When Michael Jordan entered the Basketball Hall of Fame, one company took the chance to congratulate him — and sell some steaks. Now, Jordan’s suing, and his case is expected to wrap up this week.
Dominick’s, a now-defunct Chicago-based grocery store chain, took out an advertisement in a 2009 issue of Sports Illustrated that celebrated Jordan’s career. The full-page ad used Jordan’s name and famous 23 Chicago Bulls player number, and called him “a cut above.” At the bottom, there’s a $US2 coupon for a Dominick’s steak.
The problem is, Jordan says he didn’t give Dominick’s permission to use his identity in the ad, and now he’s seeking “damages exceeding $US5,000,000,” according to his lawsuit.
Jordan says he owns the trademark to the imagery used in it. Furthermore, as he alleged in the lawsuit, Jordan has his own steak brands: he’s associated with steakhouses in New York City, Chicago, and Connecticut, and said he sells steaks through michaeljordansteaks.com (the site currently redirects to his steak house website).
The case’s closing arguments are scheduled for Thursday in a federal court in Chicago. And Jordan now thinks Dominick’s owes him more than $US10 million, as The Drum reported last week, citing a statement from Jordan’s lawyer in court.
“I feel like it was a misuse of my likeness and name,” he said in court, according to ABC 7 Chicago.
An expert hired by Dominick’s said a multimillion price tag is absurd. Rodney Fort, a professor at the University of Michigan who teaches sports management, testified that a one-time use of Jordan’s image in the advertisement wouldn’t cost more than $US126,900, based on comparable deals, according to the Chicago Tribune. Dominick’s cited a documentary that used Jordan’s footage, which he accepted $US100,000 for, and a $US500,000 promotional deal with radio company SiriusXM.
Jordan’s team said he would have never approved such a small licensing agreement, and said better comparisons are his multimillion dollar deals with companies like Nike, Gatorade, and Hanes, according to The Chicago Tribune. Jordan said that payment for the Japanese documentary was actually unnecessary, and that payment was merely “customary” for documentary subjects. He accepted the deal with Sirius, he said, because Sirius spent an additional $US25 million to promote him.
Jordan’s income is worth $US1 billion, according to Forbes. He’s believed to make $US100 million per year in royalties from his brand, and made another $US72 million in salary and endorsements in 2014.
A lawyer for Dominick’s declined to comment on this case. We left a message for Jordan’s attorney and will update this post if we hear back.
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