Developing: Trek World Racing Wants Aaron Gwin Back, Whiteley May Pursue Legal Action
This story is developing. We don't have all the facts. We don't speak legal jargon. We're simply providing you with the latest on the situation as it comes to us. Hang tight. This looks like it might be a bumpy ride...
January 12 - "For me, this issue is over" states Whiteley in an interview.
"For me, this issue is over. Aaron is racing for Specialized, there will be no legal barriers to that, and I will focus on getting my team ready so hopefully we can all be trackside in less than five months in Fort William, enjoying what we all love, clearly with emotion, and that’s DH racing." - Martin Whiteley (via Pinkbike)
Could this be a sincere closure to the situation? We'll have to wait and see. Martin has certainly been busy signing on a few new riders prior to the UCI team filing deadline... You can read the full interview here.
January 9 - Gwin publishes a letter saying that he didn't break any contract.
"I'm writing this public note to hopefully shed a little light on what's actually going on with my move to Specialized.
Reports that I broke my contract with 23 Degrees/Trek World Racing are false. My contract expired. The one-page letter of intent I signed said there would be a “full length contract” with “precise terms” coming in the future. The 16-page contract that showed up in late November was not signed by me because it was not the deal we had made. I have moved on to a team that gave me the contract I wanted, and these are the facts.
The press reports are inaccurate, unfair, and one-sided. Because 23 Degrees has hired lawyers and threatened to sue me, my lawyers have told me not to say anything for now.
While riding for Trek, I lived up to my contract and gave them my 100% effort and full commitment. I intend on doing the same for Specialized.
As for now, I want to let my fans know that my offseason training has been going great. I love my new bikes and I'm more excited to race this year than I ever have been. Big thanks to the Specialized family for such an amazing opportunity and support.
I hope everyone understands that I cannot talk any further about this at this time, but I felt like I needed to clear the air a bit, without getting too much into the legal stuff.
Thanks to all the fans who have stood behind me." -- AG
January 8 - Aaron Gwin tweeted that there's more to the story.
"Proud to announce that I will be riding for Specialized moving forward. There's much more to the story than what's been shared and i'm looking forward to setting that straight very soon. Thanks to my team and fans who've had my back in this time."
Watch this space...
January 7 - Trek World Racing and Martin Whiteley issue a press release.
Within hours of receiving Specialized's press releasing stating that Aaron Gwin is joining the 2013 Specialized Downhill Program alongside Troy Brosnan and Mitch Ropelato, we received the following statement from Martin Whiteley, Aaron Gwin's former(?) team manager at Trek World Racing (TWR), indicating that Gwin left TWR after signing a "legally binding Letter Of Intent." For those that aren't familiar, a Letter Of Intent is typically an informal document that sets forth the preliminary understanding of the parties (in this case, something essentially stating "Yes, I intend to ride for TWR in 2013"), the terms of which are to be subsequently set forth in another agreement. In other words, a Letter Of Intent is not a rider contract in the traditional sense.
via 23 Degrees Sport Management - January 7, 2013
The last several weeks have been a very difficult period for our company as owners of the Trek World Racing program. Despite the fact that on August 9 of last year, Aaron Gwin signed a legally binding Letter Of Intent with our team for the next three seasons, his agent wrote an email to the team in mid-December stating he had decided to race for another bike brand. Mr Gwin confirmed his agreement with our team in public statements, and he and his agent repeatedly confirmed the existence of, and commitment to, the agreement in written correspondence with us. Yet, only weeks before the team was required to submit the official team roster to UCI, Mr Gwin informed the team that he was abandoning TWR in total disregard of his contractual obligations.
The team reached out on several occasions in December in order to try and remedy whatever concerns Mr Gwin had, but these were ignored until the team received a letter from his Attorneys on December 27 stating he would not ride for our team. In the interests of the team and our sponsors, we are actively pursuing all options open to us at this point, including legal action.
Team Director Martin Whiteley says: "This has not been an easy time for us. In the bigger picture however I find positivity in the fact that the Trek World Racing program will continue regardless of the outcome of this dispute, as no single rider is bigger than the team as a whole. Every rider who has been on our Downhill program has had the best years of their career with us, and we will continue to bring on talented riders. The team has a history of helping riders win who had not previously won, including Aaron Gwin. It’s our intention to continue that type of record with new talent. I would personally like to acknowledge the complete support and loyalty we’ve received from our title sponsor Trek Bikes who have been unwavering in their commitment to the program since this news broke. In the interests of the fans, we hope this matter will be resolved sooner rather than later."
We've got to admit, it was a bit odd to see Gwin switching teams following an August 13 press release saying he would remain with TWR for three more years. From a contractual and legal point of view, the parties may still feel that there are issues of breach and/or compensation to work out, whether or not that leads to any kind of settlement or legal action remains to be seen. Also keep in mind that Trek and TWR are separate entities.
Where does the fastest man in the world belong according to the lawyers? Right now, only time will tell. Let's just hope that all this confusion won't distract Gwin from staying focused on his training during the off season. Aside from his incredible ginger powers, it seems to be a big key to his success.