Sunday 24 September 2017

McIlroy close to last-gasp deal with his former manager

Rory McIlroy arrives at the High Court in Dublin
Rory McIlroy arrives at the High Court in Dublin

Breda Heffernan and Clodagh Sheehy

HOPES have been raised of a last-minute deal being reached between golfer Rory McIlroy and his former management company Horizon in their bitter legal dispute after both sides were locked in talks yesterday.

The legal action had been due to open in the High Court - but was repeatedly adjourned as a lawyer for the world number one golfer reported "progress" had been made between the two sides.

The case resumes this morning with expectations that the dispute can be resolved.

Previously, a court ordered mediation process failed to result in an agreement between the parties.

The action had been expected to run in the High Court for eight weeks with McIlroy due to start giving evidence as early as tomorrow.

However, as the case opened yesterday morning, Senior Counsel for McIlroy, Paul Gallagher, immediately requested an adjournment until the afternoon to allow discussions between the sides on how they could "narrow" the "many issues" between them.

McIlroy had arrived at the Four Courts shortly after 10am and calmly made his way through the large media contingent which had been camped outside since early morning.

Read more: Conor Ridge climbed to the pinnacle of world sport

Horizon owner Conor Ridge, was also present in court and sat further back in the courtroom.

The case attracted huge international attention - with more than 30 reporters in court and dozens of photographers and camera crews outside. Places in the public gallery had been limited to 30 to allow extra room for the large media gathering.

McIlroy previously described the legal wrangle as "a very tedious and nasty process". "Of course I can't wait for it to be finished. Hopefully it won't take too long and it will all be over and done with and we can all move on with our lives."

Yesterday McIlroy sat patiently in court as his legal team requested two further adjournments in the afternoon. The 25-year-old is suing Horizon alleging it charged him commissions that were "many times greater" than the industry norm.

He had an acrimonious split with the company in 2013 and later set up his own company, Rory McIlroy Inc, to deal with his affairs.

The golfer was accompanied in court by his personal assistant Sean O'Flaherty and Donal Casey, chief executive of Rory McIlroy Inc and a former consultant at Horizon.

Read more: Waiting for Golfo as case looks all but over before it tees off

Mr Gallagher twice told Mr Justice Brian Cregan yesterday afternoon that progress was being made in talks between the two sides but requested a third adjournment until 11am today, which was granted.

McIlroy claims the agreement he signed with Horizon Sports Management in December 2011 - just months after winning his first Major title at the US Open - is invalid and unenforceable on a number of grounds including alleged undue influence.

He claims he was just 22 years old when he signed the deal without the benefit of legal advice and with no business experience.

Commissions

He maintains he was not given any draft of the agreement before it was presented to him for his signature on December 21, 2011, in a solicitor's office on the day of Horizon's Christmas party "in circumstances of great informality".

Read more: How superstar golfer Rory McIlroy made his millions

The golfer alleges Horizon had charged commissions above what is normal in the sporting world, including one agreement that he must pay 20pc of his sponsorship revenue and 15pc if the contract was renewed after 2017.

He is suing Dublin-based Horizon and two associated companies - Gurteen Ltd with an address in Malta and Canovan Management Services in Dublin. The defendants deny the claims and have counter-claimed for revenues allegedly outstanding under the agreement. They estimate they are owed $9m (€7.9m) in commission and are also seeking damages for loss of further revenues.

Irish Independent

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