Oriental Morning Post, 6/03/11
Argentina's national football team manager Diego Armando Maradona has sued Shanghai-based online game developer and operator The9 (Nasdaq: NCTY) for unauthorized use of his likeness to promote its self-developed soccer social game, Winning Goal.
The9 announced in June 2010 that it had hired Maradona as celebrity spokesman for the game, but Maradona claims he never signed a contract.
In an official apology, The9 said that a sports agent named Lu Weiping facilitated contract negotiations between The9 and Maradona, and in May 2010, The9 gave Lu USD 250,000 in endorsement fees to pass along to Maradona. Maradona, however, claims he neither signed the contract nor received the money.
Lu says that he gave the money to Alejandro Mancuso, Argentina's 2010 World Cup assistant coach, and insists he can produce bank transfer receipts and recorded telephone conversations as evidence. Lu claims this means it likely that either Mancuso defrauded Maradona, or both coaches conspired to defraud Lu and The9, and that Lu plans to sue Mancuso in the Argentinian courts.
Editor's Note: For more information on this topic, please see "The9's Social Game Endorsed by Soccer Celebrity" MD 1/07/10 issue.