Head of San Francisco-based private equity firm accused of assault by ex-partner

Jean-Pierre “J-P” Conte, Chairman of Genstar Capital, has been sued by his former longtime girlfriend, who claims he assaulted her in the Aspen home they shared and then launched a smear campaign against her.

Hillary Thomas filed a lawsuit against Conte in Aspen, Colorado, on Thursday. She is suing him for allegedly violating commitments he made under a May 2021 separation agreement they entered into at the end of their nearly decade-long relationship, in addition to assault, battery, and other claims.

In a statement, Conte’s lawyer denied the assault allegation and called Thomas’ lawsuit a “money grab.” “Mr. Conte never attacked or abused her,” said her lawyer, Kerry Wright Garvis.

“This case against Jean-Pierre Conte is about holding accountable an abusive man who believes his power and privilege put him above the law,” Sigrid McCawley of Boies Schiller & Flexner, one of Thomas’s lawyers, said in a statement. The suit seeks unspecified monetary damages.

According to its website, Genstar currently manages approximately $49 billion in assets. It focuses on middle-market firms in the financial, health care, industrial, and software industries.

Conte also serves on the boards of trustees of Colgate University, from which he graduated in 1985, Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, the Pan American Development Foundation, and the California Pacific Medical Center Foundation, in addition to his private equity role. He was one of a group of investors who contributed up to $100 million to John Textor’s acquisition of Olympique Lyonnais, a French soccer team.

Conte lives in California, but the majority of the allegations in the suit are said to have occurred in Aspen, where he and Thomas, an interior designer, shared a $24 million home, according to county records. They also shared a San Francisco mansion, which she renovated and was featured in Architectural Digest in 2018.

According to Thomas, the assault occurred at the Aspen house in January 2022, while the two were attempting to reconcile. Conte became “enraged” after a night out with friends, according to her suit, over a remark she made about his approach to parenting one of his children. She claims he later barged into her bedroom, dragged her out of bed, and pinned her to the floor while attempting to remove a ring from her finger and a watch from her wrist while verbally berating her.

Coverage was canceled.

According to the suit, she managed to get out from under him, but Conte pursued her and continued to attack her in other rooms throughout the house until she sought refuge in the basement room where Conte’s private chef was staying. She claims the chef testified that he asked Conte to leave and advised her to call someone she cared about. Thomas stated that she had called her sister to come pick her up that evening.

Thomas claims that after the alleged assault, Conte terminated her health insurance and refused to reimburse her for therapy she was seeking, despite the fact that the coverage was included in their separation agreement. He also told mutual friends at a dinner in Malibu and other times that she was making up stories, that he had never been violent with her, and that she had hired a lawyer to “get money from him.” Conte had previously been verbally and physically abusive to Thomas during their relationship, according to Thomas’ suit.

Conte, according to his lawyer, gave Thomas “millions of dollars in cash, gifts, and support for her children during their relationship.” Conte claims he first received a letter from Thomas’s lawyer alleging abuse after refusing her demands for more money after their divorce.

In her lawsuit, Thomas also claims that Conte has harmed her professionally. Her suit claims that she designed the interiors of some of Conte’s properties, including his Napa Valley and San Francisco homes, and that she also assisted him with real estate projects in Aspen and elsewhere. She claims that since the alleged assaults, he has cut her out of those projects and has slandered her in front of other potential clients.

Conte was born in Brooklyn, New York, to immigrant parents, his father from France and his mother from Cuba, according to his personal website. He claims that he worked his way through Colgate and Harvard Business School as a bouncer and waiter, and that he rose to the position of CEO of Genstar within three years of joining the firm in 1995.

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