The excitement never ends for Rory McIlroy. After a season that brought a second major win, dual money titles and an avalanche of awards, the world No 1 will end 2012 in court after ESPN.com revealed that apparel-maker Oakley has sued both the Ulsterman and Nike for breach of contract following their estimated $250m deal.
While it was the worst kept secret in sport, the lawsuit is the first official confirmation that McIlroy is moving to Nike in 2013 in what is expected to be a “head-to-toe” arrangment and one of the biggest contracts in the history of sport.
According to the story filed by ESPN.com’s Leser Munson, Oakley filed a lawsuit in federal court in California on Monday this week, claiming that when they tried to use their right of first refusal to match the Nike offer, McIlroy and his agent Conor Ridge of Horizon Sports Mangement ignored their counteroffer, thereby breaching the Oakley-McIroy contract.
The ESPN story goes on:
“The key to any resolution of the dispute is in a string emails between Oakley and agent Ridge that began back in September. Late on a Saturday evening (Sept. 29) as negotiations for a renewal of the Oakley deal seemed to be falling apart, a sports marketing executive at Oakley named Pat McIlvain sent an email to agent Ridge that said, ‘Understood. We are out of the mix. No contract for 2013. Pat Mac.’”
Clearly referring to the McIlvain correspondence, Horizon Sports Management told ESPN.Com in a statement: “McIlroy has fulfilled all of his obligations to Oakely and the claims in the lawsuit are entirely baseless.” They wll assert in court that McIlvain’s email was a waiver of Oakley’s contractual rights to renew with McIlroy.”
However, Oakley claim that McIlroy’s team of agents and lawyers then continued to bargain with Oakley and gave Oakley the dollar amounts that Oakley would be required to match.
Again according to ESPN, it was not until Oct. 23 that McIlroy’s lawyer finally told Oakley that he “would not be continuing his relationship with Oakley beyond Dec. 31” and that they “would not engage in any further correspondence on the matter of the right of first refusal.”
Horizon Sports Management did not immediately respond to a request for comment last night.
Contacted last night, Horizon Sports Management said in a statement: “We have nothing to add to the statement Rory’s US lawyers released earlier. ‘We have been made aware of Oakley’s lawsuit. Rory McIlroy has fulfilled all of his obligations to Oakley, and the claims in the lawsuit are entirely baseless. We have no further comment to make.’”