Thursday, October 8, 2009

Sports' First Billion-Dollar Man

Urban Chameleon news

Tiger Woods cracks the $1 billion mark in career earnings.

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.

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