Golfer Woods To Join Disney Fold

Walt Disney Co. is preparing to announce that it has signed Tiger Woods as a spokesman for various Disney properties, an executive familiar with the deal told The Wall Street Journal.

Mr. Woods won his fourth straight major golf championship last weekend. The agreement would solidify the 25-year-old Mr. Woods’s position as one of the most prominent endorsers in professional sports. Last year, Mr. Woods earned an estimated $54 million from a dozen endorsement deals, according to Burns Sports Celebrity Service in Chicago. That eclipsed the estimated $45 million earned by retired basketball star Michael Jordan in his best year.

Signing Mr. Woods would give Disney (DIS) access to one of the most successful and dynamic athletes in sports today. Mr. Woods’s win at the Masters gave him the unprecedented feat of holding the Masters, U.S. Open, British Open and PGA Championship titles simultaneously. As an endorser, Mr. Woods has the ability to straddle demographic boundaries, which is important for a company like Disney.

Mr. Woods’s deal with Disney, which has been in negotiations for several months, is expected to be announced at a news conference in New York by early next week. Michael Eisner, Disney’s chairman, is expected to travel from company headquarters in Burbank, Calif., to participate in the announcement.

A Disney spokeswoman declined to comment, as did Mr. Woods’s agent, Mark Steinberg of International Management Group in Cleveland.

Terms of the Disney accord couldn’t be learned. But Mr. Woods has commanded as much as $20 million a year to represent Nike Inc. under a five-year contract that began last year. His sponsorship deals with other companies, from General Motors Corp.’s Buick to Rolex to American Express Co., generate an estimated $2 million to $6 million a year per endorsement. Mr. Woods also is a spokesman for General Mills Inc.’s Wheaties cereal. He will appear this month on a special box wearing the ceremonial green jacket that he received for winning the Masters tournament in Augusta, Ga., on Sunday.

Copyright (c) 2001 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.