McCourt’s Upstart Horse-Jumping Tour Takes On Governing Body

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An international show-jumping series co-owned by former Los Angeles Dodgers owner Frank McCourt accused the sport’s governing body of making it impossible for competitors to take part in its events.

In an antitrust complaint it says it filed with Belgian regulators Monday, McCourt’s Global Champions Tour accused the Federation Equestre Internationale of imposing an exclusivity requirement on members that effectively prevents riders and officials from participating in tournaments the federation doesn’t organize.

“Why the FEI would impede development of a new concept that will both advance the sport and benefit riders makes no sense unless their core mission is to protect their own commercial interests,” McCourt said in a statement.

McCourt acquired a 50 percent stake in the show-jumping tour in June 2014, after selling Major League Baseball’s Dodgers to Guggenheim Baseball Management LLC for a record $2.15 billion. McCourt’s co-owner is Jan Tops, a four-time Olympic equestrian from the Netherlands and a team gold medalist at the 1992 Games.

The tour stages 15 premier circuit events in Europe, Asia and the Middle East. Longines, a unit of Swatch Group AG, Switzerland’s largest watchmaker, is its title partner. It’s revamping its format to introduce a team competition as part of a league series.

The Lausanne, Switzerland-based equestrian federation, which also runs a tour, currently prevents its members from taking part in outside events in the six months leading up to its own competitions, McCourt’s organization alleged.

The FEI said it received notification of the complaint and has asked to get the full details.

Belgian Authority

The tour said it’s asking the Belgian Competition Authority to impose an interim injunction preventing the federation from fining any riders, horses, owners or officials who participate in non-federation approved events until the matter is resolved.

“Once we overcome this challenge, the real winner will be the sport of show jumping,” McCourt said.

The next Global Champions Tour event is scheduled for June 11-13 in Cannes, France, according to its website.

McCourt has said he plans to bolster his tour’s sponsor base by expanding to undisclosed locales in the U.S. and growing its footprint in Asia and the Middle East.

The real estate developer owned the Dodgers from 2004 to 2012, when the club was sold following almost a year in bankruptcy. The Belgian Competition Authority didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

(An earlier version of this story corrected the number of events in Europe.)

(Updates with FEI comment in seventh paragraph.)
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