Elite U.S. Athletes Back European Sports Site

Sports.com Limited, a European sports content provider, announced today that elite athletes Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, and Shaquille O’Neal will lend some of their considerable resources and name recognition to a second-round funding of the company.

The subsidiary of SportsLine.com (Nasdaq: SPLN) said it raised $52.5 million (US$) through the issuance of Series B preferred stock. A numbers of venture capital firms and existing shareholders such as British news giant Reuters also participated in the funding.

Impressive Resumes

The million-watt allure of Jordan, Woods and O’Neal have helped put Sports.com on the Web map. Jordan is a six-time champion with the NBA’s Chicago Bulls and is widely considered to be the greatest basketball player ever.

Woods, just 24, is the top-ranked golfer in the world. He is currently third on the all-time money-winning list and has won five tournaments in a row.

Los Angeles Laker center O’Neal, known commonly as “Shaq,” has led the team’ s resurgence this year and is considered to be a lock for the NBA Hall of Fame when his career is complete.

“We’re especially pleased that Michael, Shaq and Tiger, with whom we’ve enjoyed long relationships, have such great confidence in the opportunity we’re building to invest their own financial resources in Sports.com,” said company chairman and SportsLine.com founder Michael Levy.

Internet Drawing the Stars

The allure of Internet commerce is apparently becoming too powerful for sports superstars to ignore. The three athletes are all investors in SportsLine.com, which publishes their official Web sites.

Jordan is also a principal along with hockey legend Wayne Gretzky and football great John Elway in a new venture called MVP.com.

Last month, MVP.com agreed to acquire the e-commerce retail business of SportsLine.com in a 10-year, $120 million marketing agreement. In exchange, SportsLine.com received an equity stake in MVP.com.

Broadcasting giant CBS also received an equity stake in the company in exchange for $85 million in advertising and promotion. SportsLine has an exclusive promotional and content agreement with CBS Sports.

Jordan, Woods and O’Neal are likely not familiar with Sports.com’s content. Launched in August, the company is a primary content provider for a number of Europe’s largest Web sites.

Europeans, of course, favor their version of football (soccer), cricket, rugby and other sports over America’s professional basketball, football, baseball and ice hockey leagues.

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