SALT LAKE CITY — A Salt Lake City businessman is seeking more than $16 million in damages in a lawsuit against Utah PGA golfer Tony Finau, along with two members of his family and others associated with him, claiming he was never reimbursed for financial assistance he provided the family as Finau rose to the premier level of the golf world.
The lawsuit — filed by Molonai Hola in 3rd District Court Sept. 14 — has generated headlines in the golfing community since the Deseret News first reported it Friday. It lists Tony Finau, his brother Gipper, his father Gary, his manager Chris Armstrong and Armstrong’s employer, Wasserman Media Group, as defendants.
Hola alleges in the lawsuit that he helped market and develop Tony and Gipper as golfers for years after he first met the family around 1997. That included agreements to help the Finau family pay for tournaments, such as the Doral Junior Golf Classic.
It also alleges that Tony and Gipper’s parents met with Hola in 2006, where Hola claims he agreed to help pay for golf tournaments, travel and equipment because the Finau family was "struggling financially and could not afford the several expenses" associated with their budding careers.
There, Hola said he wrote a $4,000 check to help the family out. He claims in the lawsuit to have eventually paid nearly $600,000 for various golf and other expenses over a span of several years, including assisting in home mortgage and car payments.
"In exchange for Mr. Hola’s investment of money, services and resources to the Finau family, it was agreed and understood by the parties that Mr. Hola would eventually be reimbursed for his out-of-pocket expenses, and also that the Finau family would pay Mr. Hola twenty percent (20%) of Tony’s and/or Gipper’s earnings throughout their careers,” Hola alleges in the lawsuit.
The lawsuit adds that it was never specified when the Finau family would reimburse or compensate Hola for the investment money.
Both Tony and Gipper Finau turned pro in 2007. Hola alleges he helped create a family corporation at that time, which was meant to help market, promote and manage the brothers; he also served as the agent at the time.
While Gipper Finau never reached the PGA, Tony Finau earned his PGA card in 2014. Since then, he’s won one tournament and racked up nearly $20 million in career earnings from 165 events played, according to PGA statistics. He’s currently tied for 17th among all PGA golfers in winnings this year. The lawsuit estimated his total earnings close to $90 million.
In the document, Hola claims he reached out to Tony Finau earlier this year about the financial agreement with the family. Hola stated Finau initially responded and acknowledged the previous agreement and stated he would send Hola money. Then, Hola was told he would be put in contact with Armstrong of the California-based Wasserman Media Group.
The Finau family later stopped responding to calls and texts, Hola claims in the lawsuit.
The lawsuit states that Hola is seeking $592,371.37 as repayment for money he said he had given the Finau family over a span of several years and $16 million as a base payment, which represents 20% of Tony and Gipper Finau’s career earnings as of September.
Court records do not list legal representatives for the Finau family, Armstrong or the Wasserman Media Group. Documents show that Armstrong was served the lawsuit last week. He told the Deseret News they were withholding comment on the case.
"We are aware of the matter and have the utmost faith in the legal process. We will not be making further comment at this time," Armstrong told the newspaper.
Hola is represented by Utah-based Ostler Law in the case. According to his LinkedIn bio, Hola was the president and CEO of Icon Consulting Group from 1996 until 2010. He’s currently the owner of Salt Lake City-based Pacific Pure Energy. Aside from business, Hola also ran for Salt Lake City mayor in 2003.