By Tim Maloney European Editor
The St. Paul, Minnesota Pioneer Press newspaper reports that three-time Tour de France winner Greg LeMond is embroiled in a breach of contract lawsuit with New York mass market bike accessory manufacturer PTI Holding Inc. in a breach of contract suit in district court in St. Paul, Minnesota. 43 year old LeMond, who lives in nearby Medina, Minn., told a jury that "neither his stardom nor his marketing appeal has been eclipsed by Armstrong," in response to PTI Holding's claim that the lack of sales of LeMond-branded accessories was due to LeMond being eclipsed in the American public's mind by Lance Armstrong.
LeMond explained further that he believed his "LeMond" brand could become a household name "like Calvin Klein" in testimony Monday. However, PTI Holdings saw things differently and abruptly dumped the LeMond deal after only three years.
Trek Bicycles, which holds the rights to LeMond's bicycle brand, tried unsuccessfully to market a Greg LeMond line of accessories in the late 1990's, and then agreed to allow LeMond to peddle his name elsewhere for an accessories product line. LeMond's longtime agent Warren Gibson brought in a deal with PTI for the LeMond brand of accessories, in which leMond was to be paid a guaranteed minimum of $500,000 a year through the 10-year contract. Three months after the agreement was official, LeMond and PTI offered the budding brand to Target Corp. Target execs were game, but they really wanted PTI to make low-end Target bike products. PTI then gave Target the exclusive to sell LeMond bike products alongside budget target-branded equipment from PTI.
However, in court proceedings, LeMond admitted that the contract he agreed to did not call for any specific marketing efforts, including television, magazine or billboard advertising to promote his mass-market brand of bike accessories. After three years of the ten year deal, PTI was not satisfied with the sales volume, and emailed LeMond in March 2003 offering a $1.1 million payment to terminate the deal because of Lance Armstrong's "emergence as the dominant American cyclist." In early 2002, PTI had replaced the LeMond accessories on Target's shelves with Schwinn bike accessories licensed from Pacific Cycles, owner of the Schwinn brand.
"I wanted to keep my name going long past my cycling career," said LeMond of his rationale to agree to sell his brand in discount retailers like Target and Costco, when the LeMond brand had only been sold in high-end bicycle dealers since the 1980's. According to the St. Paul Pioneer Press, LeMond told the jury how "he had hoped his accessory line would fill retailers' shelves and bring in $30 million to $50 million in revenue" and also agreed he took a "calculated risk" when he agreed to put his name and face on a low-end mass market bike line of helmets, pedals and gloves. But when consumers looked at the LeMond product, they didn't seem to bite. "Basically, it was a huge price difference for the same product," said LeMond, explaining that consumers weren't fooled, according to the Pioneer Press report. In court, LeMond claimed that PTI didn't try to develop markets in Europe and Asia for his branded products, where he believed his line would have been a success.
LeMond told the St. Paul jury he hadn't been notified that his brand had been dropped until December 2002. PTI had also stopped making contracted payments to LeMond. LeMond's court battle with PTI Holding Inc. continues in St. Paul District Court with a jury trial expected to conclude sometime in February.