Woods becomes first $1 bn sportsman
Tiger Woods has been making history on and off the course since he joined the PGA Tour in 1996. Now Woods can add one more accolade to his trophy case: the first athlete to earn $1 billion. Read on...india Updated: Oct 06, 2009 15:01 IST
Tiger Woods has been making history on and off the course since he joined the PGA Tour in 1996. First up was a record $40 million contract from Nike. The following year he won the Masters by a record 12 strokes, becoming the youngest winner ever and first black player to take the title. His career has been packed full of accomplishments, including major titles (14), annual money titles (9) and Player of the Year awards (9).
Now Woods can add one more accolade to his trophy case: the first athlete to earn $1 billion. Our calculations show that the $10 million bonus Woods earned winning this year's FedEx Cup title nudged him over the $1 billion mark in career earnings.
Forbes has been tracking athlete earnings since before Tiger turned pro. Woods had earned a cumulative $895 million going into 2009, by our estimates, from prize money, appearance fees, endorsements, bonuses and his golf course design business. If you add his $10.5 million in 2009 prize money, the FedEx bonus and his take so far this year from his more than $100 million in annual off-the-course earnings, Woods' career earnings are now 10 figures.
Woods has only two real competitors when it comes to career earnings among athletes: the two Michaels, Jordan and Schumacher, who dominated their respective sports for nearly 15 years. Jordan's earning peaked during his last season with the Chicago Bulls (1998-'99), when he earned $69 million in salary and endorsement income.
Jordan continues to earn $45 million annually, almost entirely from Nike ( NKE - news - people ). We estimate that Jordan has earned $800 million since he entered the NBA in 1984. Annual sales of the Jordan brand are now $1 billion for Nike, so MJ should hit the $1 billion mark in career earnings in the next four to five years.
Schumacher's earnings peaked at $80 million in 2003, when he won his record sixth World Drivers' Championship (he won a seventh title the following year). His $40 million salary was the highest in sports at the time and his income doubled when you factored in endorsements, licensing deals and championship bonuses. Schumacher has earned $700 million, by our count, since his Formula One debut in 1991.
As for Woods, only his accountant knows if Tiger is a billionaire athlete yet, but if it did not happen on Sunday it is likely only a matter of months or his next check from Nike. Woods has been the world's highest-paid athlete since 2002, when he surpassed Schumacher. His earnings have surged in recent years as he launched a golf course design business. He currently has three courses underway that pay him more than $10 million per project. The launch of the FedEx Cup has been a bonus for Woods, who has taken the $10 million top prize in two of its three years (a knee injury prevented his participation last year). Woods also commands $3 million appearances fees when he plays outside the United States.
Woods lost General Motors' Buick division as a sponsor at the end of last year, but he quickly added AT&T ( T - news - people ) as the brand on his golf bag. PepsiCo ( PEP - news - people ) launched Gatorade Tiger last year in a revenue-sharing deal that potentially could be very lucrative for Woods. His other biggest endorsement deals include Accenture ( ACN - news - people ), Electronic Arts ( ERTS - news - people ), Gillette and Upper Deck.
It is Nike, though, that has been Woods' most lucrative partner. The relationship has been hugely beneficial for both parties, as Nike launched a golf division from scratch, with Woods carrying the brand, and sales are now $800 million annually. Nike pays Woods upward of $30 million annually for his ringing endorsement.
The most stunning part is that Woods is only 33 years old--he might have 15 years of competitive golf left in him, and 30-plus years of designing courses. This is only the first billion for Woods.