FTC closes second investigation of Zuffa

November 24, 2015

The Las Vegas Review Journal reports that the Federal Trade Commission has ended its second investigation of Zuffa without any findings of wrongdoing of the company’s business practices.  Although the investigation has ended, the FTC indicated that it reserved the right to investigate the company again if it saw a need. 

In a letter to Zuffa from the FTC, it indicated that the closing of the investigation should not be construed that a violation may not have occurred, just as the opening of the investigation should not be construed that a violation had occurred. 

UFC’s Chief Legal Officer Kirk Hendrick issued a statement on the FTC’s decision:

“Earlier this year the FTC informed us that it was conducting a non-public investigation, which we believe was instigated by former fighters or their attorneys to bolster a civil action against UFC,” Hendrick added, “After meeting with the FTC, we are pleased that they have sent us a letter stating that no further action is warranted and the investigation is now closed. We maintain full confidence in our business practices and continue to believe that the plaintiffs’ allegations are meritless.”

The letter from the FTC, obtained by the Las Vegas Review Journal is below:

UFC FCC by LVReviewJournal

The FTC investigated Zuffa after it had acquired Strikeforce in 2011.  The investigation came to close with no findings in early 2012.  A Freedom of Information Act request for documents from that first investigation revealed little as to their investigation.

Although the reason for the second investigation was not made public one might conclude it was due in part to the antitrust lawsuit filed by former UFC fighters.

Payout Perspective:

Good news for the UFC as it is clear of the investigation.  Moreover, it need not dedicate legal resources for this.  The FTC indicated that it may revisit the issue but one would think it is unlikely to occur unless something comes out of the antitrust case.

Al Haymon wins round against Top Rank in antitrust lawsuit

October 18, 2015

Al Haymon won a round in federal court in Los Angeles on Friday as he was successful in dismissing an antitrust lawsuit filed by Top Rank Boxing.  The court gave Top Rank the ability to amend their complaint by October 30, 2015.

The motion to dismiss Top Rank’s First Amended Complaint by Al Haymon, et al. was heard without oral argument by the court.

The court dismissed all of three antitrust claims brought by Top Rank against Al Haymon citing that it failed to allege “antitrust injury.”  The order states that it specifically failed to allege injury “to itself or to competition.”

Top Rank accused Al Haymon of 3 primary issues in its antitrust claim:

-Tie Out Contracts and “Sham Promoters”

-Predatory “Payola” Practices

-Venue Blocking

Per the Court order:

…as the Haymon Defendants point out, Top Rank has failed to allege how it has been injured by the alleged conduct.  Indeed, it has not identified a single bout that it has attempted to promote but was precluded from promoting by the Haymon Defendants, a single venue from which it has been blocked, or a single network that has refused to broadcast a fight promoted by Top Rank.  Top Rank correctly argues that competitors who are “frozen out” of a market by an antitrust violation have suffered antitrust injury and possess antitrust standing. However, Top Rank has failed to allege any facts demonstrating that it has actually been “frozen out” by any of the Haymon Defendants’ conduct.

Notably, the court dismissed defendant Waddell & Reed Financial, Inc., Waddell & Reed Investment Management Company, Ivy Investment Management Company and Media Group Holdings (“Waddell Defendants”) without the ability for Top Rank to amend their complaint as the Court deemed it would be “futile.”  Waddell was the alleged financial investor and adviser for Haymon et al. as they provided the money for PBC.  Despite its liberal policy favoring amendments, the Court noted that Top Rank has had the opportunity to amend its pleading and finds no amendment would persuade the Court that it has a claim against Waddell.

To survive a motion to dismiss, Top Rank had to allege market power or economic power in the relevant markets by Haymon, et al.  Top Rank identified the relevant markets as 1) the market for managing Championship-Caliber Boxers in the U.S. and 2) the market for the promotion of Championship-Caliber Boxers in the U.S.  Although the Court noted that these market definitions may not defeat a summary judgment motion, it may surpass a motion to dismiss.

The Court indicated that while Top Rank may define the relevant markets, it failed to adequately allege market power or economic power within those markets.  Specifically, the court notes that Top Rank does not provide “facts or figures” concerning Championship-Caliber Boxers (i.e, how many there are, how many promoters, promote them, how many managers manage them, etc.).  The court also takes issue with Top Rank’s allegation that Haymon’s market share is greater than 50%.  Here, the court finds no factual evidence of how Top Rank arrived at the figure and whether it is limited to the management of “Championship-Caliber Boxers.”

As a result of its inability to show that Haymon, et al. possessed market or economic power in the management market, it could not show that it tied together the sale of two distinct services of managing and promoting Championship-Caliber boxers.  Although Top Rank argued that the illegal tying arrangements may be in “consent” clauses in the Haymon contracts, Top Rank did not provide any factual allegations showing such clauses in fighter contracts which purported that a fighter was bound by the same manager and promoter.

In addition to the antitrust claims under the Sherman Act, the court dismissed a claim under the Clayton Act for injunctive relief due to the fact there was no showing of claims under the Sherman Act.  In addition, state law claims under the California law were deferred if and when Top Rank amends its complaint.  If it does not, the court will not rule on the state law claims.

Payout Perspective:

It’s interesting to note that Top Rank had sought the deposition of an officer from the Waddell Defendants prior to the ruling.  A deposition was noted for October 7th according to the court record but we assume that did not happen pending the ruling.  It was likely the hope that Top Rank could establish a link between the Waddell Defendants and its case.  However, with the court ruling, Top Rank would have to appeal the order for them to bring back Waddell into the case.  Look for Top Rank to file an Amended Complaint with specific allegations.  Despite the court dismissal, it invites Top Rank another shot at filing a complaint.  This might be interesting foreshadowing for some of the issues in the Golden Boy-Al Haymon antitrust case ongoing in Los Angeles.  Essentially, the court did not find Top Rank established sufficient facts that Al Haymon, et al. had market power/control over the relevant markets.  One of the arguments here is that this information might be obtained through discovery (i.e., contracts, venue contracts, etc.).  The court seemed definite that there must be some concrete factual allegations for Top Rank antitrust claims to go forward.  MMA Payout will keep you posted.

Parties in UFC lawsuit fight over confidential documents

August 29, 2015

Plaintiffs on behalf of the fighters in the UFC Antitrust lawsuit have filed a Motion for Protective Order as a result of what it claims to be an exclusion from discovery of one of its main attorneys.

As is the case in litigation where there are sensitive materials that will be shared by opposing sides via discovery, the court required the parties to work together to come up with a protective order which would serve as the guidelines for the exchange of information.  A concern by plaintiffs is that Zuffa lawyers seek to exclude Rob Maysey, an attorney for Plaintiffs, from “highly confidential” information.

Via Plaintiffs’ Protective Order:

Zuffa has proposed an unusual special “HIGHLY CONFIDENTIAL – ATTORNEYS’ EYES ONLY” designation in the Protective Order that would apply to “extremely sensitive, highly confidential, non-public information, consisting either of trade secrets or other highly confidential information directly concerning business plans, strategies, revenues or costs, disclosure of which to another Party or Non Party would create a substantial risk of significant competitive or business injury to the Designating Party that could not be avoided by less restrictive means.” Zuffa [Proposed] Order ¶ 2.7.

The attached exhibits to the Motion for Protective Order include a back and forth exchange on discovery between the parties which cover such issues as retention of data and other pertinent eDiscovery information as to when Zuffa would provide its data and in what form.  Most, if not all of this information will be provided electronically and uploaded in reviewable databases for attorneys to review.

As for the interesting stuff, Zuffa is proposing two tiers of confidential information.  Essentially, Zuffa wants Maysey “firewalled” from the discovery deemed HIGHLY CONFIDENTIAL.  Plaintiffs argue that the definition proposed by Zuffa would preclude him from a broad swath of material.  Plaintiffs claim that Maysey is central to the litigation and would impair his ability to assist his clients and prepare for trial.  On the other end, Zuffa argues that Maysey is a “competitor” of the UFC according to its attorneys as he founded the Mixed Martial Arts Fighters Association.  The claim is that Maysey should not be allowed to view contracts and sensitive business materials which Zuffa claims he might use for future prospective gain.

The argument is that Maysey and a partner at one of the other plaintiffs’ firms, Neal Tabachnik (who has represented MMA fighters in the past) should be precluded from HIGHLY CONFIDENTIAL Information. Plaintiffs seek an order from the court which would preclude Zuffa’s argument that Maysey is precluded from seeing the HIGHLY CONFIDENTIAL information.

Exhibit 1 (attached to Plaintiffs’ Motion) is a letter from Plaintiffs’ lawyers to Zuffa lawyers. Specifically, the argument points out the reasons why the confidential designations are overbroad and why Maysey should be allowed to view documents.

The full letter is below:

Exhibit 1.PDF

Exhibit 2 is a response from Zuffa lawyers to the above letter:

Exhibit 2.PDF

I could not highlight the pertinent sections in the letter from Zuffa’s attorneys but it essentially spells out its position by pointing to case law that dual tiers of confidentiality is not unusual and that Maysey’s involvement in MMAFA warrants that he is blocked from viewing HIGHLY CONFIDENTIAL documents. It cites to the MMAFA web site and his own law firm bio as to reasons why he should be firewalled for viewing documents.  Notably, Zuffa points to a 2009 MMA Payout article in which Maysey was interviewed by Robert Joyner.

Payout Perspective:

Notably, Maysey filed a declaration with the Motion for Protective Order which mentions that he is the “principal client liaison” with the fighters in this litigation.  However, what it does not say is that he is trial counsel for the lawsuit (i.e., he will be in court trying the case if it gets to that point).  This could be a major distinction when arguing whether or not an attorney assisting in preparing the case is essential in the discovery process.  Moreover, Maysey states in the declaration that he founded MMAFA but does not own or “head” the MMAFA.  Also, he does not profit from it.  But, the issue that Zuffa will press is that he founded the organization and the web site maintains he is still a part of the organization.

This is a case of the internet coming back to bite back.  Zuffa’s attorneys have done its due diligence in scouring the web for information on Maysey and MMAFA.  One might see this as picking on someone that had attempted to help fighters seek out benefits.  Its clear Maysey was emotional during the initial press conference announcing the lawsuit.  We now see a strategy employed by Zuffa to block him out of the litigation.  Coincidence or not, this is litigation and this is what happens.

Two tiers of confidentiality is not unusual in litigation especially when highly sensitive material such as trade secrets are involved.  Zuffa’s arguments are valid but it will be how broad the definition of HIGHLY CONFIDENTIAL is that the court will look at when deciding whether or not it would be valid to preclude Maysey from looking at documents.  Certainly, one would think the court would have to balance its decision on the right for the plaintiffs’ attorney to communicate with his clients and prepare for trial.  MMA Payout will keep you posted.

Haymon-Golden Boy file Arbitration Briefs which may decide lawsuit

July 27, 2015

Arbitration briefs have been filed in the Al Haymon-Golden Boy case in which Haymon’s attorneys are seeking to stay the court case claiming that an arbitrator should decide the promotion’s grievances against Haymon and his business entities.  Arbitrator Daniel Weinstein is set to hear the parties’ arguments on July 29th.

Golden Boy argues in its brief to the Arbitrator that it does not have jurisdiction over the federal claims it filed against Haymon and his business entities this past May.  It states that the parties’ agreement was not “clearly and unmistakably” granting authority to arbitrate its particular dispute outlined in the May 5 lawsuit.  In addition, it states that Bernard Hopkins, a party to the lawsuit, is not a party to the Settlement Agreement signed by Golden Boy last December which Haymon’s attorneys claim negate GB and Hopkins’ federal claims which include Antitrust and Ali Act violations.  Hopkins is a plaintiff in the Golden Boy lawsuit.  Even if the Arbtirator claims that he has jurisdiction over the parties, Golden Boy argues that the federal claims are not within the arbitration clause and that the arbitration provision does not cover the term’s end.

The overall suggestion here is that the federal claims cannot be decided by an Arbitrator because the claims were never waived in the Settlement Agreement and/or the release of claims were not arbitrable.

In its opening arbitration brief which includes several sections that are redacted, Haymon’s attorneys argue that the Arbitrator has the exclusive jurisdiction to determine whether the federal claims are subject to the December 2014 Settlement Agreement executed between Haymon and Golden Boy.  It argues that Golden Boy has come up with the date of January 1, 2015 to “plead around” the Settlement Agreement signed by the parties.  Essentially, Haymon argues that the alleged monopoly and claimed violations of the Muhammad Ali Act existed on December 19, 2014.  Thus, the Haymon camp claims that the claims relate to the Settlement Agreement entered into by Haymon and Golden Boy. As for Hopkins, it argues that he is a shareholder in GB and the argument that it was not a party to the Settlement Agreement falls flat.

Haymon’s attorneys stress that “there is no explanation for Golden Boy starting its federal claims on January 1, 2015.”  This contention is in response to Golden Boy’s lawsuit which claims injuries sustained beginning on January 1, 2015.  In its briefing, Haymon attorneys stress that it had signed a bulk of the 100 fighters prior to the December 19th Settlement Agreement.  Thus, any sort of claim violating Antitrust laws or the Ali Act would have occurred prior to the parties entering into the Settlement Agreement.

Haymon’s attorneys also point to the broad release language in the Settlement Agreement in arguing that the release covers the present claims in the Golden Boy lawsuit.  They argue that Golden Boy could have negotiated for terms within the Settlement Agreement that would have addressed the issues currently before them.

Golden Boy's Arb Brief Re Preliminary Issues

Haymons’ Arb Brief by JASONCRUZ206

Payout Perspective:

We could know this week whether one of the two Antitrust lawsuits filed against Al Haymon will be put on hold.  One would think even with an Arbitrator ruling on jurisdiction, we will see an appeal by one of the sides.  It’s clear that the ruling will hinge on the language within the Settlement Agreement regarding the arbitration of the agreement.  We will keep you updated.

Plaintiffs file opposition to Zuffa’s Motion to Stay Discovery

July 4, 2015

Attorneys on behalf of the plaintiffs in the UFC Antitrust Lawsuit have filed an opposition to UFC’s Motion to Stay Discovery in the lawsuit that is now in the U.S. District Court of Nevada.

You might recall that Zuffa filed a Motion to Stay Discovery pending the court decision in its Motion to Dismiss.  The Motion to Stay Discovery was to be heard September 10, 2015 when the lawsuits were in San Jose.  Since the filing, the court determined that based on the forum selection clause found in fight contracts signed by many of the plaintiffs, the venue should be transferred to the federal district court in Las Vegas, Nevada.  Zuffa argued that since there was a likelihood that the curt would grant its Motion to Dismiss and would resolve all issues, discovery would be a moot point.  It also stressed the fact that the discovery process is “extensive, burdensome and costly.”  Zuffa cited the discovery requests which seek a voluminous amount of financial information from Zuffa.   In addition, Zuffa suggested that federal courts in California evaluated a request for stay during the pendency of a dispositive motion based on whether: 1) the pending motion must dismiss the entire case (or the issue in which discovery is aimed), and; 2) whether the court may determine the motion without the discovery.  Zuffa argues that the court can dismiss the case without the need for conducting discovery.

In its opposition, plaintiffs claim that the UFC’s motion to dismiss is “highly unlikely to succeed” and due to the fact that there are factual issues to resolve, discovery is required.  It also argues that a stay of discovery would hurt the plaintiffs’ case.

Plaintiffs state that the UFC’s Motion to Dismiss raises “at least four contentions” requiring discovery.

  1. Discovery related to UFC’s assertions that its exclusive contracts with fighters, sponsors, venues and others do not substantially foreclose competition or impair rival promoters.
  2. Discovery seeking to determine whether “minor league” promoters do not compete with the UFC.
  3. Discovery related to the argument that “Plaintiffs do not show how excluding would-be rivals from access to some venues, sponsors and TV networks amounts to substantial foreclosure.”
  4. Discovery regarding the UFC challenge of the term “elite MMA fighter” used in the industry creates a factual dispute.

Perhaps a dig at the UFC, the plaintiffs’ brief (on page 4) cites Bob Arum (a noted Dana White foe) stating that the boxing promoter “pays his boxers approximately 80% of the proceeds of events.”  The brief quotes Arum: “[b]ecause of the monopoly that the UFC has, [the UFC] pay]s][its] fighters maybe 20% of the proceeds that come in on a UFC fight.”

Response to Motion to Stay Discovery

Payout Perspective:

Its the standard litigation story that one side is stalling discovery, while the other side wants to facilitate discovery.

The opposition sets forth certain discovery requests it believes necessary for its case.  Essentially, it is laying the groundwork to broker a compromise with Zuffa to allow limited discovery.  The strategy here is for the court to determine what is fair and the fact that the plaintiffs outline a proposed plan may have the court allow the discovery to “see how it goes.”  Probably not what Zuffa wants, but one could see this happening.

If Zuffa wins its motion to stay discovery, it will save a lot of time and money and the litigation will hinge on the Motion to Dismiss.  If the court sides with plaintiffs and/or grants limited discovery, the plaintiffs may have a greater opportunity to withstand a dismissal.

We will see what the court decides.

Top Rank files suit against Al Haymon

July 1, 2015

Top Rank Boxing has sued Al Haymon and Waddell & Reed Financial in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California in Los Angeles.  Similar to the lawsuit filed by Golden Boy in May of this year, it claims that Haymon and his business holdings violate antitrust law, the Muhammad Ali Act and California state Unfair Competition law.

The lawsuit, provided by the Los Angeles Times, filed on July 1st claims that Haymon attempts to circumvent the above-mentioned laws through his Premier Boxing Champions promotion.  Top Rank claims that Haymon and Waddell & Reed are seeking to “buy up and monopolize the entire vertical channel” of top fighters, “tying out” promoters, excluding promoters from major venues and using its “time buy” strategy as a “predatory ‘payola’ scheme.”

As stated in the Golden Boy lawsuit two months prior, the lawsuit identifies the scheme in which it claims that Haymon is using his market power in one business to take over a different business.  Haymon has a deep stable of boxers that fight exclusively on PBC/Haymon promoted cards thus foreclosing out the fighter market as well as the promotion for these fighters.

In an update from the Golden Boy lawsuit, Top Rank identifies a June 2015 issue in which California state regulators identified Haymon reserving venues such as Staples Center and The Forum so that other promotions would not be able to hold events there.  Per the LA Times, this was a reason why a fight between Lucas Matthysse and Ruslan Provodnikov was sent to a New York casino rather than a more attractive venue in Los Angeles.

Seeking to twist the dagger a little more, Top Rank picks up on Haymon’s music promoter background to accuse him of “payola.”  This is based on brokering “time buys” with a host of networks to air PBC exclusively.  Thus, the argument would be that other promoters are excluded from negotiating with those networks.

The lawsuit states that losses could exceed $200 million in PBC’s first two years in existence.  And while PBC may operate in the red, its “loss leader” strategy allows Haymon to gain an unfair advantage in the promoter market.

The Complaint seeks $100 million in damages against Haymon, et al.

Payout Perspective:

“The enemy of my enemy is my friend,” is an ancient proverb that might prove true in federal court in Los Angeles as both Golden Boy and Top Rank are digging in its heels against Al Haymon.  While it’s still too early to tell whether the two longtime adversaries will work together in its fight against Haymon, it will be an intriguing sidebar to this legal heavyweight battle.  The allegations mirror one another and offer some interesting legal issues.  One of interest to the boxing industry is Haymon’s alleged conflict of interest in serving as a “de facto” manager (although he’s labeled as an advisor) and promoter.  This is something specifically addressed in the Ali Act as prohibited.  MMA Payout will keep you updated.

Show Money Episode 5 discusses UFC and PBC lawsuits

June 7, 2015

Show Money Episode 5 is back with Bloody Elbow’s John Nash and Paul Gift. In this episode we discuss the status of the UFC antitrust lawsuit and the PBC lawsuit filed by Golden Boy.

If you would like to know a little more about the PBC lawsuit, you can find some more information here.

Court orders UFC antitrust lawsuit to Las Vegas

June 3, 2015

The Honorable Edward Davila has granted Zuffa’s request to transfer the venue of the class action antitrust lawsuit filed by former UFC fighters to Las Vegas, Nevada.  In an order dated June 1, 2015, the U.S. District Court for Northern California, San Jose Division granted Zuffa’s Motion to Transfer Venue to the U.S. District Court of Nevada, Las Vegas Division.

In an homage to the parties before it, the court offered in its order, “At the final bell, it is Defendants arguments that clinch this round because the relevant forum selection clause and the sec 1404(a) convenience considerations both favor a Nevada forum.”

The preceding paragraph of the order offered more fight references:

“…Plaintiffs allege that Defendant, now the heavyweight of the industry, has violated Section 2 of the Sherman Act…”

“Defendant now seeks to knock these cases out of the Northern District of California and into its home venue…”

As stated above, the court found in favor for Zuffa based on two arguments.  First, it held that the forum selection clause in the fighters’ fight contracts/bout agreements should be recognized.  With those clauses pointing to Zuffa’s home district of Nevada (or Las Vegas), the case should be decided in that forum.  This finding was directly opposite to the plaintiffs’ argument that the contracts and its forum selection clauses in the underlying contracts should not be addressed in an antitrust claim such as this.

Thus, the question was whether the plaintiffs’ antitrust claim is one “to interpret or enforce” any provision of Zuffa’s agreements so that they are transferred to the contractual venue.  The court held that the “substance of a claim is what matters, not its title.”  It therefore decided that the lawsuit was an action “to interpret” the contracts and thus the forum selection clause should be followed.

In case you were wondering, for those plaintiffs that did not sign contracts with forum selection clauses, the court stated that since they joined this lawsuit, their claims would follow the disposition of the case.  Thus, they go to Nevada too.

While most of the court order reflects on the forum selection clause, it also addressed the convenience of venue factor in deciding in favor of Zuffa.  Essentially, it determined that the relevant parties and witnesses reside in Nevada and most of Zuffa’s employees would need to travel to San Jose if the case stayed in Northern California.  The court did not buy the plaintiffs’ convenience of venue arguments stating it did not convince the court that “Nevada is any less convenient” for the plaintiffs despite arguing that Le and a couple other fighters resided in San Jose and that the San Jose area has a local interest in the lawsuit.

The court also shot down plaintiffs’ argument that San Jose was familiar with antitrust cases and is more efficient in getting them to trial than Las Vegas.  The court acknowledged this fact but stated, “ [e]ven assuming Plaintiffs are correct that the legal process in Nevada generally takes longer than it does in this [San Jose] district, that is simply not enough to overcome those other factors showing why this specific litigation is appropriately venued there.”

The Order is below and can also be pulled of Pacer for free.  Of course, if you pull it from here, please give us an h/t since we did the work for you.

Order – Motion to Transfer Venue

Payout Perspective:

The case would appear to swing in favor of Zuffa now that it is being moved to federal court in Las Vegas.  The pending Motion to Stay Discovery and Motion to Dismiss will be heard in the new venue in Las Vegas.  For the Motion to Stay Discovery, the parties have agreed to allow the plaintiffs to file opposition to the motion 30 days after the disposition of the Motion to Transfer.  So, the pleadings will be filed by plaintiffs by the end of June with a Reply by Zuffa following 14 days after the opposition is filed.

While it may not be the end for Zuffa, the loss could be considered as significant.  Its clear there was a reason why the plaintiffs filed in San Jose.  They were aware of the potential risks of filing with just a small amount of its plaintiffs having ties to the district.  But, the key was how much weight the court would give the forum selection clauses in the contracts.  Its clear from the order that the court took a pragmatic approach to the issue (i.e., what do the underlying contracts state) rather than a theoretical one.

We shall see what transpires with the transfer to Nevada.

FTC reopens investigation on Zuffa business practices

May 14, 2015

MMA Junkie reports that the Federal Trade Commission has reopened its investigation against Zuffa and has contacted people within the MMA industry about Zuffa’s business practices.

The government investigation occurred after Zuffa acquired Strikeforce.  The agency evaluated Zuffa’s financial documents and talked to UFC execs but the investigation yielded nothing to command a further inquiry at the time.  The FTC closed its investigation of Zuffa in early 2012.  MMA Payout’s FOIA request for documents related to that investigative led to nothing of substance except for a couple form letters which indicated that it “reserved the right to reopen the investigation if it deemed it necessary.”

It appears that it was necessary.

With the filing of the antitrust lawsuit by former UFC fighters, it appears that the FTC will take another look at Zuffa business practices.

The news comes out a day after Zuffa filed a motion to stay discovery pending its Motion to Dismiss plaintiffs’ complaint.

Payout Perspective:

The reopening of the investigation may help plaintiffs in its position that its complaint is valid.  It also will help with opposing Zuffa’s motion to stay discovery.  The FTC investigation may help plaintiffs with the argument that Zuffa’s financial documents are relevant to the litigation as you might expect an anticipated discovery fight over that information.  While the investigation by the FTC and the antitrust lawsuit are independent of one another it is clear that you might infer a tie-in between the two.  We will see how both lawsuit and government investigation proceed.

Golden Boy sues Haymon for antitrust violations

May 9, 2015

Golden Boy Promotions LLC and boxer Bernard Hopkins filed suit this week against Al Haymon and a variety of Haymon’s businesses and associates with respect to violations of the Sherman Antitrust Act.  The lawsuit was filed in federal court in Los Angeles.

The lawsuit paints the picture that many competitors have accused Haymon of for some time.  He is attempting to monopolize professional boxing in the United States and drive out all competition.  The lawsuit accuses Haymon of “blatantly” ignoring the “firewall” imposed by federal (specifically the Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act) and state laws which preclude a manager also acting as a promoter for a fighter.  The lawsuit claims that he has forbidden “hundreds of boxers” he manages from signing with another promoter.

The lawsuit names Waddell & Reed Financial, Inc. and Waddell & Reed, Inc. as defendants that financed and aided Haymon through an investment fund that funded the boxing enterprise.  Plaintiffs claim that these defendants provided more than $400 million dollars to finance Haymon.

The lawsuit claims that Haymon, et. al have created a “tying” relationship in violation of antitrust laws.  This is done through agreements affecting to separate relevant markets.  The first market is for management of Championship-Caliber Boxers and the market for promoters.  As described in the Complaint, the management market is the “tying” market whereas the promotion market is the “tied” market.  Essentially, the fact that Haymon manages so many fighters it affects the promotions market since he has exercised control over the direction of each fighters’ career.

The Complaint filed by Bertram Fields of Greenberg Glusker Fields Claman & Machinger, LLP in LA states that Haymon acted as an unlicensed promoter.  In fact, the Complaint cites an LA Times article which states that Haymon was the “main promoter” for the Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao fight.  The scheme articulated by Plaintiffs is that Haymon is using his dominance in one business to “take over and monopolize another business that federal and state law prohibit them (Haymon, et. al) from even entering.”

Plaintiffs are seeking damages in excess of $100 million which, according to relevant statutory law, could lead to treble (3 times) damages.  Thus, the lawsuit could be for more than $300 million.  In addition, Golden Boy is seeking an injunction from Haymon’s continued promotion.  This possibly could mean the severing of his multi-network affiliations with airing Premier Boxing Champions.

Perhaps not a coincidence, the Oscar de la Hoya led Golden Boy filed the lawsuit on Cinco de Mayo.  Plaintiffs seek a jury trial.

Payout Perspective:

We will have more on this in the weeks to come but if you were to compare this lawsuit to the one filed by the former UFC fighters, I would tend to believe that this antitrust claim has much more of a bite to it. Although it’s likely to sustain a Motion to Dismiss from Haymon’s lawyers, I think it has a better chance of making it to the discovery stage of the lawsuit.  We shall see how this will go.

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