On January 24, 2018, drink and dietary supplement company, Organo Gold International Inc., sued 62-year-old former professional golfer Greg Norman, Aussie Rules Marine Services, Ltd., and ABG-Shark, LLC, in Washington federal court. Norman controls Aussie, a foreign company organized under the laws of the Cayman Islands. Also, Norman has an existing partnership with ABG. Back in March of 2017, Norman partnered with, and gave, ABG the right to control “the direction of the consumer products division of The Greg Norman Company.”
In their complaint, Organo alleges that it entered into an agreement with Aussie and Norman. In a series of contracts, the parties agreed to develop a specific line of premier coffee products utilizing Norman’s name and likeness (the “Norman Identity”). In addition, Norman agreed to make personal appearances, perform certain professional management consulting services, and obtain trademark registrations for the products. To compensate Norman and Aussie, Organo agreed to pay approximately $5 million over five years.
According to the complaint, Norman and Aussie failed to satisfy their obligations under the various contracts. Organo alleges that Norman “failed to put forth any effort to obtain and maintain trademark registrations.” Also, Norman failed to make personal appearances, meet, and participate with Organo. Further, Organo claims that Norman failed to provide professional management services. Finally, according to Organo, Norman breached the provisions of the contracts by divulging Organo’s confidential business information and by transferring all of his rights under that agreement to ABG.
Organo ultimately terminated the contract on November 7, 2017, after they sent a notice to Norman and Aussie notifying them of their failure to perform their duties. Organo suit alleges that Norman and Aussie owe Organo $4.3 million for breach of contract.
UPDATE: Breach of Contract Suit OK’d for Florida Transfer
On May 24, 2018, a Washington district court granted Organo’s motion to transfer, allowing the suit to be relocated to a Florida district court.
In the motion filed to transfer to the Southern District of Florida, Organo claims that the parties “expressly consent[ed]” to the jurisdiction of Florida courts when they signed off on their original agreements. He contends that the venue would be particularly fitting as Norman is a Florida resident and the agreements were negotiated and executed by Norman in Florida. Additionally, Norman’s Cayman Islands company has its principle place of business in West Palm Beach. In its motion, Organo asks the court to consider other relevant factors laid out by precedent, including the state most familiar with the governing law, plaintiff’s choice of forum, a cost comparison in each district, and public policy. After balancing these factors and others, the court found that transferring the suit to the Southern District of Florida was appropriate, noting that Washington did not have a “local interest” in the parties’ issue.