McIlroy claims he paid $6.8m agent’s fees under ‘unconscionable’ agreements
Golfer seeks order to cancel ‘restrictive’ representation with Dublin agent
Rory McIlroy and Conor Ridge at a state dinner for David Cameron at the White House in March last year. Photograph: Benjamin Myers/Reuters
Golfer Rory McIlroy claims he has paid more than $6.8 million to his Dublin agent Horizon based on unreasonable fee rates many times greater than is standard in the sports agency industry.
He is seeking court orders in Dublin cancelling “restrictive” and “unconscionable” representation agreements with Horizon and related companies on various grounds, including alleged negligence and breach of contract.
He also alleges the companies are not entitled to be paid certain fees into the future related to his $20 million a year sponsorship deal with sportswear giant Nike.
Agreements providing for payment to one of the companies of 20 per cent of all pre-tax sums due to him under the Nike deal up to 2017, and 15 per cent of all sums if that contract is renewed after 2017, even if that company was no longer his agent, are “oppressive”, it is alleged.
In letters to Mr McIlroy, solicitors for the companies claimed he had received “extraordinary benefits” from the work of the agents and is seeking to avoid his contractual responsibilities.
Mr McIlroy’s case is against Dublin-based Horizon Sports Management Ltd, Gurteen Limited, with a registered address in Malta, and Dublin-based Canovan Management Services over representation agreements of December 2011 and March 2013.
It was transferred to the Commercial Court yesterday by Mr Justice Peter Kelly and is expected to be heard in the autumn of 2014.
The companies deny the claims and Paul Sreenan SC, for the companies, said they would be bringing a counter-claim. Mr Sreenan said he anticipated extensive discovery of documents would be sought for the action.
Rossa Fanning, for Mr McIlroy, said the sums involved well exceeded the €1 million threshold of the Commercial Court and an autumn 2014 date would suit his client better, given his extensive commitments.
Mr McIlroy (24), who has an address in Monaco, claims to have paid more than $6.8 million to the companies based on commission rates of some 5 per cent on his pre-tax on-course earnings and 20 per cent for off-course earnings.
He claims “reasonable” commission should have been 0 per cent for golf course earnings and 5-7 per cent for off-course earnings and he should be repaid the difference.
Among a series of other claims, Mr McIlroy alleges Horizon gave $166,000 of his money to children’s charity Unicef without his knowledge and converted a first-class flight ticket to Abu Dhabi in his name to business-class tickets for use by the agent’s staff without crediting that payment to his account.
The Unicef payment, which was later reversed, was a deliberate defiance of an instruction from Mr McIlroy, who supports children’s charities through his personal charity foundation, it is claimed.
Mr McIlroy also claims his relationship with the Creative Artists Agency – a worldwide agency acting for high-profile sport and entertainment industry figures including David Beckham – was terminated due to the unreasonable conduct of Horizon and particularly its managing director, Conor Ridge.