Michael Jordan is not going for a repeat.
Nearly six years after the Chicago Bulls great sued the Jewel-Osco and Dominick’s grocery chains over a pair of congratulatory ads that used his name in a 2009 limited-edition issue of Sports Illustrated, Jordan has settled both cases and promised to hand the money over to local charities, his adviser told the Chicago Sun-Times.
The settlement, which was also confirmed Sunday by the grocers’ parent company, comes three months after Jordan scored a slam-dunk $8.9 million verdict against Dominick’s at the end of a two-week jury trial this summer at the Dirksen Federal Courthouse. A trial in the Jewel case had been set to begin Dec. 8, but U.S. District Judge Gary Feinerman canceled it Friday.
The big-money verdict against Dominick’s created sensational headlines in August. However, neither side would reveal on Sunday the terms of the agreement Jordan struck that now resolves both cases. Lawyers are expected back in Feinerman’s courtroom Dec. 17. The last time they were there, Jordan attorney Frederick Sperling said his client “always strived to excel and do better the next time.”
“I can confirm that Michael Jordan has reached a settlement in the Dominick’s and Jewel lawsuits,” Estee Portnoy, a longtime adviser of Jordan’s, told the Sun-Times by phone Sunday. “He will be contributing the net settlement proceeds to Chicago-area charities, the names of which will be announced before the end of the year. And we can give no other information, as the settlement requires confidentiality.”
Brian Dowling, vice president of public affairs for Albertsons, the grocers’ parent company, also said the terms are confidential.
“But we are pleased to have reached a resolution of these matters,” Dowling said in a statement.
Jordan sued Jewel and Dominick’s after each published an ad in a limited-edition issue of Sports Illustrated to commemorate his induction into basketball’s hall of fame in 2009. Jewel’s ad featured a pair of white-and-red sneakers with the number “23” on the tongues. It called Jordan “a shoe in” and saluted “a fellow Chicagoan who was ‘just around the corner’ for so many years.”
The Dominick’s ad went further. It used Jordan’s name and number “23” and included a $2-off coupon for a Rancher’s Reserve steak. Before that case even went to trial, a judge ruled the conglomerate that owned Dominick’s had violated the Illinois Right of Publicity Act.
Jordan lent his considerable star power to the Dominick’s case, appearing daily at Chicago’s federal courthouse and even testifying in the downtown courtroom. Crowds waited outside the courthouse doors at the end of each day to catch a glimpse of Jordan walking to a waiting car. And when the jury handed down its considerable verdict, Jordan was all smiles.
“This was never about the money,” Jordan said as he promised to donate the winnings to charity.
Dominick’s lawyers later fumed about the verdict in a court filing that called it “grossly excessive.” They asked U.S. District Judge John Robert Blakey to either reduce the amount Jordan could collect or order a new trial. Blakey canceled all pending hearings in that case Friday.
The trial against Dominick’s opened a rare window into the lucrative business of being Michael Jordan. His lawyer compared him to the “Hope Diamond,” and his business advisers said they decided early in his career to bundle deals for the use of Jordan’s identity in long-term contracts worth $10 million or more.
Even in retirement, Jordan’s endorsement income rose from $28 million in 2004 to $75.5 million in 2012, one sports economist testified.