Nicklaus Companies sues its namesake

A complaint filing by the company against Jack Nicklaus claims an alleged breach on a 2007 services and licensing rights agreement

Jack Nicklaus — 2012 US Open
Jack Nicklaus.

Jack Nicklaus is being sued by a company that bears his iconic last name.

On May 13, Nicklaus Companies LLC filed a complaint in the Supreme Court of New York against Nicklaus and GBI Investors Inc., an architectural services firm in which the 82-year-old Nicklaus is the principal. The suit claims that Nicklaus, an 18-time major champion, has failed to honor the contract and interfered with Nicklaus Companies. 

In May 2007, the parties entered into a $145 million agreement in which Nicklaus would provide golf course design services and rights to his name, likeness and image for “various marketing, promotional and branding activities involving the use and licensing of his personal endorsements, other commercial rights to publicity and privacy, and intellectual property related to his identity and history as a recognizable public figure."

The complaint alleges four instances Nicklaus’ breach:

  1. Agreeing to promote and receiving payment from the DP World Tour's 2022 Soudal Open without prior approval from the Nicklaus Companies
  2. Declining any license and use of his name and likeness involving a video game being developed
  3. Conducting negotiations — without Nicklaus Companies' knowledge — with the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund, which is backing the LIV Golf Invitational Series that is vying for PGA and DP World Tour players' participation. Nicklaus was reportedly offered $100 million to become the face of LIV Golf, who currently has Greg Norman as its CEO.
  4. Continuing to help design golf courses and offer commercial endorsements that are not on behalf of Nicklaus Companies.

Nicklaus Companies claims the breaches are leading to damages the company's reputation, along with lost profits and business opportunities. Howard Milstein serves as Nicklaus Companies' executive chairman and is chairman, president and CEO of New York Private Bank and Trust. In 2018, Milstein formed 8AM Golf, the holding company for Nicklaus Companies, which operates the media brands Golf Magazine and Golf.com.
"Mr. Nicklaus repeatedly assured the Company that he would respect its interests, only to go back on his word time and again to secretly negotiate side deals designed to benefit only him — at the expense of the Company’s business," the company wrote in the complaint.

Nicklaus released a statement through his organization.

“The claims made by Howard Milstein are untrue,” Nicklaus said in the statement. “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.”

Nicklaus Companies responded with its own statement following an SI / Morning Read story on May 21.

"We have great admiration and tremendous respect for Jack and his legacy and have tried everything to avoid taking this step. 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 Companies LLC v Ni... by WSYX/WTTE