Tweety Bird Jordans

Tweety Bird Jordans 1Michael Jordan's days of talking to Tweety Bird

on the phone are numbered.

Jordan, the president of basketball operations for

the Washington Wizards, is ending his days as a

corporate pitchman. Jordan, for years the sports

world's top endorser with an estimated annual take

of $40 million, will honor all of his existing contracts,

including some that last until 2006. But he has

stopped taking on any new deals, and already is

reducing the number of TV commercials he shoots

for his existing deals.

Jordan intends to free up additional time not only

for the Wizards, but other business ventures. He

hopes to move beyond endorsements and into an

executive and equity holder role. He already is a

partner and board member at, an on-line

sporting goods company, and recently, in an

eight-figure deal, joined the board of directors of

Illinois technology firm Divine Interventures Inc.

"It's a stage you get past," Jordan said in

yesterday's editions of the Chicago Sun-Times.

"Now I don't want my name just used. I can get

endorsements all day. Endorsements are good for a

while —they give you a personality, a lot of

credibility. And now I have that name. But I want to

understand the business itself, see the value in

something other than just endorsing."

Jordan's extensive roster of clients include MCI

WorldCom Inc., Nike, Gatorade, Hanes and

Rayovac. His endorsement work has ranged from

serious to ridiculous, and his ability to generate sales

helped pave the way for other successful black

sports endorsers, including Tiger Woods, Grant Hill,

and Shaquille O'Neal.

"He has been a trailblazer the whole way through

this," said Bob Williams, a Chicago marketing

executive who pairs athletes with companies seeking

endorsements. "He was the first black athlete to

achieve worldwide success as an endorser and really

make Madison Avenue colorblind. He was the first

to get his own brand and now he's reinventing himself

again and is being the first to stay at the top of their

game as an endorser, 'I don't need to do this

anymore. I want something more.' "

Jordan has told many of these companies to start

planning ad campaigns without him. Gatorade

already has done that, using Toronto Raptors star

Vince Carter as its lead pitchman, and new ads are

being shot with Derek Jeter, Mia Hamm, Peyton

Manning and others.

"We've known this was coming for some time,"

said Andy Horrow, Gatorade spokesman. "There is

no next Michael Jordan, no single dominant athlete,

so we've moved on, and tried to diversify our


Industry sources said that other companies, such

as MCI WorldCom, were not aware of Jordan's

intentions before yesterday. But the telephone giant

still is under contract with Jordan for six more years,

and recently began airing two new commercials with

him. Jordan also is one of the company's largest

private shareholders.

Ad industry executives say Jordan's motivation to

end his endorsements stems not only from a desire to

try new business ventures, particularly on the

Internet, but also from respect. Jordan has no equal

in the sports world, but his stature as a business and

basketball executive remains a work in progress.

Both the Wizards and Nike's Brand Jordan, of

which he is chief executive, are struggling. And

Jordan's TV ads this winter endorsing Democratic

presidential candidate Bill Bradley struggled to make

an impact maybe because it shared air space with

Jordan's lighthearted MCI ads with the Looney

Tunes animated characters.

"He is rapidly cultivating a new image for himself,

one as as a owner, an executive, a businessman,"

Williams said.

Jordan, even without the massive yearly income

from the ads, will not be hurting for money. His

estimated worth exceeds $350 million, his leadership

roles with the Wizards, Brand Jordan,

and Divine Interventures also will provide additional

millions in income. Jordan also runs driving range and

restaurant businesses and is an investor in the

successful sports Web site .

Jordan's agent, David Falk, declined to comment.

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