Jack Nicklaus is being sued by his own company.
Nicklaus Companies filed a lawsuit against the golf Hall of Famer earlier this month, claiming that Nicklaus actively worked directly against the company on multiple occasions after he had reached a $145 million exclusive deal with the company, according to Sports Illustrated.
Nicklaus Companies was initially founded in 1970, and works on golf course design, apparel, eyewear, art and more. Nicklaus Companies is currently run by executive chairman Howard Milstein. Nicklaus’ son, Jack Nicklaus II, is a vice chairman at the company. Milstein is also behind Golf.com, Golf Magazine and more.
According to the report, Nicklaus Companies paid Nicklaus $145 million in 2007 to provide exclusive services and property. Over time, the lawsuit said, Nicklaus has failed to live up to that deal or has worked against the company.
The complaint provided three specific examples, per the report, including when Nicklaus received a cash payment to promote a DP World Tour event this year, helped with a video game being developed by The Masters and the PGA Tour and wrongful conduct regarding negotiations with the PIF Saudi Investment Fund. That fund is behind the controversial new LIV Golf Invitational series, which Nicklaus said offered him more than $100 million to help run — though he turned them down.
According to the lawsuit, it was actually Nicklaus Companies that stopped Nicklaus from accepting that deal.
“The Company essentially saved Mr. Nicklaus from himself by extricating him from a controversial project that could have not only tarnished his legacy and reputation, but severely damaged the Nicklaus Companies’ name, brands and business,” the lawsuit said, via Sports Illustrated. "Thanks to the intervention of Nicklaus Companies, the Company was able to minimize fallout from the situation and protect the goodwill and good name of both the Company and Mr. Nicklaus.
“The potential irreparable harm that Nicklaus Companies faced had Mr. Nicklaus’s unauthorized activities not been abandoned has been highlighted by the continued statements made by the PGA Tour and various leading Tour players and the substantial negative news coverage criticizing Phil Mickelson’s involvement as a paid endorser of the Saudi-backed golf league. If not for the efforts of Nicklaus Companies, Mr. Nicklaus could have been pilloried in the news media for accepting payment for what could be characterized as betraying the PGA Tour."
Greg Norman eventually became the face of the new Saudi-backed league, though he’s faced plenty of criticism and fallout in doing so — as has Mickelson, who hasn’t played golf competitively in months.
“We have great admiration and tremendous respect for Jack and his legacy and have tried everything to avoid taking this step,” Nicklaus Companies said in a statement, via Sports Illustrated. “We are asking the court to sort out the legal responsibilities of the parties so that there is no confusion or misunderstanding going forward.
"We are saddened to be put in a situation that now requires intervention from a court, but we have a responsibility to Nicklaus Companies and its employees, as well as to our customers and partners, to ensure that nothing disrupts the ongoing business of the company. We are confident that working together we can resolve this quickly and amicably.”
Nicklaus, of course, is one of the best golfers in the history of the sport. He’s won 73 times in his career and holds a record 18 major championship wins. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1974.
Nicklaus, 82, denied the accusations against him in a small statement.
“The claims made by Howard Milstein are untrue,” he said, via Sports Illustrated. “Our relationship has been a difficult one, at best. I have little doubt about the outcome, but I don’t intend to make this a public spectacle, if it can be avoided.”