Wednesday 22 October 2014

Rory McIlroy 'timed lawsuit to clash with Graeme McDowell's wedding'

Published 25/06/2014 | 02:30

Graeme McDowell (L) poses with his girlfriend Kristin Stape and Rory McIlroy (R) for a portrait at the Ryder Cup host hotel prior to the start of the 39th Ryder Cup Gala on September 26, 2012 in Lombard, Illinois.
Martin Kaymer, Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy celebrate in the locker room after Europe defeated the USA 14.5 to 13.5 to retain the Ryder Cup during the Singles Matches for The 39th Ryder Cup at Medinah Country Club on September 30, 2012 in Medinah, Illinois.
Martin Kaymer, Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy celebrate in the locker room after Europe defeated the USA 14.5 to 13.5 to retain the Ryder Cup during the Singles Matches for The 39th Ryder Cup at Medinah Country Club on September 30, 2012 in Medinah, Illinois.
Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy during the Morning Foursome Matches for The 39th Ryder Cup at Medinah Country Club on September 28, 2012 in Medinah, Illinois.
Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy during the Morning Foursome Matches for The 39th Ryder Cup at Medinah Country Club on September 28, 2012 in Medinah, Illinois.

Rory McIlroy has been accused of "orchestrating" the timing of a contentious lawsuit against his former agent to clash with the Bahamas wedding of fellow golfer Graeme McDowell.

The sensational claim has been made by Horizon Sports Management, the Dublin agency Mr McIlroy is suing in one of the most bitter commercial actions to come before our courts.

Horizon, led by MD Conor Ridge, has claimed that Mr McIlroy issued legal proceedings against the agency in September 2013 to "inflict maximum reputational damage through the media" on Mr Ridge and Colin Morrissey, his trusted lieutenant.

Horizon says Mr McIlroy knew both men were attending 'G-Mac's' September 28, 2013, marriage to Kristin Stape, an American interior designer.

Mr McIlroy, who strenuously denies Horizon’s claims, issued a lawsuit against Horizon on September 27, 2013 – a day before Mr McDowell’s wedding ceremony.

Mr McIlroy (25) from Holywood in Co Down and McDowell (35), from Portrush, Co Antrim, have long enjoyed a friendly rivalry on the world’s fairways and partnered each other for Ireland at golf’s World Cup; Great Britain and Ireland at the Seve Trophy and Europe at the 2010 and 2012 Ryder Cups.

Both played last week’s Irish Open at Fota Island, Mr McIlroy making headlines by revealing in his pre-tournament interview that he’d play for Ireland and not Team GB at the 2016 Olympics in Rio.

Mr McIlroy's legal team was at pains this week to stress that their client had “no issue” with Mr McDowell, but it is feared the forthcoming litigation could place a strain on their friendship.

Mr McIlroy was conspicuous by his absence at Mr McDowell’s sun-kissed nuptials in Baker’s Bay in the Bahamas.

But he says he was required for a Nike photo shoot in the UK that weekend.

In court papers, Horizon claims that Mr McIlroy’s team referred to Mr McDowell’s upcoming nuptials in emails as “D-Day”.

This has been hotly denied by the golfer who says the “D-Day” references related to the day when the lawsuit against Horizon would be filed.

In the legal wrangle, that shows no signs of settling, Mr McIlroy claims he was “unambiguously and consistently” led to believe by Horizon that he enjoyed the same commercial terms as Mr McDowell.

Mr McIlroy has also alleged that Mr McDowell was a shareholder in Horizon.

But Horizon, which has counterclaimed against Mr McIlroy, has hit back.

It claims that documents it has obtained as part of the lawsuit show, “in graphic detail”, the alleged lengths to which Mr McIlroy went in “orchestrating” the timing of his legal proceedings.

Damage

The agency says the timing of the lawsuit and various public statements at that time by Mr McIlroy “can only be interpreted as a premeditated exercise” to disadvantage Horizon and to inflict reputational damage against Mr Ridge and Mr Morrissey when he [McIlroy] knew they were going to McDowell’s wedding.

Mr McIlroy has refuted Horizon’s claims.

He says that he has no complaint with Mr McDowell and that the lawsuit against Horizon was filed on September 27, 2013, due to a “simple gap” that emerged in his hectic touring schedule.

A spokesperson for Mr McIlroy said that there is “no eventuality” where it could see its side calling Mr McDowell as a witness in the proceedings.

The trial at Dublin’s Commercial Court is due to be heard next January.

Mr McIlroy, who is set to give evidence for at least two weeks, says that he got “markedly inferior” conditions – such as paying a higher-level commission on lucrative off-course earnings – compared to Mr McDowell.

He argued this was despite alleged representations they would get similar terms.

Mr Ridge, who has taken issue with the portrayal of Horizon as “secretive and witholding documents”, has strenuously denied that he made such representations.

Last Monday, barrister Rossa Fanning, for Mr McIlroy, said the alleged representation by Mr Ridge was one of two “extraordinary” matters of which Mr McIlroy became aware from documents discovered for his case.

Mr McIlroy wants to amend his legal proceedings against Horizon and two other companies so as to make that claim.

Paul Sreenan, for Horizon and two defendant companies, said that the claim it had been represented to Mr McIlroy his terms would be the same as Mr McDowell's was not part of his case to date.

Mr Sreenan said it was never represented to Mr McIlroy the terms to apply to him were identical to those of Mr McDowell.

Mr McIlroy was also aware since October or November |last Mr McDowell was a shareholder in Horizon, Mr Sreenan said.

World No 7 Mr McIlroy failed to make it beyond the 36-hole cut at the Fota Island Resort in Co Cork.

It was his sixth tournament in an eight-week spell in which the 25-year-old terminated his engagement to Danish tennis star Caroline Wozniacki and won the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth days later.

Irish Independent

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