Golf-McIlroy breaks with first sponsor, Nike waits in wings

LONDON Tue Jan 8, 2013 5:56am EST

LONDON Jan 8 (Reuters) - World number one golfer Rory McIlroy has parted company with his first corporate sponsor ahead of confirmation of a deal that will make him the new face of sportswear giant Nike.

U.S. PGA champion McIlroy is poised to rubber-stamp a 10-year deal with U.S. company Nike worth as much as $250 million, according to media reports.

Nike is set to supply the 23-year-old Northern Irishman's clubs and have its name or logo on his clothing in an exclusive deal.

The Dubai-based hotel company Jumeirah Group said on Tuesday that its five-year sponsorship with 2011 U.S. Open champion McIlroy had ended.

"Jumeirah became my first corporate sponsor when I turned professional back in 2007 and I would like to thank everyone at the company for their support in helping me become the player I am today," McIlroy said in a news release.

The player, who topped the money-lists on both sides of the Atlantic last year, said in November he did not think that ditching the Titleist clubs that have taken him to the top of the sport would affect his game.

Nike is hoping a partnership with the clean-cut McIlroy will help it to move on after it dropped disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong last year over his doping scandal.

The company stuck with former world number one golfer Tiger Woods despite the bad publicity the American suffered when a series of extra-marital affairs were exposed in 2009.

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