How can anyone describe Tiger Woods, the businessman?
You could tote up the numbers and rankings. Celebrity marketing experts say he's the world's top athlete for endorsements, three years running, surpassing even Michael Jordan. Forbes pegs his outside earnings at roughly five times the value of his $9 million in golf winnings. Some say he could be the first billion-dollar athlete in history. Others, such as ESPN The Magazine, have predicted he'll hit $6 billion before his career ends.
Or look at the assessments of industry pubs. Sports Illustrated made him its Sportsman of the Year twice - the first time the magazine ever awarded the honor to anyone more than once. The Sporting News tapped him as the most powerful person in sports last year - not the most powerful athlete, the most powerful person, more powerful than TV executives who ink the broadcast deals, more powerful than the company officials who make multimillion-dollar endorsement decisions, more powerful than the NFL or NBA commissioners.
There's no denying that Tiger Woods is the man to watch in sports business. He's signed lucrative deals with the likes of Nike, American Express, and now Disney. He's pulling in an estimated $44 million a year from these agreements. But his business goes far beyond lending his name and face to his sponsors. It surpasses his delivery of a fan following so intense it moves television ratings. Tiger's contending? Could be a 10-share. Not teeing up? Try 2.5.
"He wants to work with quality international blue-chip companies that do business on a global scale," says Woods' agent, Mark Steinberg. "He feels he is a global athlete."
That kind of endorsement is fine - great if you can get it. Woods might be worth some $44 million as a simple endorser for his talent alone.