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World Skateboarding Federation, Inc. v. International Skateboarding Federation

United States District Court, E.D. California

March 24, 2017

WORLD SKATEBOARDING FEDERATION, INC., Plaintiff,
v.
IN ERNATIONAL SKATEBOARDING FEDERATION, and GARY REAM, Defendants.

          ORDER

         This case arises from a contract that the parties allegedly formed in Switzerland concerning the creation of a commission tasked with organizing and planning the skateboarding events for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo. Defendants International Skateboarding Federation (“ISF”) and Gary Ream move to dismiss the complaint brought by plaintiff World Skateboarding Federation, Inc. (“WSF”) for lack of jurisdiction. ECF No. 4. Plaintiff opposes. ECF No. 22. The court held a motion hearing on November 4, 2016, at which Karra Porter and Phillip Lowry appeared for plaintiff, and John Poulos and Richard Wickersham appeared for defendants. ECF No. 27. For the following reasons, the court GRANTS defendants' motion.

         I. FACTUAL ALLEGATIONS

         In and prior to 2006, the International Olympic Committee (“IOC”) began exploring the possibility of bringing skateboarding to the Olympics. Compl. ¶ 13. Years later, as the IOC actually considered including skateboarding in the 2020 Olympic Games, it invited “key stakeholders” into discussions, including plaintiff WSF and defendant ISF. Id. ¶ 17. WSF's principal and founder, Tim McFerran, is a luminary in the skateboarding industry, and has led efforts to expand competitive skateboarding across the world. Id. ¶¶ 25-47. By May 2015, of the key stakeholders WSF was the largest and most active federation for skateboarding. Id. ¶ 36. ISF, on the other hand, was formed by Ream in 2003, and the organization was largely inactive through the end of 2014. Id. ¶ 49. In 2009, Ream called McFerran and introduced himself as the President of ISF, id. ¶ 50; he told McFerran that his personal friend, Christophe Dubi was now the IOC Olympic Games Executive Director and was going to help Ream get skateboarding recognized in the 2012 Olympic Games, id. ¶¶ 50, 87. In the same conversation, Ream requested that McFerran pay Ream $200, 000 for ISF to sanction an international skateboarding event organized by McFerran. Id. ¶ 50. When McFerran refused to pay, Ream told McFerran he would ensure McFerran was not a part of the Olympic Games unless he agreed to pay the $200, 000 fee. Id.

         In 2014 and 2015, McFerran and Ream engaged in discussions separately with the IOC to bring skateboarding to the 2020 Olympic Games. See Id . ¶¶ 74-75. During this time, Ream and ISF held multiple meetings in California. In January 2015, in southern California, ISF held an invitation-only meeting with members of the skateboarding industry. Id. ¶ 53. At that meeting Ream bragged about his special relationship with IOC Executive Director Dubi, and suggested that Dubi was helping him make ISF the official organizer for skateboarding at the 2020 Olympic Games. Id. ¶ 93. In February 2015, in Los Angeles, the IOC attended a meeting with ISF board members that ISF described as an “emergency” meeting to discuss bringing skateboarding to the 2020 Olympic Games. Id. ¶ 75. In March 2015, again in Los Angeles, ISF held an additional invitation-only meeting, this time with associates of Ream. Id. ¶ 55.

         On March 11, 2015, in Switzerland, the IOC's Sports Director told ISF and WSF they would have to work together for skateboarding to be included on the 2020 Olympic Games program. Id. ¶¶ 17, 24, 76. The same month, in Turkey, an IOC representative reported that “were it not for McFerran, skateboarding would not be considered for the 2020 Olympic Games.” Id. ¶ 80. Around that time, Ream began falsely claiming to third parties that the IOC had selected ISF as the International Federation, meaning the sole organizer, for skateboarding in order to gain favor within the skateboarding industry. Id. ¶¶ 84, 89.

         On March 15, 2016, the IOC invited McFerran and Ream to a meeting in Switzerland, where WSF and ISF entered into an agreement to create a Tokyo 2020 Olympic Skateboarding Commission (“Commission”) for the purpose of organizing and planning the skateboarding events for the 2020 Olympic Games. Id. ¶ 106. The IOC appointed Ream as Chairman of the Commission, id. ¶ 107, told McFerran he was to be an active participant in the leadership, id. ¶ 116, and told Ream he would have to put the interests of the Commission above those of ISF, id. ¶ 107. One of McFerran's duties as a member of the Commission, a duty he was assigned by the IOC, was to develop a list of contests and qualifying events. Id. ¶ 116. The IOC also told McFerran it was a “good idea” for WSF to be the point organization for the Pan American Games and Commonwealth Games. Id. Relying on the agreement to create the Commission as well as the IOC's promises, McFerran continued to incur expenses, id. ¶ 113, and began negotiating and signing contracts with foreign governments regarding events that would be qualifiers for the 2020 Olympic Games, id. ¶ 117.

         On May 9, 2016, Ream and the IOC circulated a draft memorandum of understanding meant to memorialize the agreement WSF and ISF entered into on March 15, 2016. Id. ¶ 120. The draft did not identify WSF as a member of the Commission. Id.

         On May 12, 2016, the IOC told McFerran to meet the next day with Ream in Anaheim, California, where Ream was attending a skateboarding conference. Id. ¶ 121. It is unclear from the complaint whether McFerran attended this conference or met with Ream. What is clear from the complaint, however, is WSF's contention that Ream leveraged his personal relationship with IOC Executive Director Dubi to position ISF as the sole organizer of skateboarding events for the Olympic Games, to the detriment of WSF and McFerran. See ¶¶ 88-95. As a result, on May 30, 2016, the IOC held a meeting with ISF without inviting WSF, where the IOC and ISF agreed to a memorandum of understanding that excluded WSF from the Commission. Id. ¶¶ 126-28.

         II. PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         On July 28, 2016, WSF filed a complaint against ISF and Gary Ream in the Superior Court of California, Placer County, in which it pleads the following: (1) Breach of Contract (defendant ISF), id. ¶¶ 140-46; (2) Breach of the Implied Covenant of Good Faith and Fair Dealing (defendant ISF), id. ¶¶ 147-55; (3) Unfair Competition and Unfair Business Practices (all defendants), id. ¶¶ 156-64; (4) for declaratory relief, id. ¶¶ 165-68; (5) for an injunction, id. ¶¶ 169-75; and (6) breach of fiduciary duty (all defendants), id. ¶¶ 176-83.

         On August 29, 2016, WSF removed the case to this court. ECF No. 1. The next day, on August 30, defendants filed a motion to dismiss, alleging the court lacks jurisdiction. Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss (“Defs.' MTD”) at 5-8, ECF No. 4-1. WSF opposes, Pl.'s Opp'n, ECF No. 22, and defendants replied, ECF No. 24. For the following reasons, the court grants defendants' motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction.

         III. DISCUSSION

         Defendants argue they are not subject to the jurisdiction of this court because defendants and the alleged contract formed in Switzerland do not have the requisite contacts with California. Defs.' MTD at 5-8. Alternatively, defendants seek to join necessary parties, id. at 8-11; request that plaintiff file an amended complaint with a more definite statement, id. at 11-13; and/or provide an amended complaint that strikes immaterial, impertinent, and scandalous allegations, id. at 13-14. The court reaches only the threshold jurisdictional question at this juncture.

         Defendants argue WSF's claims must be dismissed because this court lacks general and specific personal jurisdiction. Defs.' MTD at 5-8. Plaintiff responds that the complaint, supplemented by McFerran's supporting declaration in opposition, sets forth sufficient contacts ...


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