The ramifications of Tiger Woods' sexual escapades and his decision to take an indefinite break from golf began to unfold yesterday, the first public tremors to rattle his $1 billion corporate empire.
One of Woods' sponsors, Gillette, said it won't feature the world's richest athlete in its marketing campaign while he takes time off to repair his personal life. (Woods has been married to Elin Nordegren for five years, and they have a 2-year-old daughter and a 10-month-old son.) A statement issued yesterday by Gillette said: "As Tiger takes a break from the public eye, we will support his desire for privacy by limiting his role in our marketing programs."
Woods appears in Gillette razor commercials with Derek Jeter and Roger Federer, and presumably his image will disappear from them.
"This is supporting his desire to step out of the public eye and we're going to support him by helping him to take a lower profile," Gillette spokesman Damon Jones said yesterday.
"We support Tiger's decision and our thoughts will be with him and his family," AT&T spokeswoman Susan Bean said. "We are presently evaluating our ongoing relationship with him."
Nike, which is Woods' largest corporate partner with a deal estimated at $40 million a year, stood by him. "He is the best golfer in the world and one of the greatest athletes of his era," Nike spokeswoman Beth Gast said in a statement. "We look forward to his return to golf. He and his family have Nike's full support."
In other developments, it was confirmed that Woods' wife bought a six-bedroom house on a small island near Stockholm that is reachable only by boat. Stenake Johansson, chairman of the Residential Association on Faglaro island, told The Associated Press yesterday that Nordegren became the owner on Dec. 1.
Woods' caddie, Steve Williams, said in an interview with the Sunday News in New Zealand that he is angry with an American sportswriter who said the caddie must have known about Woods' alleged affairs and may even have helped arranged liaisons.
"What people fail to realize is I [just] work for Tiger Woods," Williams told the newspaper. "Whilst I am a very good friend of his . . . I don't know what he does off the course. When he is not competing, I am back in New Zealand. I have no knowledge of what he is doing. I am an honest person. I had no knowledge of what was going on. If I did, I would say I did."
With AP, Internet reports