Basketball legend Michael Jordan testifies in $10 million brand case

Tue Aug 18, 2015 3:04pm EDT
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By Fiona Ortiz

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Basketball superstar turned billionaire pitchman Michael Jordan took the stand in federal court on Tuesday to testify in his lawsuit seeking millions from a grocery chain that used his name and jersey number in an ad, without permission.

Jordan claims he should be paid $10 million, which he says is fair market value for a full page ad in a 2009 Sports Illustrated commemorative magazine celebrating his career, taken out by now-defunct Dominick's Finer Foods, a division of Safeway.

A judge previously ruled that Dominick's is liable for using Jordan's identity without his permission. The jury in the trial before U.S. District Judge John Blakey, which began a week ago, now must decide what the grocery chain will have to pay Jordan.

Lawyers for Jordan, who led the Chicago Bulls to six National Basketball Association championships in the 1990s, have put on the stand sports marketing experts and Jordan advisers who said he typically only endorsed products in long-term deals that were worth at least $10 million in cash and promotional value.

Defense attorneys have argued that the ad should not be judged by Jordan's huge endorsement deals with Nike, Gatorade and Hanes, but by a few deals the star made with smaller businesses.

The trial, which began on Aug. 11, has drawn a small group of fans to the Chicago courtroom.

Under questioning by his lawyer Jordan said he brought the lawsuit "to protect my likeness, my image. It's something I value very preciously." Dressed in a charcoal suit and gray tie, Jordan drew laughs when he said "don't look" as he put on reading glasses to read an evidence document while he was on the stand.

Jordan, 52, was only on the stand a few minutes. But he did spar with a defense attorney over whether or not he was qualified to compare the value of his major product endorsements with the value of the Dominick's ad.   Continued...

Former basketball great Michael Jordan arrives to attend a party celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Air Jordan shoe line in Paris, France June 12, 2015. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes