William Shatner's 'Priceline Negotiator' to die

@CNNMoneyTech January 20, 2012: 6:17 PM ET

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- It's game over for William Shatner's "Priceline Negotiator." He will be killed in a fiery bus crash in a commercial set to air on Monday.

But it takes more than that to kill off Capt. Kirk. The online company says its ties with the actor aren't necessarily over.

"We only killed off the negotiator," company spokesman Brian Ek said Friday. "William Shatner is still under contract."

Shatner told CNNMoney he's also in the dark about Priceline's (PCLN) plans.

"They're leaving me on the same cliffhanger you're on," he said. "They're careful to mention that I still have a contract." He said there is about a year left on his current deal.

Ek said Priceline decided to have Shatner's character make such a spectacular departure as a way of drawing more attention to the company's published-price offering, which is much less well known than its name-your-own-price service.

Shatner's 14-year run with Priceline is one of the more enduring celebrity spokesman relationships in Madison Avenue history.

"He's not at the top, but he's close to the top," said Ek, who pointed to Michael Jordan's time with Hanes (HBI) and Nike (NKE, Fortune 500), and Bill Cosby's long-running campaign for Kraft's (KFT, Fortune 500) Jello as among the few relationships that lasted longer.

Shatner said he understood when Priceline informed him of plans to kill off his character.

"All advertising is an attempt to bring attention to their product," he said. "I know that's the case. It's a matter of good business."

And he said he's busy even without doing additional spots. The 80-year old actor, best known for his Captain Kirk character in Star Trek, opens a one-man biographical show on Broadway next month.

Shatner said he's proud of his association with Priceline, and the way the company bounced back from its troubles after the bursting of the Internet bubble ten years ago.

Company filings said that he had been given warrants for 65,000 shares of the stock. Those shares were worth about $10.7 million soon after the company's initial public offering, but Shatner said lock-up rules prevented him from selling at that point.

He picked the wrong moment to unload them. Shatner said he sold all those shares around the time that the stock bottomed out in value a few years later, and that he never bought additional shares.

Even with a reverse 1-for-6 split that the company implemented in 2003, that stake would be worth about $5.6 million today if he had held onto the shares. To top of page


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