Jordan deals seen immune to divorce

January 09, 2002|By BLOOMBERG NEWS

NEW YORK - It will take more than a divorce to topple Michael Jordan from his position as one of the top commercial endorsers in sports, marketing experts said.

Jordan's wife, Juanita, filed a petition for divorce Friday in Lake County, Ill., Circuit Court to end their 12-year marriage. She cited "irreconcilable differences" as the reason for wanting the split.

In a business in which image counts for everything, Jordan is popular enough to ride out the negative publicity that may be associated with a divorce, marketers said.

"While no one is bulletproof, Jordan is about as close as a marketer can get," said Scott Harris, president of Mustang Marketing, an advertising and marketing firm.

"If it comes out that there was some really nasty stuff, that would obviously hurt him. Assuming none of that happened, he should be fine."

Jordan, who recently ended a three-year retirement to play for the NBA's Washington Wizards, is among the most popular athletes ever and was named the top sports endorser of the 20th century by a group of business and advertising executives.

The five-time NBA Most Valuable Player earns about $45 million annually from endorsements with companies such as Nike Inc. and Sara Lee Corp.'s Hanes clothing, according to Business Week magazine.

"Michael's built up a tremendous amount of equity with the fans," said Bob Williams, president of Burns Sports Celebrity, a company that links athletes with endorsers.

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