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Friday 19 September 2014

Rory McIlroy: I was under undue influence when I signed deal

Tim Healy

Published 25/02/2014 | 02:30

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Feb 20, 2014; Marana, AZ, USA;  Rory McIlroy plays his tee shot on the 14th hole during the second round of the World Golf Championships - Accenture Match Play Championship at The Golf Club at Dove Mountain. Mandatory Credit: Allan Henry-USA TODAY Sports
Rory McIlroy plays his tee shot on the 14th hole during the second round of the World Golf Championships

TOP golfer Rory McIlroy has claimed he signed an agreement with his former management company under "undue influence" when he was just 22 years old and inexperienced.

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The claims were made by the millionaire golfer during a hearing yesterday.

The hearing centred on a dispute over the extent of documents which must be disclosed for a legal action by Mr McIlroy, which is due to go ahead next month.

The case – which will be heard by the Commercial Court – is over a representation agreement for services provided by a sports management company.

Mr McIlroy claims he signed the December 2011 representation agreement with the company under "undue influence".

As a result, he says, he has paid more than US$6.8m (€4.9m) based on "unreasonable" fee rates "many times greater" than is standard in the sports agency industry.

He also alleges the defendants – Dublin-based Horizon Sports Management; Gurteen Limited, with a registered address in Malta; and Dublin-based Canovan Management Services – are not entitled to be paid certain fees in the future related to his US$20m (€14.6m) a year sponsorship deal with sportswear giant Nike.

The companies deny the claims.

They said that Mr McIlroy freely entered into the December 2011 agreement, under which he agreed to pay certain defined remuneration for services provided to him. They deny any undue influence or that the terms of agreement were unreasonable or unconscionable and contend Mr McIlroy is not entitled to terminate the agreement.

The defendants have also counter-claimed for monies allegedly owed under the agreement, including some US$3m (€2.2m) fees for off-course gross revenues. They are also seeking damages over alleged breaches of the agreement which, they say, are continuing.

The central issue in the case relates to the validity and enforceability of the December 2011 representation agreement which, Mr McIlroy insists, he is not bound by. The defendants contend it was agreed with Mr McIlroy that the contractual rights under the December 2011 agreement were with Gurteen, rather than Horizon, but he disputes that.

Horizon admits his relationship concerning the matters at issue in the case was "de facto" with Horizon but, it contends, once the representation agreement was signed, Horizon provided the services as agent for Gurteen and, later, Canovan.

INDISPENSABLE

The full hearing of the action is expected to open later this year but issues over discovery of documents in advance came before Mr Justice Peter Kelly in the Commercial Court.

The judge was told there was agreement on some of the discovery sought but the sides remained in dispute on other discovery matters. That discovery dispute will be heard over two days from March 19.

Ciaran Lewis, for the defence, indicated his side may also be in a position to inform the court by March 19 whether they intend to proceed with an application to take evidence on commission from a witness who is unwell, Owen O'Connell, a solicitor and partner in William Fry Solicitors.

Mr O'Connell is "an indispensable witness", as he was present for the execution of the agreement, the defendants said in an affidavit.

Among documents sought by the defendants are all documents relating to a settlement of proceedings with Oakley Inc concerning a sponsorship agreement.

In his discovery application, Mr McIlroy wants, among many categories of documents, all documents relating to the defendants' management of his affairs from October 2011.

He also wants all documents concerning the negotiation, formation, drafting and execution of the December 2011 agreement.

Irish Independent

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