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McDonald's cuts ties to Kobe
Fast-food chain first major advertiser to let contract end with basketball star facing sex charges.
January 19, 2004: 12:32 PM EST

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - McDonald's has ended its endorsement deal with Los Angeles Lakers basketball star Kobe Bryant, after having not used the athlete in an ad since sexual assault charges were filed against him in Colorado last July.

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McDonald's (MCD: Research, Estimates) spokesman Bill Whitman said that the endorsement deal was a three-year contract that ran from Jan. 1, 2001 through Dec. 31 of last year. He would not comment on whether there were any option years on the contract that McDonald's failed to exercise, or what impact the criminal charges had on the fast-food chain's decision to cut ties with Bryant.

"I'm not going to speculate about any legal proceedings. Per the terms of our agreement it would be inappropriate to comment on any past or future endorsement deals," he said.

Bryant's agent Arn Tellum could not be reached for comment Monday.

Bryant has pending contracts with two other major advertisers -- athletic shoe and apparel maker Nike (NKE: Research, Estimates), and Sprite, a unit of soft drink maker Coca-Cola Co. (KO: Research, Estimates). They have issued statements in the past declining to comment on his legal problems.

The Sprite contract runs through 2005, according to an earlier statement from the company, while the Nike deal runs through 2008. Spokesmen from those two companies were not available for comment Monday due to the Martin Luther King Day holiday.

Terms of his various deals have not been disclosed by the companies, but it is believed Bryant received a five-year $40 million deal from Nike and had other deals, including McDonald's, worth $12 million a year.

So far the only other advertiser to drop Bryant is Italian chocolate maker Ferrero SpA, which used him in a small campaign for its Nutella brand.  Top of page




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