Jordan Places Bet on Las Vegas Development

Michael Jordan has been known to wager on everything from golf to the basketballshoot-around game H-O-R-S-E. Now His Airness will try his luck as a partner in the planned Aqua Blue Luxury Condominium Hotel Resort & Spa in Las Vegas.

But Jordan may be risking something more valuable with his Vegas investment: his status as Madison Avenue’s all-time pitchman.

Ground will be broken this summer on the $600 million development that includes a casino. The 825-unit complex, with condos selling for $399,000 to $1.2 million, is to open in 2010.

The arrangement could “cause problems” with companies such as Nike and Gatorade 

that pay Jordan an estimated $25 million a year for endorsements, says David Carter, principal of Sports Business Group.

As a player, Jordan clashed with NBA Commissioner David Stern over his gambling habits. But Jordan will tout Aqua Blue in ads.

Michael Peterson, Owner of Diversified Real Estate Concepts and developer of Platinum Condominium Development and Aqua Blue, says Jordan will have “absolutely zero” financial stake in the casino operation. Jordan stated “I am also pleased to be partnering with a person of such high integrity as Michael Peterson and Diversified Real Estate Concepts.”

Peterson says Jordan’s financial interests will include ownership of a Michael Jordan’s Steak House and a Michael Jordan’s 23.sportcafe; partial owner of a rooftop nightclub/restaurant; and licensed use of his name for the Michael Jordan Athletic Center, an upscale 65,000-square-foot sports club.

The NBA doesn’t let owners, or potential owners, hold interests in gaming businesses that take bets on NBA or WNBA games. Since Jordan is not affiliated with any NBA team and will have no stake in the gaming operation, the league says it is not concerned.

Jordan and investor partners already own Jordan-themed restaurants at the Mohegan Sun casino resort in Uncasville, Connecticut.

“It’s common for NBA players to enter into entrepreneurial pursuits when their playing days are over,” NBA spokesman Matt Bourne says.

Sports marketing expert Nova Lanktree says: “If Michael were still with the Washington Wizards, then the league would get involved and rightly so. But if Michael is not involved in the game of basketball, this sounds like, ‘Go for it and good luck.'”

Similar to Magic Johnson’s move into movie theatres, Jordan is evolving from paid endorser to owner/entrepreneur. He’s expanding steakhouses and cafes around the country. He retains a stake in and much control over Nike’s 7-year-old “Jordan” lifestyle brand.

During a three-year run with the Wizards, Jordan was team president and player before leaving the organization in May 2003.

By Michael McCarthy
Jan 13, 2005