Acushnet files suit over TMAG-Villegas deal

Camilo Villegas

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TaylorMade-Adidas Golf made the surprising move this week of announcing an endorsement deal with a PGA Tour player still under contract with a rival company.

It triggered a not-so-surprising response: A lawsuit.

Acushnet Co., the parent of Titleist and FootJoy brands, filed suit Aug. 5 against TMAG and Camilo Villegas, seeking a preliminary injunction prohibiting the two parties of making future comments about their upcoming partnership.

On Aug. 3, TMAG issued a press release saying Villegas of Colombia would join its tour staff beginning in 2011 and endorse the company’s products, including a TaylorMade ball and glove and Adidas footwear. Villegas, however, still is under contract with Acushnet to play the Titleist Pro V1 ball and wear FootJoy shoes and gloves. Both brands prominently feature Villegas – No. 25 in the Official World Golf Ranking – in their advertising.

According to the suit – filed in Superior Court in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts – TMAG’s announcement about the deal, and another scheduled for Sept. 9, constitutes breach of contract by Villegas and intentional interference by TMAG.

Acushnet alleges the defendants’ actions undermine its contract with Villegas, which has nearly five months remaining before the end of its term. Acushnet’s endorsement agreement with Villegas, which pays the player annually, began Jan. 1, 2008 and ends Dec. 31, according to the suit. Financial terms, including performance incentives, were not disclosed.

A TMAG spokesperson declined comment Aug. 5, saying that the company had not yet seen the Acushnet complaint.

Clarke Jones, Villegas’ agent, said at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational that his client would not comment.

Acushnet is seeking damages in addition to injunctive relief.

“The timing of TMAG’s press release was obviously calculated to harm Acushnet Company and diminish the value of Camilo’s endorsements,” said Joe Nauman, Acushnet’s executive vice president, corporate and legal, in a statement. “The behavior of TMAG and Camilo’s agent is reprehensible, causing Acushnet Company irreparable and significant damage. Camilo is under contract with Acushnet Company through the end of the year and we expect the agreement to be honored throughout the term.”

- Jim McCabe contributed

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