In a video, professional golfer Rory McIlroy talks about some of the benefits of wearing apparel made by Foothill Ranch, California-based sports equipment manufacturer Oakley, Inc. However, after Fox Sports reported that the No. 1-ranked golfer in the world signed a deal with Nike Golf last month that is worth “at least” $200 million, Oakley filed a lawsuit on December 10, 2012, accusing McIlroy of breach of contract. According to the lawsuit, Oakley tried to use its “right of first refusal” to match the Nike offer, but McIlroy and his agent, Conor Ridge, ignored the overtures.
McIlroy was signed through December 31, 2012, to endorse Oakley eyewear and apparel, and ESPN’s Lester Munson reported that the contract clause in McIlroy’s deal with Oakley allowed the company to “match any offer that included payments to McIlroy for glasses and clothing.” If Oakley wanted to match what Nike offered, its deal would continue into 2013 instead of expiring at the end of the year.
According to Munson, a sports marketing executive at Oakley named Pat McIlvain sent an email on September 29 to Ridge as negotiations for a renewal of the Oakley deal seemed to be falling apart that said: “Understood. We are out of the mix. No contract for 2013. Pat Mac.” Munson reported that McIlroy are likely to claim that email was a waiver of Oakley’s contractual rights to renew with McIlroy, even though the golfer’s team of agents and lawyers continued to bargain with Oakley and gave it the dollar amounts that Oakley would be required to match. McIlroy’s attorney finally told Oakley on October 23 that the golfer “would not be continuing his relationship with Oakley beyond” the end of 2012 and that they “would not engage in any further correspondence on the matter of the right of first refusal.”
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