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Nike Forced to Disclose Michael Jordan's Sponsorship Contract in Court

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The details of Michael Jordan's contract with Nike are so closely guarded that they're literally kept under lock and key. The 42-page document is stored in its own room at Nike headquarters in Oregon, apart from the company's other legal filings, and only three employees have access to the agreement. One of those people is Gary Way, Nike's global legal counsel, who's currently representing the Swoosh in a Federal lawsuit in Chicago. The grievance stems from a now defunct grocery store chain -- a subsidiary of Safeway -- that used MJ's name in a 2009 print ad without permission. It is Team Jordan's contention that fair market value for the basketball star's "identity" should be determined by precedent, which they argue is valued at $10 million.

Jordan's legal team has couched the numbers in percentages and broad strokes. They revealed to the court that from 2002 to 2012, Jordan had received $480 million from Nike, $25 million from Sirius Radio, $18 million from Gatorade, $14 million from Hanes, $14 million from Upper Deck, and $10.6 million from XEL, a fragrance company. The defendants are demanding more details, and they've moved to have the contents of the Nike document revealed in court. Those secretive details include the dollar amounts that Nike pays all Jordan Brand athletes, how Jordan selects those athletes and exactly how Nike and Jordan share revenue and expenses.

Earlier this summer, the presiding judge, John Blakely, ruled against Nike's motion to keep the unredacted document out of the court proceedings, but he has agreed to keep a watchful eye, releasing details requested by the defense on a line-by-line basis, and only if he decides they're relevant to the case. Regardless of whether the juiciest of details ever come to light, the main takeaway here is that the value of Michael Jordan's endorsement hasn't lost a step, even more than a decade removed from the basketball court.