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Sunday, May 19, 2024 | Back issues
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Jay Z’s Company not Out of the Woods Yet

DALLLAS (CN) - Jay-Z's Roc Nation must face a lawsuit that it lured Dallas Cowboy Dez Bryant away from his contract with the marketing agency that helped build his "Throw up the X" brand, a federal judge ruled Tuesday.

Florida-based Official Brands sued Roc Nation and its sports subsidiary Roc Nation Sports in April, claiming they unlawfully induced Bryant to terminate an off-field management contract when he signed a deal with Roc Nation Sports.

U.S. District Judge Jane Boyle ruled Tuesday that Official Brands made "satisfactory allegations of all four elements of tortious interference with an existing contract."

"Accordingly, Roc Nation is not entitled to dismissal of this claim."

Neither Bryant nor Roc Nation founder Sean "Jay-Z" Carter are parties to the lawsuit.

Bryant, 27, known for celebrating touchdowns by crossing his arms above his head in an X, was franchise-tagged by the Cowboys in March, resulting in a one-year, $12.8 million contract.

One of the top wide receivers in the NFL, Bryant reached a five-year, $70 million contract in July, which includes $45 million of guaranteed money.

Official Brands claims Bryant asked it to handle his off-field interests, resulting in a two-year contract between Official Brands and Dez I Enterprises in July 2014.

It was to run until 2016 but Bryant cut ties with the agency on Feb. 24 this year, according to the lawsuit.

By then, Official Brands claims, it had provided "unprecedented services" to build Bryant's "Throw up the X" brand and "invested substantial time and money" in doing so.

Official Brands claimed Roc Nation and its employees made "material false and disparaging statements" to Bryant to get him to break his contract and move his off-field business to Roc Nation Sports.

"The reason for this conduct, Official Brands asserts, was to cause Bryant to 'move all of his off-field business' to Roc Nation and RNS,'" according to the complaint.

Roc Nation denied those claims, calling them "conclusory." It also denied the existence of an employee whom Official Brands claimed sought its contract with Bryant on multiple occasions.

Tuesday's ruling was the second time the judge declined to toss the lawsuit. On Dec. 8 she rejected Roc Nation's request to dismiss based on lack of personal jurisdiction.

That ruling allowed Official Brands to collect more evidence of cellphone and email communication between Bryant, a Texas resident, and New York-based Roc Nation.

But Boyle did not allow Official Brands to move forward on its claim that the management company interfered with a prospective business relation with Bryant. Official Brands could not show any future losses since an estimation at this point would be speculative.

"In other words, Official Brands has not yet suffered any actual damages with regard to prospective contractual relations," Boyle wrote in the Dec. 15 ruling.Founded in 2013, Roc Nation Sport has quickly signed several big-name professional athletes, including Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant, boxer Miguel Cotto, Seattle Mariners second basemen Robinson Cano and New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz.

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