The New England Patriots had a bad experience with Bacardi, and now the team is complaining of a hangover.
The Patriots are suing Bacardi for breach of contract after the rum maker backed out of a deal that included plans for a 20,000-square-foot pavilion, to be called Casa Bacardi, on the grounds of Gillette Stadium.
In a complaint filed in Suffolk Superior Court this week, the team accused Bacardi of bad-faith negotiating and said it wasted time and money on what was supposed to be a 10-year, multimillion-dollar exclusive sponsorship agreement.
To boot, the Patriots said they probably won’t have time to secure another liquor sponsor before the season.
Bacardi has not yet submitted a response in court, but company spokeswoman Patricia M. Neal issued a brief statement, saying, “We firmly disagree with the claims in the complaint and will vigorously defend our company’s position.”
The Patriots declined to comment.
The two sides successfully signed a marketing agreement last July that included advertising at the stadium and on Patriots websites and broadcasts, along with tickets to home and away games during the 2013 season.
Last fall, the Patriots and Bacardi began negotiating a more extensive partnership, with the pavilion as the centerpiece. Drawings submitted to the Foxborough Planning Board show a freestanding, two-story structure with a 16,000-square-foot main level and a 4,000-square-foot mezzanine, complete with an industrial-size kitchen, three bars, and seating for 500 people.
The building was to be situated between the north end of the stadium, known for its lighthouse and the CBS Scene restaurant.
In a February e-mail to Edward Shirley, Bacardi’s chief executive at the time, Patriots president Jonathan Kraft described a vision of the pavilion as a year-round attraction and a trendsetter for the rest of the National Football League.
“I think Casa Bacardi will also ignite a new concept in football stadiums of ‘buildings within buildings’ to help really distinguish brands and give them a 365-day-a-year platform,” Kraft wrote.
According to court documents, the Pats hired architectural and engineering firms for the project and included Bacardi in multiple redesigns. Under the terms of a negotiation agreement, the Patriots also refrained from soliciting sponsorships by other spirits makers.
A formal marketing agreement was never signed, but the team said it felt confident a deal was imminent after a February meeting between executives.
Patriots ownership went so far as to begin delivering on other aspects of the proposed marketing agreement, running full-page Bacardi ads in its Patriots Football Weekly magazine and supplying the company with 612 tickets to Revolution soccer games. The Kraft family owns both the Patriots and the Revolution.
Everything was on track to begin construction in the spring and finish the pavilion by Sept. 1, in time for the football season, until Bacardi mysteriously went silent in early April, the Pats claim. According to the team’s complaint, Bacardi abruptly notified the Patriots on April 15 that it planned to walk away, saying that “internal turmoil” at the company had prompted a change of course.
In the days before the deal fell apart, both Shirley and Bacardi communications director Eric Kraus, who negotiated the agreement, left the company.Callum Borchers can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @callumborchers.