Porte’s Contract Poker

Featuring an interview with Richie Porte, the great Real Peloton podcast touched on a curious story that’s worth a peek.

Not so rich now Richie

Richie Porte has a standard neo-pro two year contract with Bjarne Riis that ends after the 2011 season. Only with the stellar season he’s had, he got dollar-signs in his eyes. Riis recognised this and was ready to offer the Tasmanian talent a juicy €150,000 bonus.

Yet perhaps this wasn’t enough because at the same time Porte’s agent Andrew McQuaid was shopping the rider around to other teams. Team Sky were particularly interested and ready to offer a lot of money. Both Porte and his agent seem to have been overly-excited by the new money, as if forgetting that Porte had a deal with Riis.

Mr Poker Face

Eventually the Danish enigma put his foot down and told Porte he wasn’t going anywhere. “He has a contract. He’s not leaving. It’s as simple as that… …Richie’s manager is trying to provoke us, he’s trying to trap us” said Riis, bemoaning the agent’s attempts to drive a wedge between the rider and his current team, a practice known as “tampering” in the US. It turns out that as well as enforcing the contract, a vengeful Riis ripped up the bonus.

Loss Aversion
The outcome of all this is that Porte is back to his neo-pro salary of about €50,000. Riis once stood ready to offer Porte a pot of gold. But the 300% pay rise dangled in front of his nose is gone thanks to bungled negotiations.

You can imagine an inexperienced neo-pro making mistakes especially when dealing with the ice-cool Riis. But that’s why a rider employs an agent, no?

13 thoughts on “Porte’s Contract Poker”

  1. depends who's advised (if at all) him to sign with this agent, who effectively (according to this report) blew hot sunshine up his arse)…

    either way, its a hard lesson.
    Wonder if his agent appointed contract has a clause of termination for "non performance" ….

    in 2009 – when Porte was searching for a pro team, i asked Scott Sunderland why (RP) was not being signed (by Sky) the response was "the teams ratio AUS/GB was too high" effectively, Scott's hands were tied….


  2. Anonymous: yes, it amounts to three years of pay disappearing. Given a water-tight contract I would have suggested negotiation and consent as a way to making progress, not behind-the-scenes plots to enrage Riis. But that's with some distance, those involved made different calculations. Which failed.

    FP: seems Porte was touted round a few teams as a prospect but it was O'Grady who convinced Riis.

    One amusing aspect is the willingness of some people involved to recount the whole tale, including the sums involved.

  3. He was happy to sign the original contract but a sniff of success and he wants out from a successful team to ??? Surely it's better to build on his success with a high profile team than to chase $ and sign with a team who may not get results

  4. McQuaid handled that badly.Riis has a very talented young rider. Let's hope Richie can still enjoy riding in 2011. Wonder what would have been MQuaid's"cut"? Do yourself a favour Richie and sack the bugger.

  5. Anonymous I: a sniff of success bought a big bonus from Riis but like I say, the prospect of even more money seems to have let people get carried away.

    Anonymous II: really? I haven't read it yet. But again it's a reminder that this story is getting aired to a lot of people.

    Anonymous III: an agent usually takes 10%. I suspect it'll be a valuable lesson for all involved, although a shame the great rides by Porte don't get rewarded because of an advisory cock-up.

  6. I wonder (possible blog idea for you!) what number/proportion of pro riders are making over, say, $100,000 per year? (about ~16% of USA households). And compare that to some other sports getting comparable broadcast time and sponsor investment.

    I have no idea how their salaries stack up.

  7. TdF LRB: It's hard to know salary data as often it is not published. Plus you have the actual salary, then win bonuses and other equivalents. On top of these come endorsements from third parties.

    But pay is a "winner takes all" environment, where the top player in a team can take home much more than others. I suspect the top-10 best paid riders take home more than the next 90 riders together.

    Anonymous: I don't think it's genetic. It's a situation where everyone involved doesn't come out looking good, neither Riis, Porte or Andrew McQuaid.

    It'd be good to know more context, how Porte felt about Contador, what was said about the sponsorship situation and if anyone on the team knew about Contador's woes.

  8. Piss Poor on all parts. I think Riis has had enough of riders trampling all over his dream. Porte may just be the scape goat of the rest of the team taking up house with the neighbors, AKA Shleck INC.

  9. Anonymous: I'm sure he's a target for Green Edge but a succesful season in 2011 could see offers from several teams, whether Sky, Rabo or others.

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