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Nike in clear over Rory McIlroy contract

By Karl MacGinty

An unsettling chapter in the recent history of Rory McIlroy has finally closed after a Californian court ruled that Nike acted impeccably and within the law when signing the Ulsterman on a $20m (£12.07m) a year equipment contract in 2012.

McIlroy's former apparel and eye-wear sponsor Oakley had initially sued the golfer and Nike in December 2012, alleging that it had not received adequate first right of refusal under the terms of its contract with the two-time Major Champion for 2011 and 2012.

Oakley reached an undisclosed out-of-court settlement with McIlroy last November but Judge James Selna found against Oakley when its case against Nike reached the Central District Court of California before Christmas.

Leading US golf writer Alex Miceli reported exclusively on that court documents reveal Nike made its initial approach to McIlroy's representatives in the autumn of 2012.

"In a September 12, 2012 phone conversation between Nike representatives and Oliver Hunt, McIlroy's attorney, a deal was seriously discussed and Hunt represented to Nike that McIlroy was free to discuss such a deal," Mr Miceli wrote.

"Thirteen days later, Nike extended to McIlroy's representatives – Conor Ridge, then McIlroy's agent, and Hunt – a substantial offer for five years to start in January 2013, to which McIlroy's representatives agreed in principle.

"On September 28 and 29, the parties met in Chicago to complete negotiations. That's when McIlroy's representatives first raised the Oakley issue of first right of refusal to Nike.

"According to the court, Nike steadfastly told McIlroy's representatives it was not interested in signing a contract until McIlroy was legally able to do so."

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