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Gilbert has to pay back 300,000 euros in bonuses from 2011

Photo: Tim De Waele/TDW Sport

PHILIPPE GILBERT

RIDER PROFILE
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NEWS
19.11.2016 @ 16:12 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Philippe Gilbert has to pay back 300,000 euros in bonuses to a former company of Marc Coucke – money the rider earned in 2011 while riding for Omega Pharma-Lotto. According to Het Nieuwsblad, The court in Ghent ruled that Gilbert committed a breach of contract when he signed with BMC in 2012.

 

2011 was a fantastic year for Philippe Gilbert. Riding for Omega Pharma-Lotto, he won the four major Ardennes races: Brabantse Pijl, Amstel Gold Race, Fleche Wallonne and Liege-Bastogne-Liege. On top of an annual salary of 1.2 million euros, he earned 715,000 euros in bonuses.

 

The Ghent Labour Court has now ruled that Gilbert must repay 300,000 euros to the Belgian Cycling Company (BCC), the structure that Marc Coucke set up to manage the cycling team. Earlier two Swiss courts came to a different conclusion.

 

The dispute between Gilbert and Coucke lasted for more than four years and is about a contract that both parties signed at the end of March 2010. Gilbert then extended his contract with the Lotto team for 2011, with an option for 2012. After the four great victories in the spring, Gilbert announced that he no longer wanted to take that possibility because he suddenly had much more lucrative proposals. Patrick Lefevere offered three million euros a year, but eventually Gilbert chose the American BMC team.

 

Coucke and the Lotto team regarded it as a breach of contract and refused to pay the planned 715,000 euros in bonuses. A legal battle between rider and team followed, first at the arbitration board of the UCI and later at CAS spoke. Both ruled in favour of Gilbert. Gilbert’s lawyers played it safe. As the rider in the moved from Belgium to Monaco during 2011, Omega Pharma-Lotto sent a new version of the contract to the UCI in 2011, with the only adjustment being the changed address. The cycling team forgot to add the crucial addendum with the option for 2012, which, according to Gilbert and the Swiss courts, was canceled immediately.

 

"A Swiss joke," says Walter Van Steenbrugge, the lawyer representing the Belgian Cycling Company and Marc Coucke. He made the case again before the Ghent Labour Court and now won his battle. The judge believes that Gilbert actually committed breach of contract in 2011. Because of the legal uncertainty about the validity of the option for 2012, he will pay no direct compensation. However, the judge said that Omega Pharma-Lotto paid the 715,000 euros in bonuses in the belief that Gilbert would be with their team in 2012. Gilbert does not have to repay the full amount, only 300,000 euros which according to the judge is a "fair compensation".

 

It is unlikely that the money goes directly to Marc Coucke. Gilbert can still appeal to the Labour Court. Moreover, following the sale of Omega Pharma, the Belgian Cycling Company was taken over by the American Perrigo.

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