Top Rank sues Al Haymon for $100 million, alleges monopoly attempt
The fight for market share in the boxing promotional realm took a turn today, in a direction it has been heading in, when word dropped that top dog promoter Bob Arum has leveled a lawsuit against Al Haymon, the shadowy ex-music maven, and accused him of engaging in illegal practices as he seeks to supposedly create a monopoly.
Arum started in this business in 1966, and his Las Vegas-based Top Rank pulled away from the pack as the top promoter while Don King faded into semi-retirement; Haymon announced his presence, fiercely, with the formation of his “Premier Boxing Champions” series to kick off 2015.
The rarely seen adviser extraordinaire, who has amassed a client base of more than 200 boxers, has purchased time on virtually every available and conceivable television platform to showcase his stable of hitters: NBC, CBS, ESPN, Spike.
The way he has done so, Arum has taken issue with; thus Arum is aiming to have the court stop Haymon from doing business, and has lodged a legal spear at his money backer, the Kansas-based fund Waddell & Reed.
It is alleged that Haymon is seeking to “take over” boxing, and is boxing out competitors by illegal means; namely, by acting as both manager and promoter to the fighters he has in the Haymon stable, which gives him an “unfair” advantage. Also, the suit, which calls for damages in excess of $100 million (and the tripling of that amount, if the court sides with Arum, in a suit filed in L.A.) lays out the claim that Haymon has played dirty by snapping up venues in order to keep competitors from using them. Other misdeeds are laid out in the 50-page document, which dropped to the media on Wednesday, late morning. Haymon is accused of, among other things, ticket scalping and not paying taxes.
This suit is part of a growing pushback against Haymon, who will enjoy his PBC brand being showcased on ESPN, in primetime, for the first time, on July 11.
Oscar De La Hoya and Bernard Hopkins are co-leading a legal charge against Haymon, a $300 million dollar jab, which dropped in early May. There is substantial overlap in the contentions leveled at Haymon in the two suits. Also, in the week of the highest-profile promotion in recent boxing memory, which saw Arum and Team Pacquiao “working with” Haymon and Team Mayweather for the Fight of the Supposed Century, the Association of Boxing Commissions put out word that they recommend that the U.S. Attorney General take a hard look, fast, at Haymon’s business practices. WBO president Paco Valcarcel echoed that call.
Team Haymon told RingTV.com they prefer not to comment on the suit. “We don’t comment on litigation,” a spokesman said. “We’re concentrating on our loaded summer schedule of boxing shows starting with Keith Thurman vs. Luis Collazo on ESPN on July 11 from Tampa.”
Promoters mentioned in the suit, including Tom Brown and Leon Margules, didn’t respond right away to a request for comment. Promoter Lou DiBella told RingTV that he’d said his piece and made his case public when he spoke after the De La Hoya suit dropped.
De La Hoya did release a statement:
“I applaud Bob Arum and Top Rank Boxing for stepping up on behalf of fighters not only in their own stable, but all across the sport. Those like Bob and myself who have spent the bulk of their lives around boxing understand that the Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act is a crucial piece of legislation that serves to protect boxers and enhance the sport. Golden Boy Promotions will continue to push forward with our own lawsuit to ensure our wonderful sport continues to grow in a competitive, just manner.
“Background on GBP Lawsuit:
“On May 6, 2015, Golden Boy Promotions filed a $300 million lawsuit against Al Haymon and his related companies alleging repeated violation of antitrust laws and the Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act. The case was filed in Federal Court in Los Angeles.”
By and large, the Arum suit puts forth that Haymon is acting illegally, per the Muhammad Ali Act, by acting as both promoter and manager. The Act was set up to, basically, protect boxers and their wallets from managers and promoters colluding together.
Team Haymon folks would protest that the fighters under the Haymon banner are more than well compensated, so where is the harm here? Also, as for repression and suppression of business-doing, they will point out that nothing prevents other promoters from doing “time buys” themselves. In the suit, those “time buys” are basically likened to “payola,” payoffs made to radio personnel decades ago to insure excessive airplay of certain artists favored by certain unsavory record companies.
The Arum suit seeks to turn off the money spigot, close the war chest of more than $400 million available to Haymon to use in a “loss leader” capacity while he builds his brand in this unparalleled manner. “Haymon is rigging the boxing industry,” the suit says, and that violates not only the Ali act, but the Sherman Act.
The check made out to Julio Cesar Chavez Jr, who jumped from the Top Rank ship to team Haymon months ago, in his last fight, a loss to Andrezej Fonfara, is pointed to as an example of the blurred lines which the suit maintains are illegal; typically the promoter signs out the check to the boxer, not the adviser. If Haymon is not a promoter, why was the check on his company letterhead?
Terms such as “monopolistic,””coercive,” “brazen illegal activities,” and “anticompetitive” pepper the suit, and it is alleged that down the line, fans will pay dearly. Once Haymon snaps up all the product and players, the suit states, they will enjoy pricing power that will be detrimental to fans.
This battle, with men in suits armed with legal precedents in mind, is of a different sort than what we see in the ring, but the stakes are immense, and the action, in the coming months and years, will likely be savage at times.
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