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Sun 13 Feb 2011 12:32 PM

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The $55.4m name: Tiger Woods

You've got to hand it to him; Tiger Woods Dubai was a formidable piece of business, writes Damian Reilly

The $55.4m name: Tiger Woods
The $55.4m name: Tiger Woods

You have got to hand it to Tiger Woods. $55m for putting his name to something that never existed is wonderful business. $55m for absolutely nothing. The mere thought of it must have given him considerable succour during his troubles last year. I always thought Juan Sebastian Veron’s move to Manchester United back in 2001 for $45m was the biggest waste of money in sport, but at least he ran about a bit from time to time, and scored the occasional goal. Woods had only to approve some designs – hypothetical designs, as it turned out.

The madness that occurred in Dubai during the boom years is not looking any less mad with the passing of time. The air conditioned beaches, the revolving apartment buildings, the manmade volcanoes, it was all going to happen. Back in 2007, men paid handsomely to make these sorts of decisions were nodding their heads and saying “let’s do it” over architects’ drawings for underwater hotels. It all seemed perfectly normal.

In those days, it was said each day more people in Dubai woke up to find they were millionaires than anywhere else in the world.  No doubt it was true. But doesn’t the prospect of making a huge amount of cash make people crazy? $55m for endorsing a golf course, with an option on another $40m should another course be built? It looks like lunacy now.

It goes without saying that for someone to make a million, others must part with it. Tatweer parted with $55.4m just 24 days before Lehman Brothers went under. That the collapse of Lehman was the start of a financial crisis that eventually put the kibosh on the $1.1bn Tiger Woods Dubai golf course is an irony probably not lost on whichever poor soul was eventually left holding the baby.

Woods’ original contract for lending his name and design nous to Tiger Woods Dubai stated that he would be paid a smaller sum of money up front, and take a share of future earnings. That he should have had the contract changed days before capitalism did a good impression of a death rattle was perspicacious, to put it mildly. Was it luck or judgement? We’ll never know. Although Woods – the greatest golfer who ever drew breath – would be the first to tell you you make your own luck.

Back in the boom days, a steady procession of celebrities made their way to Dubai to be paid staggering sums for lending their names to projects in the emirate that are now cancelled. Paris Hilton, Brad Pitt, Boris Becker, Shah Rukh Khan, Michael Schumacher, Nikki Lauder… all of them put their names to harebrained schemes, grinned for the cameras, and mouthed farcical platitudes about how honoured and excited  they were to be thoroughly involved in the whole thing. I interviewed Boris Becker as he promoted Boris Becker tower back in 2007. He went on at great length about how this would not be a mere vanity project, but something in which he played a major role. Last week at the Laureus awards, cornered and asked if he had a message for all the people who had lost their life savings by investing in the Boris Becker tower, he acted as if he had forgotten about the whole thing. “I’m not sure whether I am still involved,” he said, before striding off, head held high.

Damian Reilly is the Editor of Arabian Business.

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charles 9 years ago

agree with you Damian it is clearly a pointless party parade for celebs. That is not peculiar to Dubai. It will go on and on all over the world. However from a marketing point of view, paying such a "name" 4% (only 4%!) to endorse a project that would bring in over AED 1 B and more to come later, is clearly very good business. Only in hindsight can it be questioned. Hindsight is always 20/20. Business sense is not always 20/20.