McIlroy free to join Nike in deal believed to be worth €192m
GOLF:RORY McILROY appears set to cross the threshold into the realms of the best paid athletes in global professional sport if Nike follows through on speculation that they are poised to offer the 23-year-old a 10-year deal believed to be worth up to $250 million (€192m).
The world number one is free to negotiate a new equipment deal after Acushnet (Titleist/Footjoy) confirmed yesterday that the Northern Ireland golfer will not be renewing his current contract with the golf manufacturer when it expires at the end of the year.
The Nike connection was mooted in The Irish Times a couple of weeks ago and following yesterday’s announcement appears much closer to fruition despite a spokesperson for the giant American sports manufacturer, Beth Gast, pointing out: “We are declining comment on rumours and speculation.”
McIlroy is a sponsor’s dream and for Nike he would be a clean-cut, globally popular figure who would offer a welcome contrast in helping Nike distance itself from the damage done by the Lance Armstrong scandal and the subsequent cancellation of his contract with the company. It would give Nike the two biggest golfing stars in McIlroy and Tiger Woods – the American has been with the company since turning pro in 1996.
Their friendship, which has blossomed in recent times – they were in the same group five times during the FedEx Cup play-offs – may have facilitated any deal. Acushnet have supplied McIlroy with Titleist and Footjoy equipment since he turned professional five years ago.
“Our goal has been to provide Rory with the best equipment and service that would help him be the best player he could possibly be,” Acushnet chief executive Wally Uihlein said in a statement. “He has been a great ambassador for the Titleist and FootJoy brands, and in turn, we are proud of how our equipment has contributed to his success. We wish Rory all the best, both personally and professionally, going forward.”
McIlroy, who defeated Woods in an 18-hole exhibition in China, picking up and swinging one of Tiger’s Nike clubs at one point during the round – thanked Acushnet for “five very exciting and successful years”. He continued: “I will always appreciate the contribution Titleist has made in helping me become the player I am today.”
The Holywood golfer has blue-chip sponsorship endorsements with Jumeirah Estates, Oakley, Audemares Piguet and Santander bank.
McIlroy is set to become the third golfer after Woods (Nike) and Phil Mickelson (Callaway) to switch their golf equipment from Titleist to another manufacturer. Conor Ridge, McIlroy’s manager at Horizon Sports Management, was unavailable for comment.
HIGH ROLLERS: World's top 10 highest paid sportspersons
1 Floyd Mayweather
Total earnings: $85m (€65,576,310)
Salary/winnings: $85m (€65,576,310)
Endorsements: $0 (€0)
2 Manny Pacquiao
Total earnings: $62m (€47,869,084)
Salary/winnings: $56m (€43,203,216)
Endorsements: $6m (€4,632,492) (Monster Energy, Hennessy, Nike, Hewlett-Packard)
3 Tiger Woods
Total earnings: $59.4m (€45,890,004)
Salary/winnings: $4.4m (€3,397,161)
Endorsements: $55m (€42,464,510) (Nike)
Net worth: $500m (€385,743,000) – As of September 2010, according to Forbes
4 LeBron James
Total earnings: $53m (€40,888,758)
Salary/winnings: $13m (€10,029,318)
Endorsements: $40m (€30,859,440) (Nike, McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, State Farm and others)
5 Roger Federer
Total earnings: $52.7m (€40,657,313)
Salary/winnings: $7.7m (€5,948,704)
Endorsements: $45m (€34,716,870) (Nike, Rolex, Wilson, Credit Suisse)
6 Kobe Bryant
Total earnings: $52.3m (€40,404836)
Salary/winnings: $20.3m (€15,682,948)
Endorsements: $32m (€24,687,552)
7 Phil Mickelson
Total earnings: $47.8m (€36,928,320)
Salary/winnings: $4.8m (€3,708,283)
Endorsements: $43 m (€33,199,526) (Callaway, Barclay’s, KPMG, Exxon, Rolex, Amgen/Pfizer)
8 David Beckham
Total earnings: $46m (€35,537,714)
Salary/winnings: $9m (€6,953,031)
Endorsements: $37m (€28,994,582) (Burger King, Sainsbury’s, Samsung)
9 Cristiano Ronaldo
Total earnings: $42.5m (€32,788,155)
Salary/winnings: $20.5m (€15,815,463)
Endorsements: $22m (€16,972,692) (Nike, Castrol, Konami and others)
10 Peyton Manning
Total earnings: $42.4m (€32,711,004)
Salary/winnings: $32.4m (€24,996,146)
Endorsements: $10m (€7,714,860) (Reebok, Sony, Wheaties, DirecTV, Gatorade, Papa John’s)
According to Forbes, Floyd Mayweather took over from Tiger Woods in topping the list of World Sport’s 100 highest paid athletes between June 2011 and June 2012. Woods had commandeered first place from 2001 to 2011.
The total earnings of the athletes are derived from their bonuses, salaries, appearance fees, prize money, endorsements and licensing from June 2011 to June 2012.
According to Forbes, the 100 highest-paid athletes made a combined $2.6 billion (€2 billion) in the past 12 months. The athletes’ agents’ fees and taxes were not deducted from their earnings.