Mike Wallace has filed suit against Germain Racing over the loss of his GEICO sponsorship in the Nationwide Series. Wallace is claiming that his deal with the insurance giant was pulled out from under him by the team and his business associate, Doug Barnette.
The three-year deal with Wallace was worth $6 million annually from GEICO directly to Wallace.
Wallace then moved the sponsorship to Germain Racing, where he had a two-year deal for the 2008-2009 seasons. For 2008 and 2009 with Germain, Wallace agreed to pay Germain Racing $4.7 million a year to field cars for him and $600,000 (10 percent of the GEICO contract) to Barnette, who runs the Player Management International sports agency and served as the business liaison between GEICO and Wallace. That left Wallace with an annual base salary of $700,000.
Wallace alleges that Germain Racing breached its contract by not providing him with a car in 2009, for violating an agreement that all communications with GEICO would be through Wallace and for soliciting GEICO for its Sprint Cup sponsorship of driver Max Papis. Wallace is suing Barnette for failing to work with him in retaining GEICO and moving the GEICO sponsorship to another driver. Wallace, who was eighth in the driver standings in 2008, seeks an unspecified amount in damages.
GEICO would not have been able to participate in the Nationwide Series next year anyway because the series title sponsor is GEICO's competitior. But GEICO this year began a limited sponsorship in the Cup Series with Max Papis.
Basically, it's getting ugly out there in the competition for the ever-dwindling supply of sponsors.
No word yet on whether there will be a custody battle for Lauren Wallace.
UPDATE: Statement from Germain Racing:
"Germain Racing is surprised and disappointed that Mike Wallace's attorney has made these allegations. We enjoyed our relationship with Mike and as recently as last week understood that the feelings were mutual. Germain Racing will aggressively and vigorously defend against these allegations."
Interesting insight into the driver/sponsor/car provider (owner) relationships that are currently going on in nascar.