Nike cleared in case over $20m contract with McIlroy
AN unsettling chapter in the recent history of Rory McIlroy has finally closed after a Californian court ruled that Nike acted impeccably and within the law when signing the Ulsterman on a $20m (€14.5m) a year equipment contract in 2012.
McIlroy's former apparel and eye-wear sponsor Oakley had initially sued the golfer and Nike in December 2012, alleging that it had not received adequate first right of refusal under the terms of its contract with the two-time Major Champion for 2011 and 2012.
Oakley reached an undisclosed out-of-court settlement with McIlroy last November but Judge James Selna found against Oakley when its case against Nike reached the Central District Court of California before Christmas.
Leading US golf writer Alex Miceli reported exclusively on Golfweek.com that court documents reveal Nike made its initial approach to McIlroy's representatives in the autumn of 2012.
"In a September 12, 2012 phone conversation between Nike representatives and Oliver Hunt, McIlroy's attorney, a deal was seriously discussed and Hunt represented to Nike that McIlroy was free to discuss such a deal," Mr Miceli wrote.
"Thirteen days later, Nike extended to McIlroy's representatives -- Conor Ridge, then McIlroy's agent, and Hunt -- a substantial offer for five years to start in January 2013, to which McIlroy's representatives agreed in principle.
"On September 28 and 29, the parties met in Chicago to complete negotiations. That's when McIlroy's representatives first raised the Oakley issue of first right of refusal to Nike.
"According to the court, Nike steadfastly told McIlroy's representatives it was not interested in signing a contract until McIlroy was legally able to do so.
"At that Chicago meeting, Ridge told Nike that Oakley was not going to match the Nike offer and signed the contract on behalf of McIlroy and also signed an additional covenant that McIlroy had no obligations that would prevent him from entering into an agreement with Nike."
In a statement released to Golfweek, Nike said: "We are pleased with the court's decision as it reflects the professional approach with which we undertook the negotiations."
McIlroy is still locked in an acrimonious legal battle with his former agents at Horizon, which is scheduled to go to trial in the Commercial Court in Dublin next October.
The two-times Major Champion unveiled his own management company, Rory McIlroy Inc, in September and at the same time filed legal proceedings against Horizon. The Dublin firm defended itself vigorously and launched a counter-suit in November.
McIlroy returned last week to Australia, scene of his recent Aussie Open victory, to see in the New Year with girlfriend Caroline Wozniacki.
This will be followed by a week's practice with coach Michael Bannon in Dubai before McIlroy's mouthwatering Desert Classic showdown with Tiger Woods at the Emirates Club.