Why is David Beckham suing Mark Wahlberg over F45?

The former England captain is taking on Boston’s most famous son over an alleged $14m loss of earnings. And that’s just the start…

Bad news for fans of middle-aged white guys who like taking their tops off: clotheshorse and former footballer David Beckham is currently mired in legal disputes with Transformers actor and 5am-fitness enthusiast Mark Wahlberg. The argument didn’t arise over the obvious questions, such as who can do the most crunches, or who has the best haircut, but over an endorsement deal.

As recently reported, Beckham brought the suit against the Wahlburgers co-owner after F45 Training, a health and wellness venture partly owned by Wahlberg, allegedly failed to pay the former Manchester United player money owed for his role as a brand ambassador.

Beckham (49, net worth of $450m) befriended the actor (52, net worth of $400m) back in his LA Galaxy days, when both lived in the same Los Angeles neighbourhood, beginning in 2007.

With the falling out, Wahlberg moved to dismiss Beckham’s claim, calling it “materially false or misleading”, and argued that allegations of “fraudulent conduct” are baseless. It was also said that DBVL (Beckham’s limited company) is blaming others for its own mistakes, with an insistence that “The 209-page, 610-paragraph SAC [complaint] tries to make up with length what it lacks in merit.”

It all began in November, 2020, when Beckham said he signed on to become a “global ambassador” for the fitness company F45 Training, a role that would involve posting promotional content on his Instagram account in exchange for tradable shares in the company when it went public.

The IPO was delayed until July, 2021, with F45 reportedly required to compensate Beckham within six months. Beckham’s camp claims there was a delay and that F45 failed to pay him stock in a timely manner, leaving him out of pocket, to the tune of $14m (£11.2m).

Image: Getty

According to F45’s presumably very active and healthy lawyers, the delay in the IPO was due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and that material provided to investors included “cautionary statements about the unpredictable nature of F45’s business.”

The company, in turn, blamed the IPO’s failure on “repeated waves of Covid-19 variants, along with other challenges,” which it claimed “prevented F45 from realizing its projected growth.”

All of which has led to Beckham’s ire.

Founded by Adam Gilchrist and Rob Deutsche, in Sydney, in 2011, F45 Training – which specialises in “high-intensity functional group workouts” – rapidly expanded to hundreds of franchises across the US, as well as Canada, New Zealand and Australia.

By 2019, Wahlberg was interested enough to purchase a minority stake in the company in a deal financed by his Mark Wahlberg Investment Group and FOD Capital, after the venture had been valued at $450m. Wahlberg would frequently promote the company on his Instagram, in videos of him working out in the very early morning, in the palatial surrounds of what appeared to be his home gym. Wahlberg, an avid golfer, would often work out in golf gloves, the significance of which is unknown.

F45 floated on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), at $16.10 per share, before its value sank in 2022, meaning that, according to Beckham’s claim, the failure to transfer the initial shares cost him an estimated $9.3m.

Beckham also claims F45 refused to hand over another $5m in shares that they were contractually required to pay him.

The share price never recovered and F45 was delisted by the NYSE in August and has been trading below $1 per share since. It was last valued at approximately 15 cents per share, which roughly puts the company’s total value at $14.63m – give or take half a mil what Beckham claims he’s owed.

Image: Getty

F45’s legal team claims Beckham did receive the shares he was owed on time, and that DBVL is “attempting to benefit from its own wrongdoing and has unclean hands” – although quite what this last part means is yet to be revealed.

It’s a bizarre, if somewhat amusing, wrinkle in the careers of two of our most famous celebrities.

Outside the courtroom, Beckham seems to be flying high, with his Inter Miami CF continuing to go from strength to strength. The club owner also recently invested in an e-sports company and an electric-vehicle venture. Last year, his self-produced Netflix documentary, Beckham, debuted to rave reviews, offering a wholesome viewing experience.

Wahlberg, on the other hand, has been through more extreme changes in recent years. A lifelong Catholic, the past decade has seen him renounce some of the raunchier – and better – entries in his filmography, including teddy bear bro-comedy Ted, and Paul Thomas Anderson’s porn industry masterpiece, Boogie Nights.

He also launched the Hallow Christian prayer app, and last year he moved his family from Los Angeles to Las Vegas, where he reportedly plans to produce and shoot all of his upcoming films. Despite presumably making money, his films have failed to garner real critical acclaim since at least 2017. In 2023, he became chief brand officer for F45 Training.

Unfortunately, for Wahlberg and partners, Beckham isn’t the only party dissatisfied with F45.

DBVL joined with Greg Norman, the Australian golfer and fellow F45 spokesperson, in October, 2022, to file a civil lawsuit against F45. In this instance, a judge directed the two athletes to file separate cases, leading to Beckham filing a new complaint in May, 2023.

Image: Getty

F45’s lawyers tried to dismiss Beckham’s case, a motion denied last September when a California-based federal judge found Beckham had fulfilled his obligations to F45, but that the fitness company “did not make the issued shares freely transferable or tradeable.”

Separate to F45’s beef with Beckham and Norman, it's also facing a class-action securities fraud lawsuit filed in the Western District of Texas, the site of its Austin HQ.

This suit was brought against the company and Wahlberg by a team of investigators in December, 2022, and alleged that the company “changed its business model and made false or misleading statements about the amount of franchises it was opening.”

According to the plaintiffs, the company initially told investors it expected to make $255–275m in 2022, before altering revenue guidance to $120–130m. Lawyers for F45 have called the suit “a classic example of fraud by hindsight.”

At present, no trial date has been set for the Beckham-Wahlberg showdown, despite a judge ordering a civil trial, back in November.

As for F45, its future doesn’t look good. Wahlberg, meanwhile, will be hoping he can dodge a prolonged, public suit or, at the very least, bend it like Beckham.

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