Rory McIlroy trio made ‘concerted effort’ to destabilise deal

Gerry McIlroy tells court there was no conspiracy to end golfer’s management deal

Rory McIlroy at the Australian Open. It is the  third day of a High Court application by three companies for better disclosure of documents and inspection of mobile phones of Rory McIroy. Photograph: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images

Rory McIlroy at the Australian Open. It is the third day of a High Court application by three companies for better disclosure of documents and inspection of mobile phones of Rory McIroy. Photograph: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images


Three people close to Rory McIlroy made a “concerted effort” to destabilise the golfer’s relationship with the sports agency he had signed a representation agreement with, the High Court has been told.

Those people were consultant Donal Casey, who later became CEO of Rory McIlroy Inc, Sean O’Flaherty, the golfer’s personal assistant, and Mr McIlroy’s father, Gerry, said counsel Maurice Collins.

Mr Collins, for Dublin-based Horizon Sports Management Ltd and two other companies, was speaking during an application by his clients for an order requiring Mr McIlroy and Mr Flaherty swear further affidavits concerning documents generated when legal advice was sought by businessman Dermot Desmond in relation to justifying the termination of Mr McIlroy’s contract in 2013.

Central to Horizon’s case was that, in the period after January 2013, Mr Casey, Mr O’Flaherty and Gerry McIlroy “made a concerted effort to destabilise the relationship between Rory McIlroy and Horizon, and in particular with Conor Ridge (Horizon CEO)”, counsel said.

Rossa Fanning, for Gerry McIlroy, said it was “just preposterous” to suggest there was a conspiracy to end the golfer’s agreement with his sports management company in April last year.

She said if it was a conspiracy, which is denied, then it was “the worst conspiracy in the world”. This was because it would have happened around the time of one of the most important events in the golfing calendar, the Masters.,

It was also the month after Mr McIlroy had signed an amendment to his December 2011 representation agreement with Dublin-based Horizon Sports Management, counsel said.

It was the final day of a three-day hearing of pre-trial applications for orders seeking inspection of mobile phones of Mr McIlroy and others, plus further disclosure in advance of the hearing of the golfer’s case.

He claims he is entitled to repudiate a December 2011 agreement with Horizon, Gurteen Ltd and Canovan Management Services on grounds it was improvident. The defendants deny his claims and have counter-claimed for damages for losses. A decision on the mobile phones issue will be given later.

Earlier, Mr Fanning, said Mr Desmond was contacted by Mr McIlroy about contract matters as Mr Desmond was experienced in this area.

Mr Desmond asked his own lawyer to prepare a memo which the McIlroy side disclosed previously to the defendants. This was followed by more inquiries in relation to documents mentioned, which were also handed over, counsel said.

Mr Collins, for the defendants, said the documents mentioned should have been but were not disclosed and an explanation was needed from Mr McIlroy and Mr O’Flaherty in relation to their authorship.

Counsel said one of those documents was headed “Reasons for termination of contract” and Mr Desmond’s lawyer had concluded, after “careful analysis”, the termination was not warranted.

The memo was attached to an email between Mr Desmond and Mr McIlroy’s caddy JP Fitzgerald who, the court heard, had a 20-year relationship with Mr Desmond, a keen golfer.

Mark Connaughton, representing Mr O’Flaherty (who is not a party in the case but against whom an order for discovery of documents was sought), said his client was prepared to swear an affidavit stating he was the author of documents referred to in the lawyer’s memo.

Mr Connaughton said he wanted the opportunity to respond to a lot of what had been said about Mr O’Flaherty because what counsel had heard in court had made him think his client was a defendant, rather than a non-party to this case.

Mr Justice Raymond Fullam ordered Mr McIlroy and Mr O’Flaherty swear further affidavits by next week in relation to the legal advice memo to Mr Desmond.

*The judge rejected as premature an application by the McElroy side for the defendants to quantify their counter claim for damages, under a single heading, titled D “off-course earnings as yet unknown to the defendants”, in advance of the hearing.

Mr Fanning had argued it was accepted, for the 18 months Horizon represented Mr McIlroy, it had made a profit of some $5 million based on a “generous” assessment of annual expenditure of up to $1.5 million and where it had already received $6.8 million for its work.

It was now claiming at least $21 million, but had not quantified the figure and it could be multiples of that for all the McIlroy side knew, he said.

Horizon was predicting future losses based on Mr McIlroy winning an Olympic gold medal in 2016, a number of majors between 2015 and 2017 and on him remaining world number one between 2016 and 2018, Mr Fanning said.

While those were optimistic predictions, the outcome of any golf tournament is “unpredictable”, he said.

Paul Sreenan, for the defendants, said it was not possible to fully particularise damages at this stage because if his clients win their case, it may be possible for them to continue the contract which runs up to 2017.

*This article was edited on Friday, December 12th, 2014