Two-time golf major winner Rory McIlroy (NKE) sued his former agent in a bid to end what he called an “unconscionable” contract which cost him $6.8 million in fees.
McIlroy, 24, said he lacked legal advice, business experience and was too young when he signed the deal with Dublin-based Horizon Sports Management on Dec. 21, 2011, according to a statement of claim filed Oct. 9 in the High Court in Dublin. He agreed the contract under “circumstances of great informality” on the day of Horizon’s Christmas party, according to the filing. Horizon said it would defend itself “vigorously.”
McIlroy, who lives in Monaco, started his own management group last month, the second change in two years for the Northern Irishman. He left International Sports Management for Horizon, months after winning the U.S. Open. McIlroy filed the lawsuit despite the firm’s efforts to reach an “orderly and fair resolution,” the company said in an e-mailed statement.
“Since October 2011, under Horizon’s management, Rory McIlroy has signed some of the most lucrative endorsement contracts in sports history,” the company said. “Today, he is one of the world’s most highly remunerated sports people.”
In December, Nike Inc. agreed to pay him fees of about $20 million each year, McIlroy said. McIlroy said he later disputed how Horizon sought to benefit from the Nike contract. A spokesman for Horizon said they wouldn’t comment beyond the statement it issued.
Under the terms of the contract he signed in 2011, McIlroy agreed to pay Horizon 5 percent of any prize winnings from golf and a further 20 percent of any other income.
Such a fee structure was more suitable for an inexperienced and unproven golfer, rather than McIlroy, who was one of the world’s top players, according to the claim. He shouldn’t have paid any fees on golf winnings and between 5 percent and 7 percent on other income, he said.
“Horizon has confidence in its position,” the management agency said. “This confidence is underpinned by a legally binding contract and the clear evidence of the exceptional job done for Rory McIlroy by Horizon.”
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