Rory McIlroy ‘destroyed phone data’, says Horizon affidavit

Former management company claims in court that golfer earned $70m over last two years

Rory McIlroy, the world number one and the projected talisman for Europe's bid to retain the Ryder Cup in just over a week's time at Gleneagles in Scotland, has been accused by Conor Ridge, the managing director of Horizon Sports Management, of destroying "data held on at least one mobile phone".

In a sworn affidavit to the High Court in Dublin yesterday, Ridge contended McIlroy – who signed a representation agreement with Horizon in December 2011 but who has taken litigation seeking to void the contract – had "professed himself . . . to use only mobile phone devices for communication, to keep no notes and to correspond in no other way with any third parties. Despite this and after the litigation had commenced, Mr McIlroy destroyed data held on at least one mobile device, in particular the mobile phone which he had been using during the crucial period between January and May 2013, thus preventing a review of that data for the purposes of discovery."

The accusation of destroying data – relating to a phone used by McIlroy in the period between January and May 2013 – was just one of a number of points made in Ridge’s affidavit and also in associated correspondence from Horizon’s solicitors, GJ Moloney, to the court which also shed further light on the respective contractual arrangements for Graeme McDowell (who joined Horizon in 2007) and McIlroy.

Discovery sought

McDowell – who recently announced his intention to look after his own management interests when his contract with Horizon ends in December – was brought into the proceedings after McIlroy’s legal team sought discovery of documents relating to the 2010 US Open champion’s involvement with the management company.


The pair have partnered each other in winning Ryder Cups in 2010 and 2012 and Paul McGinley, the captain for this latest edition of the most coveted team competition in golf, has indicated they will play “at least one match” together in Scotland.

It has emerged that the “off course” commission rates of both players were identical at 20 per cent at the date of the commencement of McIlroy’s agreement in 2011 and that the “on course” commission – effectively prize money earned at tournaments – was 5 per cent from McIlroy and 3 per cent from McDowell’s winnings. In an extension of his representation agreement in March 2013, McIlroy’s “on course” commission was reduced to zero.

‘Cynical devices’

In the legal correspondence from Horizon’s solicitors, it is contended that certain legal arguments being raised by McIlroy, including the allegation that it was represented to him that he would be on the same terms and conditions as McDowell, are “no more than cynical devices designed to extricate him from his continuing legal obligations to pay lawfully due commissions.”

Ridge, in his affidavit, contended it was “never suggested” that McDowell’s terms were the same as McIlroy’s and he accepted “absolutely and without reservation” that McDowell had different terms.

McIlroy – winner of the British Open and US PGA championships this year, bringing his career total of Majors to three – is currently the most marketable golfer globally with a portfolio of sponsors that make his on-course earnings pale by comparison.

Correspondence from Horizon’s solicitors indicate McIlroy has been paid in excess of $70 million over the past two years.

In his affidavit, Ridge points to the sponsorship agreements signed when McIlroy was with Horizon. "These agreements, which are many in number, included the $100 million Nike sponsorship contract, sourced and negotiated (by Horizon) . . . pursuant to which (McIlroy) has already received $50 million in payments and will receive a further $50 million in the coming two years and in respect of which the Plaintiff has refused to discharge any further commission payments owing . . . since the first quarter of 2013."

Ridge also contends that his company developed “the highly strategic Rory McIlroy brand development platform . . . put in place for the long-term benefit (of the player) and which played a significant role in the securing of his current portfolio of lucrative sponsorship agreements, the activation of which now forms the bedrock of his global brand value and marketability as an athlete.”

McIlroy, for his part, has managed to separate his on-course performances – having a stellar season that has yielded a further two major titles – from the ongoing legal proceedings.

Judge Brian McGovern yesterday asked that the two sides engage in mediation over the next four weeks to sort out the unresolved matters, but McIlroy has a busy time ahead of him with next week’s Ryder Cup, followed by an appearance in the Dunhill Links.

Philip Reid

Philip Reid

Philip Reid is Golf Correspondent of The Irish Times