Wednesday 17 January 2018

Legal dispute between Rory McIlroy and Horizon Sports Management settled 'to satisfaction of both parties'

Clodagh Sheehy and Breda Heffernan

GOLFER Rory McIlroy's legal action against his former agent has been settled.

Following day long negotiations yesterday, Paul Gallagher SC, for Mr McIlroy told the Commercial Court today the parties were grateful for the time given yesterday and the entire matter had been settled.

Counsel said no order from the court was required but the case could be put back to February 24 for mention. Such an adjournment is usually so that the court can be advised of the formal settlement.

Independent.ie understands that the golfer has agreed to pay approximately €15m to settle the dispute.

Mr McIlroy flew out to Florida this morning to prepare for the Honda Classic meaning he was not in court for today's announcement - but Horizon owner Conor Ridge was in attendance.

Mr Justice Brian Cregan congratulated all parties on reaching agreement in what had been a long running case.   He wished the sports management companies success with their business in the future and Mr McIlroy too.

Opening day of his legal battle with his former management company, High Court Dublin, 3-2-2015 Pic: Courtpix
Opening day of his legal battle with his former management company, High Court Dublin, 3-2-2015 Pic: Courtpix
Rory McIlroy arriving at Four Courts, Dublin. Picture: Caroline Quinn
Rory McIlroy arriving at Four Courts, Dublin. Picture: Caroline Quinn

In a brief joint statement afterwards, it stated the case between Mr McIlroy and Horizon Sports Management had been "settled to the satisfaction of both parties who wish each other well for the future".

It added: "The parties will be making no further comment".

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

And it had been widely-anticipated that the dispute would be resolved this morning - and so it has proved.

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.

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

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

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

Commissions

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

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