Northug’s legal problems worsen

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Norwegian skier Petter Northug, still facing prosecution for his drunk-driving spree last spring, now may need to spend even more time in court. His former management company is suing him for compensation after he pulled out of the three-year contract he signed with it last year.

Skier Petter Northug went his own way this season, but it hasn't been successful. Now he's dropping out of competition at Holmenkollen this weekend, after failing to win any Olympic medals and lagging in the World Cup. PHOTO: Coop Norge

Skier Petter Northug has hung on to Coop as his main sponsor after his arrest for drunk driving, but faces lots of other problems in the run-up to the new ski season. PHOTO: Coop Norge

Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported Monday that the company, called Nye Høyder (New Heights), claims it has suffered losses as a result of what its officials claim was an unwarranted cancellation of their contract with Northug. The contract was renewed just last year and was supposed to run until 2016.

Northug, though, got in trouble with the law when he was arrested and charged in a serious drunk driving offense in Trondheim in early May.  On May 15, it was reported that Northug’s main sponsor, grocery store chain Coop, demanded he stop working with Nye Høyder. Northug confirmed that he also wanted to end his cooperation with the firm.

Lars Christian Engen of Nye Høyder confirmed in mid-August that its work with Northug had indeed ended. Now the company, which handled Northug’s personal management, confirms it has sued Petter Northug in the Sør-Trøndelag local court. The company’s attorney, Morten Brandhaug, claimed it is demanding compensation from Northug for lost income.

Unless the claim is settled out of court, it’s likely to come up right in the middle of the winter skiing season, when Northug normally is out traveling and competing. A local judge said that 80 percent of such compensation claims are settled through mediation, but even that isn’t likely to be scheduled for another three to four months, also right in the middle of the ski season.

Prison term pending
The lawsuit against Northug comes on top of the trial and expected jail term Northug must face for driving with an extremely high blood alcohol level and crashing the expensive car that another sponsor, Audi, had let him use. Northug also lost Audi as a sponsor. A state prosecutor presented Northug with a six-count indictment last week, and Northug has pleaded guilty to all six counts.

Neither Northug nor his attorney, Marius Egeberg, would comment on Nye Høyder’s new claim against Northug. NRK’s Nordic skiing commentator Jann Post said it will be critical for Northug to resolve the legal claims against him as soon as possible, if he’s to hope for a good skiing season.

“No matter how good you are in trying to forget everything else happening around you, this will affect him,” said Post. “There’s a limit to what a man can tolerate.”

Northug alone is responsible for the trouble in which he’s landed, though. He also needs to agree on a new representation agreement with Norway’s national ski federation, if he’s to be allowed to represent Norway in the World Cup and the World Championships this year.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund