LeMond Sues Trek, Citing Feud With Lance

     MINNEAPOLIS (CN) – Greg LeMond claims Trek Bicycles is trying to dump him and terminate his line of bicycles because of his criticism of Lance Armstrong – another Trek endorser. He claims Trek “has systematically sought to silence Mr. LeMond’s right to make comments … on matters of legitimate public interest – the problems associated with the use of performance enhancing substances.” Trek has sued LeMond in Wisconsin, seeking to terminate his $350,000 a year endorsement contract.

     In his complaint in Hennepin County Court, LeMond, a three-time winner of the Tour de France, rehearses allegations about seven-time winner Armstrong’s supposed use of performance-enhancing drugs. (Armstrong has never failed a drug test and has denied the allegations.)
     In his complaint, LeMond describes himself as a longtime advocate of drug-free cycling, and cites his own statement in which he called the 1998 doping scandal during the Tour de France “the best thing that’s happened in cycling,” as it would help clean up the sport.
     The first 15 pages of LeMond’s 35-page complaint summarize numerous books, magazine articles and comments in the public record that put Armstrong “under constant scrutiny regarding his own record with respect to the use of performance enhancing drugs.”
     LeMond cites a July 29, 2001 interview he gave the Sunday Times of London, which quoted him as saying: “When Lance won the prologue to the 1999 Tour, I was in tears. When I heard he was working with Michele Ferrari, I was devastated. If Lance is clean, it is the greatest comeback in the history of sports. If he isn’t it would be the greatest fraud.”
     LeMond says that “shortly after” this article was published he “received a phone call from Mr. Armstrong. In this call, Mr. Armstrong tacitly acknowledged his use of EPO and threatened to ‘find’ people who he could have come forward to implicate Mr. LeMond in the use of EPO unless Mr. LeMond retracted his statements. …
     “In the afternoon of Aug. 13, 2001, John Burke, Trek’s chief executive officer, in an apparent attempt to persuade Mr. LeMond to participate in efforts to appease Mr. Armstrong, said that if the situation was not taken care of, Mr. Armstrong would escalate the dispute and in graphic terms implied that Mr. Armstrong would financially harm Mr. LeMond.”
     LeMond claims that Trek began in 2004 trying to terminate its endorsement deal with him, after he gave an interview to Le Monde about a new book, “L.A. Confidentiel: Les Secrets de Lance Armstrong.”
     His complaint states: “Within days of the publication of the interview in Le Monde, Trek contacted LeMond’s attorney to complain about the interview. Trek claimed that it had received a large volume of emails expressing a negative reaction to the article. Upon information and belief, the actual volume of emails was significantly smaller than what was claimed. Also upon information and belief, a large percentage of these emails were drafted either by Trek or with Trek’s involvement.
     “Trek’s notification of a breach relied in part on the arguments: (1) that statements made by Mr. LeMond ‘harm the value of the LeMond name and trademark,’ which, in turn, supposedly harm Trek; (2) that Mr. LeMond made statements that constitute public accusations of doping by Mr. Armstrong; (3) that Mr. LeMond damaged Trek’s ‘Endorsement and Spokesperson Agreement’ with Mr. Armstrong; (4) that during the several weeks preceding the notice of a breach on Aug. 10, 2004, Trek received a large number of customer and dealer complaints concerning Mr. LeMond’s statements about Mr. Armstrong.”
     However, LeMond insists, “Neither Mr. LeMond nor LeMond Cycling have taken any action that damaged, or had an adverse upon Trek, Trek’s business, or Trek’s goodwill. … Trek’s sales of LeMond-related bicycles in the United States increased from Trek’s fiscal year 2001 to 2002 … and increased from Trek’s fiscal year 2003 to 2004. Trek has taken no legal action since 2004. Consequently, LeMond believes that Trek has waived any purported claim of breach.”
     LeMond seeks declaratory judgment that he has not breached his agreement with Trek, an injunction prohibiting Trek from terminating the agreement, “damages for the losses incurred based on Trek’s failure to exert best efforts and also the damage done to the LeMond brand,” and costs.
     He is represented by Christopher Madel with Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ceresi.
     Here is Courthouse News’ April 9 story on Trek’s lawsuit against LeMond.
     Trek Bicycles Wants Out
     Of Its Deal With Greg LeMond
     MADISON, WIS. (CN) – Despite getting $350,000 a year for use of his name, three-time Tour de France champ Greg LeMond violated a distributorship agreement with Trek Bicycles by buying high-priced machines at employee discount and selling them directly to customers, Trek claims in Federal Court. Trek also claims LeMond is harming its business and reputation by publicly denigrating another Trek bicyclist, Lance Armstrong.
     Trek says it has paid LeMond more than $5 million since 1995, and spent millions more to design, make and sell bicycles with the LeMond trademark. It claims it’s paid him $350,000 a year for use of his name, under a 10-year contract they signed in 1999. The contract gives Trek “exclusive right to sell and distribute LeMond Bicycles in the Territory in the Contract Period,” the complaint states.
     Notwithstanding his business acumen, Trek says, LeMond violated the contract by repeatedly buying expensive machines at a discount and reselling them himself.
     Trek says it found out about this on March 15, when one of two customers who had ordered LeMond Zurich bicycles from a dealer, at $2,800 apiece, “returned and informed Trek’s Dealer that he and the other customer were able to get LeMond-branded bicycles directly from Greg LeMond himself, at a price much lower than the retail price. The customer explained that since they were saving over 50% by buying from Greg LeMond instead of the from the Dealer, they ordered La Victories, a more expensive LeMond-branded bicycle – $5,279.99 suggested retail price

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