Marc Marquez Severs Ties To Valentino Rossi, Ends Merchandising Contract

The feud between Valentino Rossi and Marc Marquez shows no signs of abating. It emerged today that Marquez has severed a number of links which tied him to the Italian, including ending prematurely a contract for merchandise with Rossi's VR46 Racing Apparel company, and ending his lease of accommodation in the GP Rooms portable hotel run by the Nieto family.

The news, broken by Speedweek and confirmed to MotoMatters.com by sources with knowledge of the situation, is a reversal of reports from Valencia last year. Then, Spanish websites were reporting that Valentino Rossi had decided to terminate the contract, at the end of the second year of its three year term. Those reports were denied, but now it appears that it is Marquez who has decided he does not want Rossi's VR46 business selling his merchandise. Marquez' management and VR46 are currently in negotiations to terminate the contract, with the VR46 company wanting financial compensation for Marquez' decision to terminate the contract prematurely. Marquez will want the situation to be resolved quickly, and certainly before the first European round in Jerez, where he can expect to sell a large amount of merchandise to Spanish fans.

The reasons for Marquez wanting to end his association with the VR46 Racing Apparel are easy to guess. The aftermath of the Sepang situation has shaken Marquez' faith in the agreement, and the Spaniard does not now believe he can trust his dealings with Rossi. Though the VR46 Racing Apparel is an entirely separate company, which Rossi has little to do with directly, it is run by senior members of Valentino Rossi's official fan club. Marquez may fear that some of the emotions generated during the 2015 championship will spill over into the merchandising business and negatively affect it.

Marquez' management has engaged the services of the GP Racing Apparel company, run by the Gruppo Pritelli. The Italian company, based in Cattolica, near the Misano circuit, also handles merchandise for several other major MotoGP stars, including Jorge Lorenzo, Nicky Hayden, Andrea Dovizioso, Alex Rins, Andrea Iannone, and, in a mild irony, Rossi's late friend Marco Simoncelli. 

It is not just the merchandising business which is affected by the antipathy between Rossi and Marquez. As reported by the Spanish website Motocuatro.com, Marquez has also decided that he will no longer rent a room in the GP Rooms mobile hotels run by the Nieto family. The GP Rooms mobile hotels offer minimal space (little more than a bed and a closet) with the convenience of being located in the MotoGP paddock. Previously, that was all Marquez needed, as the Spaniard spent all of his time at the track with his team, either in the garage, or in the race truck. In this respect, Marquez is very different to nearly all other riders, who tend to spend most of their time in their motorhomes. Marquez has always needed to feel part of a team, and so spends all of his time with his mechanics and crew chief.

However, relations with the Nieto family have become extremely strained since Sepang. Pablo Nieto is team manager of the VR46 Sky Moto3 team, putting him firmly in the wrong camp, as far as Marquez is concerned. Thirteen-time world champion Angel Nieto had been very ambiguous in his judgment of the incident during the Sepang race in his capacity as TV expert with Telecinco, which had not gone down well with Marquez. But worst of all, Fonsi Nieto - personal friend of Valentino Rossi, with whom he spends time on the island of Ibiza during the summer, where Fonsi is a renowned DJ  - had taken sides very clearly with Rossi after Sepang, offering an interpretation of events which backed Rossi's version completely on Spanish TV. With both Marquez brothers using the GP Rooms mobile hotel, costing approximately €25,000 per rider for a season, Marc Marquez felt he did not want to spend his money with the Nieto family any longer.

Instead, the two Marquez brothers will share a motorhome at MotoGP events for the 2016 season. They are currently in the process of sourcing and having a motorhome prepared for the upcoming season. Though neither rider will spend much time in the motorhome, the advantage of having one is having a space where the riders can hold meetings with sponsors and others in private.

Why has Marquez been so vigorously severing business ties to everyone associated with Valentino Rossi? Clearly there is an issue of trust, especially with the VR46 Racing Apparel company, which is so closely associated with Rossi's official fan club. But there is also a matter of pride. Marquez was deeply hurt by the accusations made by Rossi during the Thursday press conference before Sepang, and the Italian has made the situation worse by keeping up a stream of accusations and insinuations ever since. He renewed his attacks at the Movistar Yamaha team launch in Barcelona, rubbing salt further into the wounds. As Marquez' reaction at Sepang demonstrated, the Spaniard does not respond well to what he regards as provocations, and his pride, and his ego, will not allow him to stay in business with people he believes are not on his side.

The continuing enmity does not bode well for peace being made between Rossi and Marquez any time soon. The two will run into each other at Sepang, for the first time since Valencia, and most likely, the pair will both be staying in the same hotel, sharing the breakfast room in the morning, the restaurant in the evening, as well as the gym. They may run across each other on track, an encounter which will be watched closely, and with much interest. Two more tests will follow, before they finally go head to head in earnest at the first race in Qatar. The atmosphere between the two will not be convivial, their former jocular demeanor gone. There are more likely to be fireworks than peace breaking out. Though Dorna will no doubt exploit the situation for maximum publicity value, it will remain a highly explosive situation. The media in both Italy and Spain are invested in trying to ignite the powder keg whenever possible, having both clearly taken sides in the dispute. 2016 has all the makings of a classic season, but it looks like it will also get very ugly from time to time. It will need careful management, but to be frank, nobody involved looks to be capable of providing that.

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Comments

There were/are people out there who thought this would be resolved by the start of the new season!
This article (Thank you David for putting it in plain English!) tells us that forgiveness is still a long way away -- from both sides!

As well as being racers, both protagonists are also intelligent businessmen, and this is a logical progression ----
---- rather sad, but logical!

Total votes: 160

Vale had better stack on some speed if he is gonna be able to handle his end of the battle as its pretty obvious who has the outright speed advantage most of the time....

Total votes: 206

I consider myself as a Rossi fan, but I agree with your assessment. Rossi is in the twilight of the Motogp career and obviously not at the same pace as Marquez even though he has experience to partially compensate for it.

However this is not a battle he is likely to win.He is very likely to come up second best and tarnish his reputation...worse yet he could unwittingly become the pantomime villain and enhance Marquez's stardom.

This has all the hallmarks of Rossi-Biaggi rivalry with the role reversed for Rossi.

Total votes: 226

Well achieving 2nd in the last two seasons I would not call it "tarnish his reputation". If on the other hand you mean the feud between VR and MM as a popularity contest we all know who finished "second worst". Seriously: the severance of the contract was in the air since Sepang. It's interesting to note that VR company just secured a 3 year contract with Yamaha, this will largely compensate for the losses of MM merchandise. Ironically the company handling until now Yamaha is the same one that took in MM.
I don't think VR will come out as the villain of the story. But I think that his main concern is to find out if he can still be competitive and have fun. If he realises that he cannot do it he will retire this season. On the other hand MM being in his prime and after the disaster of last season needs to prove that he is alpha male of the paddock and my guess is that he'll overdo it again with whomever dares contending his primacy. He might well end up being the villain.

Total votes: 201

It seems to me that HRC may need to find some speed, rather than Vale, especially if post season testing is anything to go by.

Total votes: 173

... first you have to finish.

Rossi finished ahead of Marquez in the championship last year.

I don't think its "obvious who has the outright speed advantage" at all.

Rossi needs to qualify better. That's it.

Marc needs to learn to finish off the podium if required rather than bin or win.

Total votes: 125

Makes sense. There's no doubt that VR is making money off of every piece of MM93 merchandise that the fools on the hill are silly enough to pay the ridiculously over-inflated prices for. With VR still trash talking him months later, imagine how it would grate on MM's nerves to know that every fan out there is further lining the pockets of his bitterest enemy. It was probably only announced now because it's taken this long to put in place, logistically and legally.

Only thing I wonder is... taking his business to someone based in Cattolica, less than 10km from Tavulia... are their loyalties going to be any different??

Total votes: 177

Anybody who underestimates Rossi's ability to fold his business interests and his racing interests into a mix of a very rich cake is being incredibly naive and highly disrespectful of a man with more than enough intelligence to keep all the balls in the air at the same time. Let's be serious - you don't get hit with a $35m tax bill unless you've made rather a lot more than that!

All of Rossi's 'sworn enemies', have been riders with the cachet and persona to be played on to be classic ''villians" to Rossi's hero. All those yellow flags, caps, t-shirts in the stands - they are tokens of support for Rossi in the 'great contest' - and all paid for to Rossi Enterprises...

Of course, Rossi would not BE the hero unless he were as good as he is, continually able to keep his hero status alive in the hearts of the faithful - even though the Ducati years dented that appreciably. His resurgence at Yamaha subsequently has restored his status, and there is NOTHING more sure - even than Death and Taxes - that 2016 will be a bumper year for yellow-coloured fan trinkets. The loss of the MM franchise will dent that, but most certainly not negate it. And I am sure that Rossi Enterprises No. 1 asset will not disappoint.

When Rossi retires, his total income (salary plus rider endorsement fees plus business income) will plummet: there will be no sea of yellow around every track, since there will be no captain of that particular ship. I doubt that we will see Rossi reduced to doing super-fast Pizza deliveries from the Tuvallia Take-Away to keep body and soul alive, but I suspect that even he will somewhat miss the business reports.... being better in every undertaking - on or off track - is a satisfaction in itself for those of a super-competitive nature.

Enmity between top riders is one of THE never-ending stories: for non-business-related sagas, you should read: http://www.superbikeplanet.com/2012/Jul/120725eyetoete.htm

Of all of Rossi's 'sworn enemies', probably the only one for whom the story started and ended on the track - i.e. 'performance', was Stoner. With Biaggi, it was 'popularity', with Lorenzo, it is 'respect for achievement'. With Marquez, I believe it is BOTH 'respect' and 'popularity': with Stoner's retirement, Marquez was being measured up for the crown as both the best rider AND the 'charismatic and loveable' WC: reincarnation of Rossi, circa 2005.

I mean no disrespect to Rossi here, but I doubt he would understand that for Stoner, the look of adoration in his daughter's eyes just because he is her father could be more important than a WC and money. By comparison, Marquez is young, hungry, fearless, entertaining, charismatic and completely ruthless - and Rossi has been able to see, by the growth of the MM93 displays, that Marquez's business side could well take over, in time.

Every Yellow#46 cap that Rossi Enterprises sells, is money in Rossi's pocket, less business expenses. Every MM#93 cap that Rossi Enterprises sold, would have had a royalty to MM reducing the profit margin.

Ideally for Rossi Enterprises, he'd have continued with the totality of the Yellow#46 profits and a decent slice of the MM#93 profits. But the Yellow#46 sales has a very definite use-by date - and that could be this year. Rossi is the Grand Old Man of motoGP - and none grander, emotionally, even if the statistics show a slightly different story. Since the start of 2007 and in head-to-head competition with Stoner, Lorenzo and Marquez, all three of those have won at least an equal number of WC's as Rossi, (Lorenzo, one more) and all three have won more races.

By any racing measure, Rossi since the start of 2007 has been the fourth most successful of five aliens - Pedrosa being the fifth. However, I will bet the farm that at the end of each year, Rossi has been the one to have the last laugh on them all in terms of his retirement funds...

Lest this be construed as a slight on Rossi: I believe that being financially very, very successful is a huge positive for the image of motorcyclists. Mick Doohan has done pretty well since his retirement from racing; few others have managed a lot more than a modest lifestyle. Just because you can ride a motorcycle faster than all but a nano-particle width percentage of the population, doesn't have to mean that you are intellectually hampered - Rossi proves that.

I postulate that this whole 'thing' with Marquez could well prove to be one of the most business-savvy moves that we've ever seen from a top rider extending his earnings capacity out to the last breath. I would very much hope that it will not be crippling for Rossi's 'legend'.

Let's not muck around here: Rossi has proven himself to be the dirtiest fighter at every level of the sport we have ever seen - but equally, he has done things at times that the angels of motorcycle racing would not have attempted. At a minimum, the scales of justice are evenly balanced - and Rossi can sail off into the sunset at the end of his motoGp career knowing that absolutely nobody - including DORNA - has managed to extract the sort of fortune he has accomplished.

Total votes: 197

It's not surprising, and it makes business sense. Why fund an enemy? Why trust an enemy with your merchandise?

I'm sure this is all good for ratings - the potential for a carbon-grinding knife fight at every race is probably being written into Dorna's securities Indenture right now - and these things are part of racing, but a small, naive part of me wishes everybody could just get along!

Most important, though, is that the "fans", by which I mean, partisan thugs, stay out of it. A rivalry and ratings bump is good for the sport. Booing, harassment, pranks, and gang threats by "fans" are not.

Total votes: 165

For all of this, the fans have been the biggest disappointment. The stuff I saw happening to riders like Ant West on FB, being asked to let VR through and not race him, and the abuse when he declined, or the sheer vitriolic hatred being spewed against both sides of main event. It's disgusting.

Total votes: 206

"Vale had better stack on some speed if he is gonna be able to handle his end of the battle as its pretty obvious who has the outright speed advantage most of the time...."

That is what I´m hoping for and I´m pretty sure he is motivated like hell as soon as he sees MM93´s lap times.
Not compareable with Biaggi.
And never forget what happened to Biaggi on the way to the podium once:)
I can´t wait for the first race.
Don´t forget what a nasty fighter sits behind that clown mask of VR46.
I´m sure he will raise his level one more time to face the breeze of MM93.

Total votes: 183

I wonder how long Marc's relationship will stay cordial with his brother. It seems to me that it will last just as long as his brother is not seen as a threat.
Megalomania seems to be part and parcel of top level racing.
It'll also be very interesting to see how long MM stays calm if the HRC is as bad (or even worse) in comparison with the opposition,as last year. Even with a redesign, there is no guarantee that the next iteration will be any closer to the Yams and Ducs than it was at the beginning of the 2015 season.
David, Am I right in thinking that the current rules don't allow in-season engine development? I may be thinking of another class, but if that is so, it puts even greater emphasis on starting the season with a complete package.

Total votes: 172

doesn't seen to be developing into threat. He's had all the good breaks of #93 but not the results.

As far as the 46/93 feud, so long as it stays relatively clean on the track, all the postulating matters not a jot. Others have said that 46 has pulled some dirty moves but I think 93 is the more dangerous of the two and could cause injury to one or both. Yes, Rossi has made some questionable moves, but Marquez's questionable moves seem far more reckless.

Total votes: 210

Marquez's questionable moves seem more reckless, Rossi's more deliberate.

Total votes: 125

Laughed at the last line of this article

"It will need careful management, but to be frank, nobody involved looks to be capable of providing that."

I'm sure Jarvis, Ezpeleta and Nakamoto would disagree with you David but I think Sepang proved just how inept they are at managing their superstar riders. Should've been nipped in the bud before everything got ugly on track.

2016 looks to be as acrimonious as the Rainey v Schwantz era!

Total votes: 171

I saw an article on Soup the other day which was interesting:

http://www.superbikeplanet.com/2016/Jan/160106webbfired.htm

Valentino representing (at the time) 30% of the total business side of MotoGP (when there are nearly 90 riders across the top three classes to spread it amongst) is nothing short of eye-popping, and you can see why Marc would want to step out from that - firstly because of the aggro from the end of last year but also from a business side if he's going to be the prime cash cow in a couple of years when Valentino retires.

It does also beg the question as to why a company marketing a championship would allow things to become so lopsided financially - putting that amount of your eggs in one basket in a dangerous sport where things can change in a split second is a risky business. As is often discussed, does MotoGP take a massive hit when Valentino retires?

Total votes: 176

I'd speculate that Dorna have allowed this because, through Valentino, the value of the business is several times greater than it was beforehand. Better to have a small piece of a huge pie than all of a small one. Better for the future problem to be that of continuing a hugely successful enterprise than to be struggling to get an audience.

Total votes: 163

As a Rossi fan lets hope the 2016 season will be a classic season to be reminded as one of the best.

If 46 can't find the speed to be competitive and WC, i can tell you he will do anything in his power to prevent MM to become WC.

Let the show begin :-))

Total votes: 165

imagine if marquez wanted to ride for yamaha.
would yamaha set aside rossi or lorenzo?
thatd be a headache and alot of fun for us
could also be the last laugh for marquez.
never gonna happen i know.

Total votes: 161

There doesn't seem to be much motivation for managing this conflict.

Total votes: 171

Why is this being permitted at press conferences? I thought they were supposed to be about news, not history. Sure, some of the 'hangover' is relevant, but these events should really be looking forwards, not backwards. Dorna cannot change what is in their heads, but they (and the team management) should be working to keep it down to competition, nothing else. If the managers (e.g. MM's and VR's) cannot be sensible themselves then Dorna should sanction them. A lot was said at the time about how it shouldn't have been allowed to escalate and now this...
Wind this up enough and some crazy 'fan' will do something tragic. The fact that MM's fans say they will stay away from the Italian tracks this year just shows how dumb it is.

Total votes: 145

What people expect now from Marc Marquez, his actions at the end of last season were unprecedented. Picking a fight with the biggest name in the sport was not a good move and despite what must have been serious discussions behind the scenes at Sepang prior to the race he still did what he did.

None of this is surprising and I'm sure it will continue for as long as the two of them are in the sport, only there will be just one winner in the court of public opinion and someone should be consistently drilling it into Marc's head that he will never win this one, back off and stay right out of trouble is what most sensible riders would do, but this is Marquez

Total votes: 167

I'd hardly call repeating his opinion and belief an attack. It's what he believes and he was asked. If Valentino Rossi isn't asked about it, and starts chunking things over the fence, that would be an attack.

Lawson and Gardner hated each other. Schwantz and Rainey hated each other. Doohan hated everyone. Elite riders usually don't like each other so this is nothing new. Everyone has frail sensibilities these days and journalists still sensationalize and escalate things to sell hits or 'zines.

Handbags......

Total votes: 149

Why the questioning?
Vale is one of the best if not the best riders in our history.
The incident at Sepang was always going to happen.
Now we are all speaking business etc.. but, Vale has reached a level that Mick Doohan, Wayne Rainey, Swantz, Lawson etc never reached. His social media etc is why he is the premier rider. To make a competition between Marc and Vale is not only in the interest of MotoGp, but also a potential of passing Vale's torch to a new generation.... unfortunately, Fenati has not been so quick and Marco has passed away, so we must pass it to a Spaniard...
Bring own 2016. I think that we will see a very amazing season and Vale cannot be that bad a business man! I am sure when his riding is finished we will be privileged to see a team that has all of his energy and passion. We will be seeing the new Kenny Roberts of the modern era.

Total votes: 151

I didn't see in any comments of Pedrosa. I don't think MM did Dani any favors last year so an on form Pedrosa has no favors to return in 2016. I say MM is a rider truly on his own this year. Yes he is HRC's favorite son but if Dani is on form and focused this year who will be Honda's priority.

Total votes: 138

Moved up from 250 strokers in 2006(won the 04/05 WC) & I've been telling anyone who will listen that Dani Pedrosa is "the real deal". Ten years of being wrong, but still believing DP26 can win the WC. I'd think no less of him if he did not win the WC.
Here I go again, all things being equal, Pedrosa has a shot at the title in 2016.

Total votes: 125