Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 16 April 2014

It could be Rory's toughest battle yet, not on the fairways but in the courts against his former agent

A bruising legal battle is under way in the Republic after golfer Rory McIlroy terminated his contract with his Dublin agent.

The former world number one is suing Horizon Sports Management and two other linked companies, the Malta-based Gurteen and Canovan Management, also based in Dublin, to try to recover some of the $6.8m (£4.2m) he has paid in fees.

But the Co Down golf star is being counter-sued by Horizon.

Yesterday at Dublin's Commercial Court, McIlroy's multi-million pound lawsuit against Horizon was transferred to the fast-track list.

Horizon, which wished McIlroy well in his future golf career, said it will counter-sue for at least $2.6m (£1.6m) amid claims the 24-year-old Monaco resident broke a contract he "willingly entered into".

McIlroy has claimed he has paid more than $6.8m (£4.2m) to Horizon based on what he says are unreasonable fee rates "many times greater" than is standard in the sports agency industry.

McIlroy was in Tokyo yesterday as part of his ongoing global commitment to Nike which earns the golfer some $20m (£12.5m) a year.

He later flew on to Seoul for this week's Korea Open, his first taste of tournament play after a four-week break.

The proceedings come at a difficult time for McIlroy as he begins his final push to turnaround a barren year in which he plummeted from world number one last January down to sixth.

He has also recently split from his girlfriend, Danish tennis star Caroline Wozniacki.

In court papers, McIlroy claims he was exploited, misled and taken advantage of when he first signed a contract with Conor Ridge's Horizon at the end of 2011 and joined the stable of fellow countryman and major winner Graeme McDowell.

He claims he had no legal advice or knowledge of negotiating before he signed up, and trusted them to charge the appropriate rates.

He claims Horizon charged almost four times what top 10 golfers pay to agents. Under the deal, Horizon received 5% of McIlroy's winnings and 20% of pre-tax sums from sponsorship and appearance fees.

The deal was revised last March, with Horizon losing its right to any of McIlroy's on-course earnings and reducing its off-course fees to 15%. McIlroy says the revised deal was averse to his interests, but Horizon insists it is a legally-binding contract.

McIlroy alleges Horizon is not entitled to be paid certain fees into the future related to his Nike deal.

He is seeking court orders cancelling "restrictive" and "unconscionable" representation agreements with Horizon and related companies on grounds including alleged negligence, breach of contract and breach of fiduciary duty.

McIlroy also claims his relationship with the Creative Artists Agency – a worldwide agency acting for stars from sport and entertainment, including footballer David Beckham – was terminated due to the unreasonable conduct of Horizon and particularly its managing director Conor Ridge. Horizon disputes this allegation.

McIlroy is set to play in next week's BMW Masters at Lake Malaren in Shanghai, where he won a record $2m (£1.25m) first prize in 2011, followed by a Monday showdown with Tiger Woods at Lake Jinsha in China, then he'll take part in the HBC World Championship back in Shanghai.

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