Michael Jordan piled up his share of remarkable statistics during a Hall of Fame basketball career but did so at a relative bargain price. The all-time NBA great earned just $93 million on the court, and more than two-thirds of that came in his final two seasons with the Chicago Bulls in the late 1990s.
However, anyone who has ever laced up a basketball sneaker, eaten a Big Mac or sipped from a Gatorade bottle is aware that Jordan made his real fortune in endorsements. And that is the money responsible for what is likely the biggest divorce settlement ever for an athlete.
‘The Last Dance’ may enlighten us
With almost nothing else to watch for more than a month in the way of live action, many sports fans are eager to see The Last Dance, the ESPN series that begins Sunday night. The multi-part documentary is largely about the peak of Michael Jordan’s career in the 1990s with the Chicago Bulls.
Courtesy of trailers and assorted leaks, we already know that the series will explore more than just Jordan’s success on the court. Jordan has already said he expects unflattering details about his life to be revealed.
Whether that includes delving deeply into Jordan’s first marriage remains to be seen. Jordan and Juanita Vanoy married in 1989, separated in 2002, and announced their divorce in 2006. Juanita Jordan, 42 years old at the time, cited “irreconcilable differences” when she first filed for the divorce in 2002. The couple reconciled for a time but there would be a subsequent divorce filing at the end of 2006 in which they said they had arrived at the decision “mutually and amicably.”
The widely cited amount of the settlement remains speculation, of course, but it almost certainly exceeds the $110 million that it cost Tiger Woods in his 2010 divorce from Elin Nordegren.
Michael Jordan’s divorce cost the basketball star $168 million
Michael Jordan and Juanita Vanoy met at a Chicago restaurant while she was employed as a loan officer at a bank and he already appeared destined to be the next NBA superstar. The first of their three children had already been born by the time they married in September 1989.
When they split for good at the end of 2006, the basketball star had accumulated a fortune from his line of Air Jordan shoes with Nike and endorsement deals with the likes of Gatorade, Hanes, and McDonald’s. Estimates of the time put his net worth anywhere from $400 million to $500 million, with the higher number the more likely of the two.
That set the table for one of the most expensive divorce settlements ever. Even with their prenuptial agreement in place, Juanita Jordan left with $168 million, the couple’s seven-acre estate and custody of their three children.
Michael Jordan has since remarried
The 2006 divorce may have put a dent in Michael Jordan’s net worth for a time, but he rebounded nicely and continued to earn substantial money even after retiring for good as a player in 2003. Forbes reported in 2013 that Jordan earned $80 million the previous year from his endorsements and a sprawling empire including restaurants and a car dealership.
Jordan’s fortune was reported to be $650 million by the time he married model Yvette Prieto in 2013. Prieto agreed to a prenuptial agreement much more favorable to her husband.
The terms reportedly call for her to receive $1 million for each year married if they divorce. The amount increases to $5 million per year after their 10th anniversary.