Money the root cause of McIlroy’s break-up with Horizon Sports Management
Golfer now likely to be cast as a central figure in High Court drama
Rory McIlroy: facing a legal battle against his former management companty. Photo: Sam Greenwood/Getty Images
This is no John Grisham legal thriller but, given the characters and players involved, it could be every bit as gripping. Rather than being a crowd pleaser on the golf course, Rory McIlroy’s issuing of legal proceedings against his former agent, Horizon Sports Management, may cast him into the central role of a courtroom drama in the High Court in Dublin at some point in the future that will focus on contract minutiae rather than on the number of birdies or bogeys accumulated in a round.
The root cause of the break-up fundamentally comes down to money, it would seem. Although it is unclear what the exact terms of his contract were, according to some media reports McIlroy’s decision to leave Horizon was based on the size of the agency’s commission on certain earnings which were put at up to 20 per cent.
However, a number of different industry sources have confirmed that such commission on sponsorship deals would be the norm.
An industry source observed: “I don’t know what the percentage is, if it was 20 per cent, that would be the industry standard, not just for golfers but for other sportsmen. It’s the norm for the industry, not the exception.”
This source also dismissed the notion in recent media reports that such a cut belonged to a throwback of the ’60s, when Mark McCormack founded IMG and became the industry’s trendsetter. “That notion represents a personal view, it implies people don’t get 20 per cent any more. They do.”
The source – who is involved in helping clients in the entertainment as well as the sporting world – also expressed the view that Horizon were “victims of their own success” in achieving one of the most financially lucrative sponsorship contracts in sporting history.
McIlroy, who joined Horizon Sports in October 2011 after moving from International Sports Management, performed spectacularly after joining the boutique Dublin-based sports agency.
Within a week of the move to new management pastures, he won the Shanghai Masters and a month later won the Hong Kong Open; and, then, in 2012, he won six times – including claiming a second Major, in winning the US PGA at Kiawah Island – in a year that saw him attain number one in the official world rankings and top the money lists on both the PGA European Tour and the PGA Tour in the United States.
This season, in contrast, has proven to be a barren one on the tournament circuit for the 24-year-old Northern Irishman with no victories and as much focus on his off-course activities as on the state of his game.
Dating former tennis world number one Caroline Wozniacki providing the paparazzi with numerous photo opportunities and McIlroy recently confirmed the split from Horizon in setting up his own management company, Rory McIlroy Incorporated (RMI) .
His decision to go it alone on the management front has come after he ealier this year signed a multi-year contract with Nike worth an estimated €185 million.