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SBD Global/December 18, 2012/Marketing and Sponsorship

Oakley Suing Rory McIlroy, Nike Over Alleged Breach Of Contract

Oakley has "sued golfer Rory McIlroy and Nike, saying they breached the world's top-ranked golfer's existing contract" when he signed with Nike, according to Lester Munson of ESPN. A lawsuit filed Dec. 10 in federal court in the U.S. alleged that Oakley "tried to use its 'right of first refusal' to match the Nike offer, but McIlroy and his agent, Conor Ridge, ignored the counteroffer, thereby breaching the Oakley-McIlroy contract." Oakley claims in its lawsuit that its "contractual rights for McIlroy's endorsements of its eyewear and performance apparel would be 30% of the Nike package." If reports of a $200M deal with Nike "are accurate, then Oakley offered about $60M to continue its deal with McIlroy." The key to any resolution of the dispute is "in a string of emails between Oakley and Ridge that began in September." As negotiations for a renewal of the Oakley deal seemed to be "falling apart," Oakley VP/Global Sports Marketing Patrick McIlvain "sent an email to Ridge." The email read, "Understood. We are out of the mix. No contract for 2013. Pat Mac." Ridge's Horizon Sports Management called the lawsuit "baseless," and said the golfer "has fulfilled all of his obligations to Oakley." McIlroy and Nike will "assert in court that McIlvain's email was a waiver of Oakley's contractual rights to renew with McIlroy." But McIlroy's agents and lawyers, after the supposed waiver, then "continued to bargain with Oakley and gave it the dollar amounts that Oakley would be required to match" (ESPN, 12/14).
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