Michael Jordan's Divorce: Numbers Game Being Played?

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Type in "Michael Jordan divorce" in Google and you'll get 58,800 hits. All of these stories will tell you that Michael Jordan has agreed to pay his ex-wife Juanita $168 million in what is the largest divorce settlement in history.

When reached, Jordan's business manager Estee Portnoy wouldn't comment on the number, but I have strong suspicions that it's just not close.

The story started making the rounds this week again after the Sunday Times reported this along with the $168 million number: "The final severance package for Juanita Jordan, which includes the couple's seven-acre estate in Chicago and custody of their three children, is expected to be agreed...."

First of all, do you think the Sunday Times in England of all papers breaks this story? Next, would you believe the $168 million number if I told you that any Jordan insider can tell you that not one of them knows plans of Jordan to leave his estate. I can't speak to the custody thing, as we know that his wife has always been insistent on that.

It's interesting to go to the root of how this started. The numbers started to get bandied about in April when Forbes.com wrote this:

"The legendary basketball star married Juanita Vanoy, a Chicago bank officer, in 1989. He already had signed an eight-year, $25 million contract with the Chicago Bulls. He also was earning another $30 million a year from Nike and other endorsement deals....Over the course of the marriage, Jordan earned more than $350 million. Should Juanita press for half of his assets, she could get more than $150 million in the settlement."

I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that Michael very likely had a pre-nup. I mean, do you think there was anyone making more than $20 million a year in 1989 that didn't have a pre-nup? I don't. And if Jordan had a pre-nup--which I'm sure his agent David Falk didn't let him go without--Juanita Jordan is not ending up with $168 million. Unless, that is, Jordan's earnings have been grossly underestimated and his real earnings are closer to $550 million than $350 million.

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