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Converse, Worm Sever Ties

The unpredictable Dennis Rodman has been told to find new shoes to fill, according to The Boston Globe.

Basketball shoe manufacturer Converse Inc. of North Reading has ended its $15 million endorsement contract with Rodman about one year before it was to expire, the Globe said it was told by unidentified sources in a story for Tuesday's editions.

The Globe also was told that Rodman, a forward for the Los Angeles Lakers, contends Converse owes him about $3 million and plans to fight the decision.

Converse told Rodman last week it was using an exit clause in the 1997 contract to end the deal, the Globe said it was told.

Converse signed Rodman to try to score points against such competitors as Adidas, Nike and Reebok.

Rodman had kicked a photographer during a nationally broadcast game just before the contract was signed.

The NBA suspended him; Eastman Kodak and the West Coast hamburger chain Carl Jr.'s pulled television commercials featuring him.

But James E. Solomon, senior vice president of marketing at Converse, said Rodman was "an inherently good individual who has a strong competitive spirit and a good work ethic."

Seven months later, the value of Converse shares dropped 5.9 percent, and investors were said to be worried that the demand for the Rodman shoe -- the All-Star '99 -- was 10 percent less than expected.

The Globe said it could not reach Solomon for comment Monday, but the newspaper quoted NBC courtside reporter Jim Gray as saying during a national broadcast Sunday that Converse "terminated that contract due to breach of contract involving terms of behavior, number of games played, and not having a deal in time."

Converse dropped from fifth in the market share of basketball sneakers in 1997 to seventh last year, and last month the company said its revenues fell from $450.2 million in 1997 to $308.4 million last year.

Converse stock has lost more than half its value in the last year.

"The whole idea was to use Rodman's obvious visibility to increase the numbers in the basketball shoe area -- where sales are flat industry-wide -- to try to solidify the core business, while expanding into fashion and performance sneakers," Gregg Hartly, executive director of the Sporting Goods Manufacturing Association, told the Globe.

"It didn't work. Dennis was always in the spotlight more for his personality problems than what he did on the court," he said.

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