that she placed bets on his behalf.
“At no time did I ever place a wager on my husband’s behalf,” Jones Gretzky said in a statement. “Other than the occasional horse race, my husband does not bet on any sports.”
Gretzky and Jones were never charged with anything, and it appears as though all Jones did was bet on NFL games including the Super Bowl.
With all the gambling content we see in sports programming these days this hardly seems like a big deal. But it was in 2006, and sports gambling had not yet been legalized across the states.
The other issue, and still an issue facing sports today, is the integrity of the game. Players, coaches, officials, and executives who are privy to information the general sports consuming public isn’t, gambling on games within the sports they participate.
Nothing came of the 2006 case but one of Gretzky’s assistants was an integral part of a gambling ring his wife placed bets with and the hockey legend knew nothing about it? They didn’t consider placing NHL bets?
Even with its legalization, this is the elephant in the room of sports betting. Can the public be assured that everything is on the level?