They'll be flying the flags at half-staff on Madison Avenue.
Michael Jordan -- the hoops giant who wrote, rewrote and continues to edit the book on athlete endorsements -- said he is closing the book on his $43-million-a-year endorsement business and will not sign another deal.
Not a one. Nada. Zilch.
While the retired superstar's annual take is likely to fall off over the next several years, in the long term walking away from the business while on top could cost Jordan $250 million over the next decade, according to sports business consultants.
"It's a stage you get past," Jordan said in a published report yesterday.
As the current deals run out, that means no more Jordan talking to Bugs Bunny for MCI. No more facing off against Mia Hamm for Gatorade. Wilson Sporting Goods, Rayovac batteries, Hanes underwear and Ballpark franks will all have to look elsewhere.
Jordan's move will not affect his Nike deal or other contracts, like with Oakley sunglasses, where the superstar has an equity interest.
"Endorsements are good for a while -- they give you a personality, a lot of credibility," Jordan told the Chicago Sun-Times. "And now I have that name. But I want to understand the business itself, see the value in something other than just endorsing."
Jordan has earned roughly $500 million in salary and endorsements over his career.
Industry experts, mourning the loss of the greatest athlete pitchman ever, expect Jordan to buy further into the Internet economy. He already owns a piece of MVP.com, an online sporting goods store, and recently bought a million shares, at $1 a pop, of Divine InterVentures, a company that will hatch Internet companies.
The company is expected to go public this month at $6 a share.
"Jordan was the first athlete to demand long-term endorsements over one-shot appearance fees and the first to take it up a notch and insist on equity stakes in the companies he's hawked over simple endorsement deals," said Brandon Steiner, a sports-collectibles expert.
"He is the first athlete to walk away from $40 million a year, as much as $250 million over the next 10 years," said Bob Williams, a sports marketing exec with Chicago-based Burns Sports.