Thursday 22 February 2018

McIlroy settles dispute with agent

Rory McIlroy, pictured, has settled his contract dispute with his former agent Conor Ridge of Horizon Sports Management
Rory McIlroy, pictured, has settled his contract dispute with his former agent Conor Ridge of Horizon Sports Management

World number one golfer Rory McIlroy has settled his long and bitter contract dispute with his former agent in a deal believed to have cost him around £16.5million.

The High Court in Dublin was told the row had been resolved following 10 hours of last-ditch negotiations between the star's lawyers and advisers and Conor Ridge, of Horizon Sports Management.

McIlroy was not in court for the brief hearing.

A source told the Press Association the settlement cost the golfer "materially above" a previously reported figure of 20 million US dollars (£13.1m) after he walked away from his contract.

"It's in the public domain that the amount of money owing under the contract and the money likely to be generated from the contract was 20 million dollars," a source said.

"The settlement was in excess of that, plus costs."

It is understood the figure was US dollars 25 million, or £16.4m, which includes substantial legal costs.

McIlroy, fresh from a weekend victory in Dubai, had sued Mr Ridge's agency over the cut his firm was taking from on and off-course earnings in a potentially ugly row over £4.2m in fees.

Mr Ridge, who had counter-sued the golfer for breaking his contract early in 2013, was flanked by supporters in the public gallery, whom he hugged and kissed after the announcement of the settlement was confirmed.

The terms of the deal were not detailed in court.

A brief statement agreed between the McIlroy and Ridge camps was read out on the steps of the Four Courts.

"The legal dispute between Rory McIlroy and Horizon Sports Management has been settled to the satisfaction of both parties, who wish each other well for the future," the statement said.

"The parties will be making no further comment."

The two sides had been locked in talks for about 10 hours on Tuesday at the courts complex in central Dublin, with McIlroy leaving at about 9pm on Tuesday night without making any comment.

When the case was called on Wednesday morning, Paul Gallagher, senior counsel for McIlroy, told the court: "The entire matter has been resolved."

Judge Brian Cregan said the dispute was undoubtedly a long and difficult issue for both sides to deal with and he wished Mr Ridge future success as a sports agent and McIlroy continued success on the golf course.

The case had been scheduled for eight weeks in the big business division of the Irish High Court - reserved for cases involving disputes of more than one million euro (£755,000) - before the renewed attempts at a settlement.

Two days of talks between both camps last December yielded nothing.

The dispute centred on McIlroy's contract with Dublin-based Horizon and two other linked companies - Malta-based Gurteen and Canovan Management, also based in the Irish capital.

At the heart of it was rates the golfer was being charged - pre-tax 5 per cent of prize winnings and 20 per cent of sponsorship and appearances money.

When the lawsuit was launched in late 2013, McIlroy's lawyer had contended that the fees were up to four times what one of the best golfers in the world would expect to pay to agents.

The golf star, who took up the game as a youngster in Holywood, Co Down, and now has a home in Florida, claimed the terms were inferior to those given to other top 10 players, including fellow countryman and major-winning friend Graeme McDowell, who was in the same stable.

One deal alone, which McIlroy signed while with Horizon, to switch to Nike clubs, was reportedly worth in the region of £150m.

Court papers had revealed that the golfer signed up with Mr Ridge's agency at an informal meeting on the day of Horizon's Christmas party in 2011.

McIlroy's business interests are now overseen by Rory McIlroy Incorporated, which is headed by Donal Casey, formerly of Horizon, his father Gerry and family friend and business executive Barry Funston, who also oversees much of the golfer's charitable work under the Rory McIlroy Foundation.

Along with the golfer's personal assistant Sean O'Flaherty and family member Brian McIlroy, the golfer's team spent about 10 hours on Tuesday thrashing out the terms of the settlement. His father Gerry arrived at the courts at 5pm.

None of them were in court on Wednesday.

Among the disputes raised when the case was launched was a row over an alleged 166,000 euro (£125,350) donation to Unicef on the eve of a trip to Haiti when McIlroy was an ambassador for the charity.

There was another fallout over Horizon using complimentary airline seats on a flight to Abu Dhabi booked by tournament organisers in McIlroy's name.

During disclosure hearings in the High Court, there had also been attempts by the Ridge camp to get access to mobile phones and other devices to examine McIlroy's communications around the time of the split.

The young golfer's career soared in the year after he signed for Mr Ridge from Chubby Chandler's stable, earning more than £10m in 2012 before a slump took hold in 2013 and earnings fell back to around £1.5m.

Last season McIlroy appeared more driven, earning more than £7m and he is now favourite to complete the career grand slam of golf at the Masters in April.

McIlroy was with Horizon when he won the 2012 PGA Championship, rose to number one in the world and signed the five-year sponsorship deal with Nike.

A dip in form followed and his engagement to tennis star Caroline Wozniacki ended, but the Northern Irishman has four majors to his name.

If recent form on the course offers any insight into his demeanour with a massive and costly contract row hanging over him, McIlroy appeared focused when picking up his latest trophy.

Sunday's win at the Dubai Desert Classic is a repeat of his first as a professional back in 2009.

McIlroy is due back in competition Honda Classic at Palm Beach in Florida at the end of the month where the winner will walk away with £724,000.

Press Association

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