Belgian former world champion Philippe Gilbert must return €300,000 (£257,000) to the Omega Pharma-Lotto team, says a court this week in Ghent, Belgium.
The team paid Gilbert €715,000 (£613,000) in bonuses from the 2011 season assuming that he would race with the team in 2012. He signed with BMC Racing for that year, though.
“The court in Ghent ruled that Gilbert committed breach of contract when he signed with BMC Racing in 2012,” reported Belgian newspaper Het Nieuwsblad.
The 2012 world champion rode the last five years with BMC Racing. In 2017, he will race with team Quick-Step.
In 2011, he enjoyed his best season to date. He won all three Ardennes Classics and took the yellow jersey with the first stage victory in the Tour de France.
The season also included victories in De Brabantse Pijl, the Tour of Belgium, the Ster ZLM Tour, the Belgian Championships, the Clásica San Sebastián and the GP Quebec.
Marc Coucke’s management company (BCC) had to pay out bonuses of €715,000 on top of Gilbert’s €1.2 million (£1.03m) salary. The Ghent Labour Court, however, has said that Gilbert had to pay the money back – at least part of it.
The legal dispute continued for four years after Gilbert left the team in 2012.
Gilbert renewed his contract in March 2010 with Coucke and his BCC management company, signing on for 2011 with an option for 2012.
After his 2011 season, though, he had many lucrative offers. Quick-Step team manager Patrick Lefevere then offered him €3 million, reported Het Nieuwsblad. Gilbert signed with American/Swiss team BMC.
Coucke initially refused to pay the bonuses with Gilbert then taking his company to the UCI’s arbitration board and later the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).
He won because when the management sent updated documents to the court, it forgot to include the crucial pages with Gilbert’s 2012 option.
Coucke turned to the Ghent Labour Court to examine it. The article reported that judge ruled that Gilbert committed breach of contract in 2011, but because of the uncertainty for 2012, he does not have to return the entire sum.
It is unclear where the money will go as Coucke sold his pharmaceutical company Omega Pharma to Perrigo Company for €3.6 billion (£3.09b) in March 2015.
Gilbert also still has the option of appealing the court’s decision.