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Fired Agent Files Suit in Illinois Against Baseball Star’s Financial Adviser

J.D. Martinez of the Boston Red Sox is a Major League Baseball All-Star who earned more than $23 million during the 2019 season. Sports agents battle fiercely to represent players with that level of stature and salary. However, a prominent Chicago agent claims that a third-party financial adviser led Martinez to terminate his contract prematurely.

Robert Garber, founder of RMG Sports Group, filed a lawsuit in the Circuit Court of Cook County against Merrill Lynch and one of its financial advisers, Bruce Lee. Garber says Lee improperly persuaded Martinez to end his relationship with Garber’s firm and to hire mega-agent Scott Boras instead. Several legal issues could be raised during the case, such as:

  • Tortious interference — Garber’s complaint says he introduced Martinez and other players that he represented to Lee. However, when Lee learned that Boras had a larger group of star clients, he developed a scheme to push Martinez toward Boras. Lee anticipated that he and Merrill would be rewarded with access to Boras’s clients in need of financial services. Garber says Lee tortiously interfered with the agency contract by lying about Garber’s ability as a player representative.
  • Breach of contract — Martinez signed a one-year representation agreement scheduled to end in April, 2018. However, Martinez terminated the deal on October 31, 2017, right before he was to start negotiating with teams for a lucrative new contract. The terms of the original agreement entitled Garber to receive 5 percent of the contract’s value. Though the lawsuit does not allege breach of contract by Martinez, sufficient grounds for that cause of action might exist.
  • Breach of fiduciary duty — Lee and Merrill Lynch could be accused of violating their fiduciary duty to act in their client’s best interests when providing financial services. It’s not certain as to whether advice regarding an agent switch would fall within the zone of financial advice. If it does, the fact that the defendants pressed for the move at least partially to solicit business from Boras could constitute an actionable breach.

Several factors could affect Garber’s right to relief and whether he can bring claims against Martinez. If you’re engaged in a contract dispute, hiring a qualified attorney give you an informed perspective on each side’s rights and obligations.

Schwartz & Kanyock, LLC handles breach of contract claims and other litigation matters for individual and business clients. To schedule an appointment at our Chicago office, please call 312-436-1442 or contact us online.