The owner of a supermarket chain must pay Michael Jordan $8.9 million for using his name and promoting a product in an ad without his permission.
A jury deliberated for six hours before handing down the verdict Friday night in federal court in Chicago, where Jordan won six NBA titles with the Bulls.
Lawyers for Safeway, owner of now-defunct Chicago-based chain Dominick's, said Jordan should be paid $126,900 for the use of his name in a 2009 ad Dominick's placed in a commemorative issue Sports Illustrated published for Jordan's induction into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. But Jordan's lawyers and Jordan himself testified that his endorsement history suggests he would not have taken that deal.
Jordan's legal representatives brought in sports economist Andrew Zimbalist, who testified that Jordan's fair market value for the ad was $10 million.
"I'm pleased with today's verdict," Jordan said in a statement. "No one — whether or not they're a public figure — should have to worry about their identity being used without their permission. The case was not about the money as I plan to donate the proceeds to charity. It was about honesty and integrity. I hope this case sends a clear message, both here in the United States and around the world, that I will continue to be vigilant about protecting my name and identity. I also hope the size of the monetary reward will deter others from using someone else's identity and believe they will only pay a small penalty."
In calculating the amount owed to Jordan, jurors sent a note to the judge, saying: "We need a calculator."
During the trial, Jordan's legal team disclosed for the first time some of his endorsement income, including $480 million that was paid to him by Nike from 2000 to 2012. Jordan also revealed he turned down an $80 million offer to endorse headphones.
While Jordan was fighting to uphold the value of his name, Safeway was in a tougher position. The company bought Dominick's in 1998 for $1.2 billion but closed all stores by the end of 2013. The Jordan lawsuit was the bitter end of a huge money-losing venture.
In addition, the ad itself was of little benefit to the company. Since the ad was in a commemorative Sports Illustrated issue, those who bought the magazine were hesitant to tear out the ad. Only two people were found to have redeemed the $2 steak coupon.
Jordan hugged his lawyers after the decision was read.
"I'm so used to playing on a different court," a visibly delighted Jordan told reporters outside the courthouse.
Stepping back into the courthouse, two jurors asked him for a photograph, and he obliged by throwing his arms around them and smiling for a cellphone camera.
Jordan's fame loomed over the case, with one would-be juror struck from the pool during jury selection after describing Jordan as his idol. During closings earlier Friday, Jordan attorney Frederick Sperling appealed to city pride in trying to persuade jurors to side with Jordan.
"He gave us six championships," he told jurors, Jordan sitting nearby.
Three weeks ago, Jordan lost a legal battle to stop a company in China called Qiaodan Sports, even though the name means "Jordan," it has a similar silhouette to the Jumpman logo and it uses the number 23.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.