THE High Court in Dublin has been told that golfer Rory McIlroy deliberately wiped clean up to eight mobile phones.
And lawyers said the Holywood golfer did this even though they may have contained important information relating to his legal action against his former sports management company.
Lawyers for Horizon Sports Management and two other companies said the “factory resetting” of devices was also done to devices belonging to three other key figures in the case, including Mr McIlroy’s father, Gerry.
Senior Counsel Paul Sreenan said this resetting was “incredible” for a person in Rory McIlroy’s position.
Horizon wants orders from the court for further disclosure of documents and inspection of electronic devices.
Mr Sreenan said his clients had to bring the application because Mr McIlroy had refused or failed to respond to requests for better disclosure of material on phones he had between 2011 and 2014.
He said Rory McIlroy and three others close to him had also wiped their devices before passing them on to others or to charity.
Mr McIlroy is suing Horizon, along with Gurteen Ltd, with a registered address in Malta, and Canovan Management Services, also based in Dublin, claiming a representation agreement signed by him in December 2011 is invalid and unenforceable on a number of grounds including alleged undue influence.
The defendants deny the claims and have counter-claimed for around US$3m allegedly outstanding under the agreement for off-course revenues.
Mr Sreenan said Mr McIlroy had given no satisfactory explanation for the destruction of electronic data on his devices.
He said if his side’s experts get the devices, it may be possible to recover some of the information sought or other information of assistance to the case.
He said it was a very serious matter for the administration of justice where someone involved in court proceedings had failed to preserve material, he said.
Mr McIlroy had initially claimed he changed his devices regularly because of his “transient lifestyle”.
But today he had stated he changed them to avoid phone calls from journalists, the court was told.
Lawyers for Mr McIlroy said he had done nothing wrong.
Senior Counsel Michael Cush said there was nothing unusual in him having a number of phones over three years or changing his number to protect his privacy.
He said he did the most basic amount of transferring material from one phone to another and deleted the remainder which is what we all do, he said.
The court was told Mr McIlroy said he had provided a significant amount of detail for the case and had not been advised it was necessary to back up material before resetting his phones.
The defendants believe he could not have changed phones and devices without backing up data and conversations because it would mean, for instance, ongoing conversations about who would be on the Ryder Cup team, would be wiped.
Earlier, Mr Sreenan said difficulties over the December 2011 agreement arose “when the ink was barely dry”, counsel said.
Mr McIlroy had set his own company called “Rory McIlroy Inc” essentially to manage himself which was resisted by Horizon.
Around the same time, key figures who had worked for Horizon, including Mr McIlroy’s personal assistant and a consultant, started working for the golfer’s new firm, counsel said.
Mr Sreenan said the amount of lost commission to his clients is now estimated at US$9m.
Mr McIroy, in his claim, says Horizon charged commission “many times greater” than is standard in the sports agency industry including one agreement in which he must pay 20% of his sponsorship and 15% if the contract is renewed after 2017.
He also alleges Horizon is not entitled to be paid certain fees into the future related to his US$20m a year sponsorship deal with sportswear giant Nike.
He says he has paid more than US$6.8m to Horizon based on commission rates of 5% on his pre-tax on-course earnings and 20% for off-course earnings.
This agreement was entered into when he was 22, with little business expertise and without the benefit of legal advice, he says.
The hearing is continuing.