Thursday 25 December 2014

Rory McIlroy 'entitled to see documents' about McDowell's deal with Horizon

Published 24/07/2014 | 17:56

Rory McIlroy (left) and Graeme McDowell
Rory McIlroy (left) and Graeme McDowell

GOLFER Rory McIlroy is entitled to see documents concerning fellow golfer Graeme McDowell's involvement with a sports representation agency which Mr McIlroy is suing over a representation deal, a High Court judge has ruled.

Mr Justice Peter Kelly made the ruling when dealing yesterday with various pre-trial discovery applications in the action by Mr McIlroy challenging the validity and enforceability of representation agreements involving allegedly “unreasonable” fee rates and commissions.

The case, against Dublin-based Horizon Sports Management Ltd; Gurteen Limited, with a registered address in Malta, and Dublin-based Canovan Management Services, is listed for hearing from January 27 next.

Mr McIlroy disputes claims he had a representation agreement with Gurteen or Canovan rather than with Horizon.

He alleges a representation agreement signed by him in December 2011 is not valid and is unenforceable on grounds including alleged undue influence.

He alleges the agreement resulted in his paying more than US $6.8m based on “unreasonable” fee rates and the defendants are not entitled to be paid fees into the future related to his US$20m a year sponsorship deal with Nike.

Yesterday, Mr Justice Kelly also ruled that information from Mr McIlroy to the effect no data is available from various mobile phones held by him over a number of years, including a phone used by him while moving from one agency to another, should be put in a sworn statement.

While the defendants complained about the absence of data, and might criticise Mr McIlroy about this at trial, the court could do no more now than direct Mr McIlroy swear an affidavit concerning various phones and devices he had held, the judge said.

The judge also noted the court had been informed, because Mr McIlroy had not backed up his previous devices, no data on those could be retrieved.

The judge said he could not compel Mr McIlroy, as the defendants sought, to require his caddy JP Fitzgerald to produce any documents in Mr Fitzgerald's possession which may be relevant to the legal case.

It was open to the defendants to bring a non-party discovery motion seeking any such material from Mr Fitzgerald, he said.

Among some documents discovered were emails from businessman Dermot Desmond to Mr Fitzgerald, including an enclosure from Mr Desmond concerning legal advice, the court heard.

The court heard Mr McIlroy's claim of undue influence is based on grounds including alleged representations by Conor Ridge of Horizon he would get similar representation terms to Grame McDowell.

Mr Fanning said his client had relied on those representations which turned out to be untrue as his client's terms were significantly inferior to Mr McDowell's.

Mr McIlroy was also unaware, either when discussing the representation agreement with Conor Ridge in October 2011 or signing it, that Mr McDowell had a shareholding in Horizon.

Lawyers for the defendants previously told the court it was never represented to Mr McIlroy the terms to apply to him were identical to those of Mr McDowell.  It was rather agreed the terms would be similar to those under an agreement with his former agent, International Sports Management (ISM), and he had indicated he was satisfied with that.

Ciarán Lewis BL, for the defendants, contended there was a "stark lack" of documents from Mr McIlroy in three categories crucial to his side, including documents leading up to Mr McIlroy signing a representation agreement in December 2011.

In court documents, Mr McIlroy insisted he had discovered what he could, that he rarely communicates in writing, had not backed up his phones and laptops and has no further documents.

His counsel Rossa Fanning BL said there was "nothing sinister" in Mr McIlroy regularly changing mobile phones and laptops. As a professional golfer in the public domain moving across different jurisdictions, Mr McIlroy has more reason than most to change his phone and having eight different handsets in a four year period was not unsual, he said.

Mr McIlroy should not be criticised because it was not anticipated a phone would be a source of "a battleground" in the Commercial Court.

The defendants are denying Mr McIlroy's claims and have counter-claimed for some US $3m dollars.

They alleged these are for outstanding off-course gross revenues and other sums allegedly outstanding under the December 2011 and a March 2013 agreement.  They also seek damages for alleged past and continuing breaches of the agreements.

The judge ruled Mr McIlroy was entitled to all documents held by the defendants related to Mr McDowell's involvement with Horizon, including concerning Mr McDowells shareholding in that company.

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