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McIlroy-Horizon Trial Set; Rory Alleges He Was Misled Into Signing

Two stories were posted on Monday's court date, both unbylined, and both a bit sketchy in the details and reporting division.

An unbylined BBC story says Rory McIlroy is seeking to recover 7m euros (£5.9m) via his suit against former agent Horizon Sports.

An unbylined Belfast Telegraph story has more details of Monday's court date in Dublin where Justice Peter Kelly said the claims by both McIlroy and Horizon exceeded a one million euro threshold, sending the case to the High Court.

Rather incredibly, McIlroy is claiming to have signed under unusual and exploitative conditions. The Horizon Christmas party.

From the Telegraph story:

Court papers reveal the 24-year-old claims he was exploited and misled when he first signed a contact at the end of 2011 because he had no knowledge of negotiations, and in March 2013 when his multi-million dollar endorsement with Nike was signed.

March 2013 for Nike?!

McIlroy maintains he was not furnished with any draft of the agreement prior to it being presented to him for signature on December 21 2011, in a solicitor's office on the day of Horizon's Christmas party "in circumstances of great informality".

In his statement of claim, he alleges Horizon boss agent Conor Ridge acted primarily in the interests of his company as opposed to, and to the detriment of, the interests of McIlroy.

"In particular Horizon and Mr. Ridge were primarily concerned with maximising their own share of any commission," it alleged.

The story details two other instances of fraud claimed by McIlroy, including a first class ticket to Abu Dhabi changed from his name to a Horizon staffer's, and a since re-paid donation to UNICEF.

The Independent's legal editor, Dearbhail McDonald, Tweets that Horizon is countersuing for $2.64 million.

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Reader Comments (58)

I hate it when I accidentally sign contracts that I don't understand...
10.14.2013 | Unregistered CommenterCK
It is exceedingly rare, but also wonderfully appropriate, that a golf blog would give us an opportunity to revisit that old standard from law school contracts, Lucy v. Zehmer, 196 Va. 493, 84 S.E.2d 516 (1954).

"...high as a Georgia pine..."
10.14.2013 | Unregistered CommenterChuck
According to Guardian story quoting Horizon, Rory re-upped with Horizon in March 2013

Will be really rather surprised if this isn't settled out of court, it behooves both parties.
10.14.2013 | Unregistered Commenterelf
Nike, Phil K, and Tiger on Sundays...

Dear Rory,

When one deals with devils... its in the details isnt it?
10.14.2013 | Unregistered CommenterAmen Coroner
A major reason you have an agent or professional management is so you don't have to understand a contract in-detail...they are supposed to be doing that for you and acting in your-interest....and protecting your interest, not theirs. Implicit trust is required. If you need a additional lawyer to protect you against your own management in the deals they are representing've got the wrong management.

Sounds like Horizon needs to work in that "trust" issue.
Oh yeah, sure. THIS is exactly what he needs to do to make that ol' golf game come around.
10.14.2013 | Unregistered Commenterbenseattle
@ben - he just wants to get this all behind him in time for Tiger's Tourney.
10.14.2013 | Unregistered CommenterBrianS
"In particular Horizon and Mr. Ridge were primarily concerned with maximising their own share of any commission."

By definition when Rory's interests/contracts are maximized, Horizon's commission is maximized -- they go hand in hand. Horizon's "share" of any commission should never be less than 100%. Quote above is nonsensical.
10.14.2013 | Unregistered CommenterDTF
Two questions:

1) Is this just a way for him to get out of the deals he signed?

2) What does G-Mac think about all of this???

1. No.

2. I suspect he thinks Rory is acting like a complete d-bag.
10.14.2013 | Unregistered CommenterDTF
"agent ...... acted primarily in the interests of his company as opposed to, and to the detriment of, the interests of the client (McIlroy.)"
It was ever thus. Always think about where the person who gives you advice is coming from, middlemen in particular. Investment advisers, lawyers, and many more. Many are of course as Ted B suggests but not all.
This is consistent with an immaturity that McIlroy has displayed in the past and the fact that there has never been anyone to control his impulsive behaviour, not even his own father. McIlroy has owned more than a dozen automobiles which speaks for itself. He fired Chandler which could have been justifiable given his desire to play in the US. He likely did not engage legal counsel to advise him on the management agreements he entered into with Horizon. If so, Horizon was to a certain extent at fault for not insisting that McIlroy engage legal counsel . After all, McIlroy left school early to concentrate on golf and his father lacked business experience. It can be reasonably argued that Horizon took advantage of a young man who lacked sufficient experience to sign a contract.
10.14.2013 | Unregistered CommenterBuffert
"Circumstances of great informality'' sounds like everyone was drunk.
10.14.2013 | Unregistered CommenterMedia driven
Sounds like Rory needs an agent!

Really? REALLY?!?
10.14.2013 | Unregistered CommenterBufferin
Bufferin, yes really.
10.14.2013 | Unregistered CommenterBuffett
It has to settle, and confidentially. All parties deserve blame--if only for being stupid and more stupid--and no one will be well-served when all is concluded, regardless of the final outcome.
10.14.2013 | Unregistered CommenterPasaplayer
Is the the beginning of Rory suing to get out of the Nike deal?
10.14.2013 | Unregistered CommenterHilltop

So they tricked him? Pulled a fast one on him?
10.14.2013 | Unregistered CommenterBufferin
I was a nobody when I played.
But I was absolutely blessed to have a agent that looked out for me,
that I trusted, and that (10+ years after stopping competitive golf),
I still consider a friend
10.14.2013 | Unregistered CommenterOkay
Must have been a hell of a X-mas party!

Someone forgot to tell Rory the 1st rule of contract negotiations: Never, ever, ever, ever, ever, sign your name to anything without reading what it says. If one is not fluent in legal-ese then one must secure a neutral 3rd party ,like a public notary, to read it over and tell you what it REALLY means w/out the lawyer-speak.

Where was his dad (or lawyer) during this 2011 eggnog inspired contract signing?
10.15.2013 | Unregistered Commenterjohnnnycz
Either way this is the worst publicity an agency can get. Being an agent is all about thrust.
10.15.2013 | Unregistered CommenterTristan
Tristan, without knowing either, if I had to take a flier on one or the other personally I'd be a lot more likely to trust Conor than I would Rory. This is Rory's problem, not Conor’s.
10.15.2013 | Unregistered CommenterDTF
We need either Bob Sugar or Jerry McGuire on this one!

As I recall Jerry did wonders for Rod Tidwell's career...smh
10.15.2013 | Unregistered CommenterEl Chivo
First, I love the full Blue Book citation Chuck!

Second, "circumstances of great informality" definitely means "we were all hammered drunk." Good call MD.

A sports agent has duties, but not the same kind of duties a lawyer has. That's kind of the reason I believe all agents should be lawyers. Lawyer's duties to their clients are absolute. There is no wiggle room or room for interpretation. A non-lawyer agent has duties he must abide by, but they are not at the same level as those in an attorney-client relationship. Further, a lawyer always fears getting disbarred. That keeps most of us pretty darn honest when it comes to representing our clients and would give sports agents some extra incentive not to put their interests first.

That all said, Rory is not an unsophisticated party here. He's been a professional athlete for 5 years and had signed these types of contracts before. He's a young man now who travels the world and owns property and has his own foundation. He has responsibilities as well. You sign a contract you don't understand, absent fraud, duress, etc., you're stuck with the terms. Buyer beware.
10.15.2013 | Unregistered CommenterChris from DE
It seems to me though that Rory is getting caught up in the fundamental problem that stars have with Agents - He (Rory) is the star, he is the one that is "earning" these deals by his play and his performance out in the world. Big companies are beating down his door to sign him to deals. The agent writes up an agreement, maybe squeezes a bit more out the deal (which Rory probably doesn't appreciate or understand), and then they get a cut. To his mind the cut is highly unearned, and he probably resents it. He sees these guys getting rich off of his work, and resentment builds. Add to that the strange "signing" of the contract, and the situation of GMAC (who is also earning money off of Rory to Rory's eyes), and you have conflict. A struggling player appreciates the agents work a bit more because he sees that they have to hustle on his behalf, but a huge star like Rory - not so much.
10.15.2013 | Unregistered CommenterBrianS
Good color Chris.

I've yet to see any proof that GMAC is an owner (did I miss it), and aside from that I don't see how it is material even if he is.
10.15.2013 | Unregistered CommenterDTF
Al of this just magnifies the achievements of Mark McCormack and IMG in being able to represent Messers. Palmer, Nicklaus and the same creating the modern sport management team. Trust, trust, and more trust.

From what I've read, Rory's beef isn't the Nike contract and's Horizon's cut-of-the-deal and how it did business. That, and the whole GMac-part... It's always better doing business with strangers that close, personal (ex-)friends.
Suddenly Chubby doesn't seem so bad.
10.15.2013 | Unregistered CommenterPress Agent
that's why RM wasn't at GMac's wedding...
10.15.2013 | Unregistered CommenterFiber
When people who make a lot more money than they (secretly) feel they deserve, and have agents who secure their deals, the higher the chart goes on the $$, the more depth of character is revealed. The best laugh at the astronomical figures changing hands today in both sports and entertainment, and then drink to each other, go home friends, and concentrate on their work. The worst start to quarrel and resent and think the "other" has become a freeloader. The innocent Irish boy that America fell hard for is fast revealing himself to be among the latter, and one of those who can't keep his eye on the ball.
10.15.2013 | Unregistered CommenterRLL
Just for context, when Tiger switched to Mark S as his agent at IMG he negotiated a lower percentage fee, but pre-scandal he was still paying them roughly 8mil per year. Standard contracts are for roughly a 20% cut.

Also from everything I've heard, GMac was not getting anything off of Rory's deals.
10.15.2013 | Unregistered CommenterElf
"'s Horizon's cut-of-the-deal and how it did business."

Ted, Horizon's "cut" is defined by a number (%). I am certain the numbers/%'s were clearly defined in Rory's contract, in advance. Surely Rory can count? Where's the problem?

As for "how it did business", I'm curious about what that means? I don't ever remember seeing anything written about Conor or Horizon that cast them in a bad light....but certainly I could have missed it.
10.15.2013 | Unregistered CommenterDTF
Golfers are unsophisticated when it comes to business, which is why they need legal counsel to advise them with respect to any transaction they consider. If 20% is what is "standard" golfers are being taken for a ride. As far as Mark S is concerned he may have a role that goes beyond a typical agent as Woods appears to be his sole client and he seems to be present at tournaments.
10.15.2013 | Unregistered CommenterBuffett
Elf....directly from his deals would be one thing. But, perhaps gMac profited indirectly as a result of Horizon's success as whole.
10.15.2013 | Unregistered CommenterHilltop
When at IMG Steinberg rep'd a number of other clients (including Annika & Stricker) and since going to Excel he has signed Matt Kuchar, Justin Rose, Gary Woodland, and Danielle Kang from the LPGA Tour. (that I am aware of, could be more)

20% is the norm in the beginning but my guess is that number was low single-digits for Tiger by the time he left IMG. I respect elf but have my doubts about the $8 million figure cited earlier.

There are certainly some dummies amongst the card carrying pro's but to characterize them all as unsophisticated is a major stretch...

I swear I think Rory turned on Conor/Horizon as a result of Conor's quote the day of the Great Wisdom Tooth Caper ("he's not sick, he's not injured, and he won't answer the I don't know").
10.15.2013 | Unregistered CommenterDTF
Hilltop, if that's true where's the problem? Are Rory's deals magically somehow less lucrative?
10.15.2013 | Unregistered CommenterDTF
@DTF pre-scandal Tiger was making 100mil/yr + in endorsement deals, 8mil would be 8% or less

@Buffett go to a tour stop, all the agents are there and as DTF points out Steinberg has always had other clients
10.15.2013 | Unregistered Commenterelf
elf, why are "all" the agents there? Do they not have telephones and other electronic means of communication? It sounds utterly ridiculous. I agree with Chris from DE that agents should be lawyers. Lawyers must meet higher ethical standards than agents and are skilled at negotiating contracts and doing business deals. Any competent business lawyer could have negotiated a deal with Nike and they certainly would not have charged 20%.
10.15.2013 | Unregistered CommenterBuffett
@buffett the words see and be seen come to mind, but also why not go where all the people are? all your clients and potential clients, sponsors etc are at golf tournaments. And who wouldn't prefer working on a golf course to working in an office? Anyways you can argue whether it should be like that or not, I'm just telling you how it is
10.15.2013 | Unregistered Commenterelf

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