Five Things You Need to Know About the Rory McIlroy Trial

February 3, 2015

Five things you need to now about the trial between world No. 1 Rory McIlroy and his former management company, Horizon Sports, which after 18 months of accusations and conjecture begins in Dublin on Tuesday.

1. McIlroy claims his contract with Horizon should be nullified in part because he signed papers without a lawyer present and “in circumstances of great informality” at a Christmas party in December of 2011. McIlroy’s legal team has called the original deal and subsequent 2013 amendment, “unconscionable and an improvident bargain.” McIlroy also claims he paid the agency an unfairly high fee of $6.8 million.

2. Graeme McDowell, McIlroy’s countryman, Ryder Cup teammate and friend, is involved in the suit because McIlroy claims he had no knowledge of McDowell’s stake in Horizon upon signing at the end of 2011. McIlroy also claims that he, McIlroy, received “markedly inferior” terms relative to McDowell. (McDowell has since left the management company, amicably.) The two have remained friends, and embraced arm-in-arm after Europe crushed the U.S. in last fall’s Ryder Cup at Gleneagles, Scotland.

3. Horizon is counter-suing McIlroy for $3 million for breach of contract and claims it is owed a portion of his endorsement deal with Nike, estimated to be worth $20 million a year. Further, Horizon claims it is owed a portion (industry standard is 15-20 percent) of deals made up to 2017. Horizon claims McIlroy was told his terms would be similar to his deal with previous management company International Sports Management (ISM), but not similar to those of McDowell.

4. McIlroy is expected to testify at the trial, and could be in the witness stand as early as this week, and for multiple days. The trial could last up to eight weeks, and McIlroy spoke in Dubai last week of having to do his “homework.” “It’s not something that I would want anyone to go through,” he said. “It’s a very sort of tedious and nasty process at times.”

5. Despite fears that the trial would hurt his golf, McIlroy finished second in Abu Dhabi in his first start in 2015. Last week he won the Dubai Desert Classic, where prior to the tournament he called the trial “a shame.” McIlroy plans to spend a week practicing before his next start, the Honda Classic at the end of this month, and will go to the Masters with a chance to become just the sixth player to complete the career grand slam.

Will this trial affect Rory McIlroy’s golf game in the buildup to the Masters? Join the conversation in the comments below.