A former sponsor is suing Rory McIlroy and Nike for "breach of contract."
Sunglasses and sports clothes-maker Oakley is saying the golfer was in breach of contract when he agreed to a Nike deal, reputedly worth over $200 million.
According to a lawsuit filed in federal court in Santa Ana, California, ex-sponsor Oakley tried to exercise its "right of first refusal" to match the Nike offer, but McIlroy and agent Conor Ridge ignored their counter-offer, thereby breaking the contract.
McIlroy's deal with Oakley included a "right of first refusal" clause that allowed the company to match any offer that included payments to McIlry for eyewear and clothing. If Oakley wanted to match what Nike offered, its deal would continue into 2013 instead of expiring on December 31.
According to the Irish Independent, the company is alleging that the damage resulting from the World No 1 golfer's refusal to renew with them is "irreparable" and entitles them to an injunction that would stop Nike and McIlroy from concluding or implementing their contract.
A string of emails between an Oakley executive and agent Ridge may hold the key to any resolution of the dispute. Pat McIlvain, a sports marketing executive at Oakley, sent and email to Ridge on September 29, saying: "Understood. We are out of the mix. No contract for 2013. Pat Mac."
McIlroy and Nike will assert in court that McIlvain's email was a waiver of Oakley's contractual rights to renew with McIlroy. However, McIroy's team of agents and lawyers, after the supposed waiver, then continued to talk with Oakley and gave them the amounts they would be required to match.
The Irish Independent reports that it was not until October 23 that McIlroy's attorney finally told Oakley that he "would not be continuing his relationship with Oakley beyond December 31" and that they "would not engage in any further correspondence on the matter of the right of first refusal."