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Under Armour Sued Over Aborted Endorsement

Chicago Cubs claim apparel maker reneged on five-year deal.

The Chicago Cubs have sued Under Armour Inc., accusing the athleticwear-maker of backing out of a long-term endorsement deal.

This story first appeared in the January 26, 2009 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

In a complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Chicago on Jan. 22, the team’s corporate parent, Chicago National League Ball Club LLC, alleged that Under Armour, which had a marketing deal with the team in 2007 and 2008, reneged on an agreement to sponsor the team through the 2013 season.

The team alleges that, as the 2008 baseball season drew to a close, the two parties had reached a new deal for five years and $10.8 million, but that the Baltimore-based apparel-maker walked away in December.

In its complaint, the Cubs organization draws a connection between the alleged about-face and Under Armour’s announcement that its year-end profits could be about $10 million less than a year ago.

“Under Armour entered into a three-year agreement with the previous management of the Chicago Cubs for a comprehensive marketing package that included the exclusive signage on Wrigley Field,” said Steve Battista, senior vice president, brand, for Under Armour. “This past summer, the Cubs’ new management [under Tribune Co. owner Sam Zell] sent us a letter terminating the agreement after the second year. Unfortunately, we were unable to agree upon terms for a new deal and one was never signed.”

On Friday, the bankrupt Tribune Co. picked a family group headed by Incapital LLC chairman Tom Ricketts as the winning bidder to buy the Cubs.