One Year Ago: Hall Of Fame Sports Heroes Join E-Commerce Game

Originally published on December 21, 1999 and brought to you today as a time capsule.

Former NFL, NBA and NHL greats John Elway, Michael Jordan and Wayne Gretzky have announced that they will attempt to muscle into the competitive online sporting goods market by launching next month.

The site will offer expert advice and insight from the world’s top athletes, along with a selection of sporting equipment and apparel. John Costello, a former senior executive vice president of Sears, Roebuck & Co. has been appointed the new company’s chief executive officer.

“ is positioned to lead the highly attractive $150 billion global sporting goods market by combining a carefully selected assortment of merchandise with advice from individuals like John, Michael and Wayne, who represent the top of their fields,” Costello said.

CBS Alliance also announced an alliance with CBS Corporation that will provide $85 million in advertising, promotion, and other considerations over a period of four years in exchange for an undisclosed equity stake in the company.

“Our investment in is consistent with our strategy of teaming with the best partners in the Internet space,” said Mel Karmazin, CEO of CBS Corporation. “ combines two of the leading areas on the Internet — sports and e-commerce. Through its involvement with the world’s top athletes and its partnership with, is a terrific next step in CBS’s Internet strategy.”


In a related announcement, said it will also acquire and operate the online retail business of (Nasdaq: SPLN), the publisher of CBS SportsLine.

The companies have entered into an exclusive, 10-year, $120 million marketing arrangement, and will also have an undisclosed equity interest in

Tough Field Of Rivals

Despite the superstar backing, the new venture will face tough brick-and-click rivals such as The Sports Authority, Gart Sports Co., and Dick’s Clothing & Sporting Goods. In fact, some analysts believe that will need more than just celebrity status to win against these seasoned brick-and-click pros.

Meanwhile, will launch in January 2000, with $65 million in financial backing from Benchmark Capital and Freeman Spogli & Co. In addition, the company has established an exclusive partnership with Galyan’s, a giant sports and outdoors retailer.

Galyan’s will provide merchandising expertise, customer service and fulfillment for the new Web site.

Touchdown, Dunk, Goal!

Elway, 39, created the company with partners JW Genesis and convinced Jordan and Gretzky to join him. The former Denver Bronco quarterback retired last year after leading his team to consecutive Super Bowl victories. He will serve as chairman of the company, while Jordan, who won six championships with the Chicago Bulls, and Gretzky, the former Edmonton, Los Angeles, St. Louis and New York great, will serve on the company’s board of directors.

Elway, Jordan and Gretzky will also lead’s Board of Advisors, which will be composed of top athletes and experts across a wide range of sports and outdoor activities.

“We’re dedicated to being the most valuable place for people who want to get the most out of their sports and outdoor activities,” said Elway. “ is an exciting and important part of my transition from football to business, and will be an integral part of my future plans.”

“I am expanding my post-basketball career in partnership with John Elway, Wayne Gretzky, and Benchmark Capital with,” said Jordan. “The opportunity to become a founding owner and give real input and advice are what attracted me to this new venture. The ability to combine my knowledge of sporting goods and equipment with the new medium of the Internet made this an exciting and natural fit for me.”

“I look forward to growing for decades to come,” Gretzky added. “We intend to put the same effort into this venture that we put into our athletic careers, in hopes that it will result in great success and growth for We are approaching as a team effort, and I very much look forward to working with John, Michael, and the rest of the new company.”

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