Just when we thought we’d seen the last Bode Miller gate bash, the former four-time World Champion has announced his intentions to return to World Cup competition for one final go in 2016-2017. But there’s more than a high protein diet and a few squat workouts standing in between the 38-year-old racing legend and the start gate.
According to Courthouse News Service, Miller has sued HEAD USA, alleging that his former sponsor won’t let him even attempt a comeback unless he uses the company’s skis.
After leaving the U.S. Ski Team in 2006 to race independently with HEAD USA as his sponsor, Miller won three Olympic medals (including a 2010 Super Combined gold). But when a garish 2015 World Cup crash prompted Miller’s retirement, the athlete and company parted ways.
A year and a half later, Miller is looking to return to World Cup action with his new sponsor, Bomber Skis—a Manhattan-based luxury brand and artisan ski company of which he is part owner.
HEAD USA contends that Miller’s return with another brand is a breach of contract, an agreement that says that he cannot compete in a World Cup or World Championship event for a full two calendar years (as of April 30, 2015), according to the Daily Mail.
On September 12, Miller and Bomber took the case to Los Angeles Federal Court, where Miller is asking the judge to void the original contract between him and HEAD USA, and that his last hurrah on the circuit will help, “protect his family’s financial future.”
HEAD USA, on the other hand, has threatened to sue Miller, and is demanding that he issue a public statement by Monday, September 19, stating that he will not compete in the World Cup and World Championships this season unless he uses Head skis, according to Miller’s complaint (quoting from an earlier letter sent to Bomber from HEAD USA).
Neither HEAD USA nor Miller and Bomber were available for further comment as of publication.
With trenches dug in and the courts now officially involved, it looks like things could get worse before they get better. Now, it looks like it’s up to some suits and a gavel to determine whether or not we get to watch one of the greatest ever on course fly again.
Author’s Note: HEAD released the following official statement from Chairman and CEO Johan Eliasch on Monday, September 19.
HEAD has been sued by Bode Miller, whereby Bode Miller is contesting his obligations pursuant to the termination of his endorsement agreement with HEAD in 2015. Bode Miller told HEAD he would finally retire from ski racing but asked a personal favour that his contract would be terminated a year early such that he could enter into an endorsement contract with another ski company for his personal gain. HEAD agreed with his manager to release him from his contract based on his unequivocal intention to stop ski racing, and on the condition that in the event that he changed his mind he agreed not to compete in World Cup or World Championship racing until the end of the 2016/17 season on any other equipment than HEAD skis, boots and bindings. Bode Miller agreed to this as is stipulated in the termination agreement. Notwithstanding the terms of the termination agreement, Bode Miller recently announced that he would breach this agreement. HEAD will be seeking to have Bode honour his contractual commitments and is fully behind him skiing competitively this season, on Head skis, as he is obligated to do.
Johan Eliasch, chairman and CEO of HEAD stated: ‘I am truly very disappointed to see that Bode has no intention to honour his word and that he intends to breach our agreement to that effect. We will take every action to enforce our rights against Bode. That said, HEAD would welcome Bode’s return to World Cup racing, but it has to be on HEAD equipment.’
Rainer Salzgeber, director of the HEAD Ski Race Team added: ‘Of course I would like to see Bode racing again, but it has to be on HEAD equipment.