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LeMond satisfied with jury decision

A federal court jury in Minnesota last Friday concluded that a New York manufacturer violated the terms of a contract when the firm dropped Greg LeMond’s name from a line of mass-market bicycle accessories sold in Target stores. The jury awarded LeMond a total of $3.46 million dollars in what the three-time Tour de France winner said was a “very conservative” estimate of potential royalties that he would have earned had PTI Holdings Inc. properly marketed the brand and honored the contract for its full 10-year term. “I think it was a fair judgment,” LeMond told VeloNews Monday. “I mean,

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A federal court jury in Minnesota last Friday concluded that a New York manufacturer violated the terms of a contract when the firm dropped Greg LeMond’s name from a line of mass-market bicycle accessories sold in Target stores.

The jury awarded LeMond a total of $3.46 million dollars in what the three-time Tour de France winner said was a “very conservative” estimate of potential royalties that he would have earned had PTI Holdings Inc. properly marketed the brand and honored the contract for its full 10-year term.

“I think it was a fair judgment,” LeMond told VeloNews Monday. “I mean, from our side, we believed that it was a conservative projection and we had data that showed how royalties could have been higher than that, but overall I think I’m pretty satisfied with the outcome.”

PTI had dropped LeMond’s name from its line of helmets, seat covers, locks and other items after deciding his celebrity status had faded. It’s a point that the 43-year-old LeMond successfully disputed in court.

“Their decision came at a time when LeMond bikes had just had its most successful quarter,” LeMond said. “Had it been properly marketed – had they made a commitment to the brand – it could have done very well.”

LeMond said PTI approached him with a five-year contract, with an automatic five-year renewal clause, in late 1999. The deal, LeMond’s attorneys argued in court, was the means by which the company was able to pitch its products for sale at Target stores across the country.

“The deal was to market the line heavily and try to build a brand,” LeMond said. “It was a difficult decision at the time, since it really presented a choice between the IBD (independent bicycle dealer) and the mass market stores. I went with their offer because they made a commitment to market it and to do a good job on it.”

Two years later, however, now firmly ensconced in Target stores, PTI made a switch and negotiated the right to put the “Schwinn” brand on its products.

LeMond testified that he didn’t even know that PTI had dropped its LeMond line of accessories until December of 2002. By then, PTI had stopped sending him payments.

He said he received an e-mail from PTI in March 2003 saying it wanted to end his contract with a $1.1 million payment because of Lance Armstrong’s “emergence as the dominant American cyclist.”

“That was the reason they gave,” he said. “It made no sense, though, because at the time Lance Armstrong was giving a huge boost to the entire bicycle industry. The whole industry was getting a lift and there was no competing line with his name on it.”

LeMond said he was taken aback by some media reports that the case had its roots in “some sort of jealousy” of Armstrong’s success.

“I think I was quoted as saying that I was ‘bigger than Armstrong,’ which is something I never said,” LeMond asserted. “Obviously he’s a huge phenomenon. He’s had an unbelievable career. He’s won six Tours. I did three and the last one of those was 15 years ago. It makes no sense to make a claim like that. As I said, the company relied on that as a justification to get out the contract. The entire bicycle industry was doing very because of Lance Armstrong.”

LeMond said he had no idea whether PTI would appeal the case, although he felt confident in his attorney’s ability to fend off such a challenge.

“We had a pretty solid breach of contract case going into court,” LeMond said. “It was well documented, with full records of all the communication of what they promised, what they did to fulfill the deal and what they did not do.”

Attempts to reach PTI officials for comment on Monday were unsuccessful.

LeMond still has six years remaining on his contract with Trek, the largest U.S.-based bicycle manufacturer and producer of LeMond bikes. The future of the line had been put into doubt last year when LeMond was quoted in a book by sports writers David Walsh and Pierre Balister as being “disappointed” by Armstrong’s long professional relationship with Italian sports doctor Michelli Ferrari. Armstrong has since ended that relationship after Ferrari was convicted by an Italian court of sporting fraud for doping riders in his care.

Officials at Trek – the brand of bike used by Armstrong in all six of his Tour victories – were said to be looking for a way out of the LeMond deal as a way of underscoring their support for the Texan.

LeMond, however, said Monday that he has “every confidence” that Trek will continue to stand by the LeMond line and live up to the terms of the contract.
The Associated Press contributed to this story