A Rory for the Rest of Us (Litigants): Golf’s World No. 1 sees the hazard of high-dollar commercial litigation
Rory McIlroy is the number one ranked golfer in the world. He won back-to-back major tournaments last year and is looking for the “career grand slam” with a win this April at the Masters Tournament, the only major win he lacks. Many of you already know these things. What you may not know is that you and young “Rors” have something in common: anxiety over high-value commercial disputes.
In 2013, Rory sued his former management company, Dublin-based Horizon Sports Management, to terminate his five-year agreement because of unconscionable terms. McIlroy claims that Horizon coaxed him into signing the management contract, which cost him $6.8 million. Horizon countersued for $2.4 million in unpaid fees.
Like many civil disputes, the case was teed up as a simple contract dispute (albeit one over a lot of money). And, like many civil disputes, the case quickly dog-legged: embroiling Rory’s fellow Irish pro golfer Graeme McDowell, who McIlroy claims received terms that were markedly superior to his own; forcing McIlroy to take a break from golf to focus on the case; and this past December involving claims that McIlroy spoliated evidence by “wiping” the data off up to eight cell phones.
The good news for Rory is that the case goes to trial in early February 2015. The bad news is that it has been a rough approach. Rory recently commented that “It’s not something that I would want anyone to go through,” and that “It’s a very sort of tedious and nasty process.”
Most litigants share Rory’s stresses, at least off the course and at least with respect to commercial disputes. What begins as a simple contract dispute can turn into a mire of discovery disputes, spoliation claims, vicious cross-examination, and disappointing decisions from judges. Having reputable counsel can help guard against these hazards. Additionally, alternative dispute resolution (mediation, court-conducted settlement conferences, and the like) should be considered early and often in most cases. Experienced commercial litigators know the intangible value of resolution.
The most important notion to take away from this discussion is to not let the litigation itself have an adverse effect on your business. If you have a concern about the status or direction of the case, contact your lawyer. They should be glad to help ease any anxiety. Outside counsel truly do want to know what keeps you up at night. Tell them. And like Rory, keep winning your major tournaments.