LeBron no longer teaming with software giant Microsoft

Updated: November 26, 2008, 6:08 PM ET
Associated Press

CLEVELAND -- LeBron James and Microsoft Corp. have lost their Internet connection.

The NBA superstar and the software giant have ended a two-year marketing partnership. James' spokesman Keith Estabrook confirmed Wednesday the contract between the Cleveland Cavaliers All-Star and Microsoft is not being renewed.

The collaboration led to only one major project -- a Web site geared toward children and teens that was launched in 2007 during All-Star weekend in Las Vegas.

James' site at lebron.msn.com has been shut down and lebronjames.com is also vacant, leaving him temporarily without a personal Web site.

His first appearance for Microsoft was in a cameo role in TV ads for the launch of its Windows Vista operating system in early 2007.

The partnership faltered when Microsoft executive Joanne Bradford, who struck the deal with James, resigned as head of the company's MSN media network this year.

Microsoft confirmed the split with James but did not elaborate, saying the company looks forward to evaluating future projects with him.

James was the first NBA player that Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft used to promote its products.

Earlier this week, financially troubled General Motors Corp. ended a nine-year endorsement deal with Tiger Woods, who still had one year left on his contract.

GM officials said they were looking to cut costs during the worst sales downturn in a quarter-century. Woods' agent at IMG, Mark Steinberg, said the decision was mutual and the world's No. 1 golfer wanted to gain some personal time.

It's unclear whether the economic downturn had any effect on Microsoft's relationship with James.

Microsoft last month reported a 2 percent increase in its first-quarter profit, but its guidance for the current quarter was weaker than Wall Street expected.

The company also said it will cut marketing expenses and take other measures to trim operating expenses by $400 million to $500 million over the fiscal year. Microsoft's stock hit a one-year low last week.

James' stock has never been higher.

He led the U.S. team to a gold medal in the Olympics in Beijing, has the Cavaliers off to a strong start and is the constant subject of media speculation on where he'll play after he's eligible for free agency in July 2010.

Fortune Magazine estimated James has about $170 million in endorsements overall, including deals with Nike, Coca-Cola and Upper Deck.


Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press