Taking the stand in federal court, basketball legend Michael Jordan, 52, made it clear he calls his own shots in his multimillion-dollar deals with corporate America.
CHICAGO – He is represented by hard-nosed agents and sophisticated marketing gurus. But taking the stand in federal court Tuesday, Michael Jordan made it clear he calls his own shots in his multimillion-dollar deals with corporate America.
“I didn’t do deals for anything less than $10 million,” the billionaire Chicago Bulls legend confidently testified in a trial of his lawsuit against defunct supermarket chain Dominick’s Finer Foods.
“I have the final say-so with everything that involves my name and my likeness … there’s no decision that happens without my final approval.”
Jordan’s testimony had been long-awaited, ever since he sued Dominick’s for using his name and identity without his permission in a 2009 advertisement in a special issue of Sports Illustrated that commemorated Jordan’s elevation to the Basketball Hall of Fame. His 30 minutes on the stand revealed him to be as fiercely protective of his rights off the court as he was a competitor on it.
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Jordan told jurors in a soft but determined voice he had brought the case “to protect my likeness, my image — something that I value very preciously.”
Wearing a dark-gray business suit, the 52-year-old testified he took protecting his brand so seriously he recently turned down an $80 million offer to endorse a line of headphones. He said he would never have agreed to a deal with Dominick’s for its ad, which contained the words “Michael Jordan … you are a cut above,” and included a $2 off coupon for Rancher’s Reserve steaks.
“I felt like it was a misuse of my likeness, my name,” Jordan said of the Dominick’s ad.
“It didn’t fit the strategy we operated on,” added Jordan, who made in excess of $100 million last year by carefully selecting a small number of sponsors and tying them to multiyear deals.
Dominick’s already has been found liable by the court for using Jordan’s identity without permission in the ad, so jurors must decide only how much the chain’s owner, Safeway, must pay for the gaffe.
Lawyers for Safeway say the $10 million value Jordan and his lawyers placed on the ad vastly overstates the fair market price.
A mere two coupons attached to the ad were redeemed, they have said. They also have argued a fairer comparison is the demands of as little as $5,000 Jordan has made of small-time counterfeiters in cease-and-desist letters.
On the stand, His Airness also showed a lighter side. He got a laugh from jurors when he donned a pair of wire-framed glasses to review a legal document, then shyly said, “Don’t look.”