When news broke a few weeks ago that Tiger Woods had signed an endorsement deal to hawk a heat rub in Japan, it was hard not to think of Lost in Translation, or of the Entourage episode when Vincent Chase goes to China to do an energy drink commercial because he’s out of money.
Although Woods was likely paid in the single-digit millions for the spot — in which he takes a swing, rubs his back, and says, “Go Vantelin!” — it’s a far cry from campaigns for PepsiCo (PEP), Gillette, and Accenture (ACN). The last time Woods showed up in Japanese TV ads was in 1997, when he promoted Asahi Wonda coffee, back before he became a phenomenon. So the deal with Kowa (maker of the rub) seems more like a moment of desperation than a return to form.
It’s no secret that Woods, once king of the sports world, has suffered financially since his fall from grace. His endorsement list shrank and his marriage ended in a divorce settlement reportedly worth $100 million. But now he may actually be hurting for funds. At the very least, there are signs that he isn’t generating enough to comfortably cover his costs.
Earlier this week, the golfer’s agent, Mark Steinberg, announced he would be joining the agency Excel Sports. Although that means Excel gets Woods too, the icon was conspicuously absent from the announcement. Steinberg left IMG at the end of May. It took two weeks, but on June 7, Woods announced via Twitter that he would be leaving with Steinberg.
IMG declined to comment on the details of Steinberg’s departure, or on Tiger Woods, but a trusted Fortune source with reliable information tells us that IMG was none too broken up about losing Woods, because his endorsement earnings have fallen so dramatically. The source says IMG’s commissions for 2011 — they’ll continue to get a chunk of Tiger’s endorsement deals through 2013 — will be as low as $1.5 million.
That’s a huge drop from two years ago. With giants like Gillette, Accenture, Tag Heuer, and Gatorade having jumped ship, Tiger’s major deals are down to three: Nike (NKE), Electronic Arts (ERTS), and Kowa. His EA Sports video game, Tiger Woods PGA Tour ‘12, set a first-week franchise record of 225,000 games sold. But our source also tells us that Tiger’s Nike money fell by as much as 50% in 2010 (to about $10 million, down from $20 million in 2009) and that he will get the same reduced amount for 2011. The reason? Nike penalized him for his indiscretions, reducing his payment for two years as a response to his public behavior. Nike had no comment.
That Nike would have renegotiated Tiger’s contract to give him a temporary pay cut may be hard to believe, but Bob Dorfman of Baker Street Advertising says, “That’s not surprising. They’re not going to release him entirely, because that’s not the way they are, but [a pay reduction] would not surprise me at all.”
As for the Kowa deal, Dorfman estimates its value at $4 million. Doug Shabelman of Burns Entertainment & Sports Marketing believes it’s worth around $3 million.
Recent valuations of Tiger’s overall endorsement earnings for 2011 have been between $60 million and $75 million. But based on our information about Nike, and on the Kowa estimates, the real number is likely closer to $20 million.
Woods’ agent adamantly denies the assertion that the golfer is facing financial strain. “Tiger Woods is financially sound and strong, contrary to wide-ranging rumors and inaccurate figures in the media,” Steinberg wrote in an email. “Stating anything else is incorrect and factually baseless.”
The Woods P&L
Another factor that has undeniably fizzled is Tiger’s tournament winnings. Woods won no majors in 2009, the first year that’s happened since 2004. He went completely winless in 2010, and this year he’s so far missed the U.S. Open, AT&T National, and British Open due to a knee injury. According to the PGA Tour website, Tiger’s 2011 winnings so far total $571,363. Those are like pennies compared to the $10.9 million, $5.8 million, and $10.5 million he earned in 2007, 2008, and 2009, respectively. In 2010, that dropped to $1.3 million.
Woods is still young, and undoubtedly one of the greatest golfers alive, but as he continues to stay off the links, that money stream dries up. Meanwhile, Tiger Woods Dubai, a billion-dollar project that was first set to open in 2009 with a golf course, pricey real estate, and restaurant, was scrapped in February.
As Tiger’s revenues have declined, his expenses have only climbed. To begin with, there’s the reported $100 million divorce settlement. And last August, Woods took out a $54.5 million mortgage on his home in Jupiter Island, Florida. According to the public document, Woods is required to pay off the mortgage in full by January of 2016, giving him a mere five and a half years to shed the debt. He’s therefore paying more than $10 million each year, including his $431,042 in annual property taxes.
That 2010 property tax information comes from the district offices of Martin County, FL, where the home Woods now occupies alone is located. The property, which Woods purchased in 2006 for $44.5 million, is valued at around $47 million (the county values the house at $26.48 million, the land at $20.5 million). His 2010 improvements to the dwelling and the property cost him $6 million, including three separate residential pools, a tennis court, a golf green with a few holes, an elevator, and a 14,736-square foot improvement to the interior of the house — evidence that Woods is not used to living cheaply. But the pace of his home improvements has slowed, according to online records of the county appraiser’s office. So far there have been none in 2011.
Mark Steinberg says simply that there is no debt on Woods’ Jupiter Island home, and declined to elaborate. But the Martin County clerk’s office confirmed that their records show that the mortgage has not been paid off.
The Jupiter Island mega-mansion isn’t the only Woods property. Among others, in 2007 he bought his mother property near his own, in Jupiter Island, for $2.4 million. In 2010, construction on that cost him another $2.6 million. Presumably, it’s Woods himself that pays and will continue to pay all taxes on the home.
Between the divorce settlement and his recent mortgage, Tiger has faced recent debts to the tune of at least $160 million, though it’s unknown how much of this he has now paid down. His endorsement earnings will not come close to this in 2011, and he’s no longer adding much to his pot with golf winnings. Nike’s decisive slash to his contract has not helped matters.
“Tiger remains one of the most popular and visible athletes in the world, demonstrated by television ratings, tournament attendance and various empirical polls,” Steinberg says. “His endorsement future is strong and any additional partnerships will be announced at the appropriate time.”
To fix up his financial short game, Tiger Woods is going to have to start making money again the old-fashioned way: by playing the sport he’s known for.