Breaking Brown

June 7, 2016

Muhammad Ali Sold 80% of Licensing Rights to Billionaire for $50 Million in 2006

Muhammad Ali Sold 80% of Licensing Rights to Billionaire for $50 Million in 2006

Being a free black man is near impossible in the United States, even for a heavyweight champion who came as close to freedom as any black person ever could’ve dreamed.

In a capitalist country with over 500 billionaires, freedom in America isn’t about a predisposition, but a number. How free you are in the U.S. is directly connected to your bank account. And freedom requires not only capital, but human relationships with enough expertise to leverage both your capital and image.

Muhammad Ali inked a deal to sell 80% of his name and image licensing stake for $50 million dollars in 2006. Robert F. X. Sillerman, former chief executive of the entertainment company CKX, announced he’d bought a majority stake in Ali’s licensing in 2006, the New York Times reported.

CKX has made a name for itself by making superstars even richer through celebrity endorsements. The company specializes in acquiring brands of stars that are under-performing. For example, according to the Times, CKX also owns licensing for Elvis Presley.

Mr.  Silverman said during an interview that acquiring licensing for both Ali and Presley were goals when he started the company.

“When you have the name, image and likeness of the most-recognized person on the planet, that’s the most important thing to have,” Mr. Sillerman said at the time.

Mr. Sillerman, a billionaire, retired from the company he founded in 2010.



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21 thoughts on “Muhammad Ali Sold 80% of Licensing Rights to Billionaire for $50 Million in 2006

  1. Watchful says:

    Can’t help but wonder what role his wife Lonnie played in that ‘licensing’ deal.

  2. Johnw11 says:

    Muhammad Ali was unquestionably a ‘wonder’ of the world. He championed justice for Blacks, while at the same time being the best at his profession. A rarity, indeed! Poetically speaking, he was a mountain over which the morning sun rises. A mountain so tall in courage that only the sun itself, after eclipsing it, would reign higher in a cloudless sky.
    My dad and oldest brother (both huge fans) introduced me to his growing legacy during my childhood.
    “There’s a man,” my dad would always say, “who is a very good example of what a Black man should be: the best at his profession yet a defender of his people.”
    I became a Muhammad Ali zealot. I was proud (and still am) to have shaken his hand, and ‘clown’ boxed for a few seconds with him in my teen years.
    But as time passed, it became clear to me that the very forces that had scorned him; tried to destroy him, had begun to ‘break him.” And only then did they accept him. Or, at least, they pretended to accept him. It was full evidence to all paying attention that a Black man (or woman) is acceptable only after having been broken. He didn’t talk like he once did, even before his health had begun to fail.
    But I would be lying if I said that there will not always be a place in my heart for him. I would be lying totally. So I won’t lie: Muhammad Ali was one of my special heroes, and he always will be. Rest in peace CHAMP. No one man alone can prevail against the forces of injustice; not even Muhammad Ali. And that is what I take from the legacy of my childhood hero.

  3. Watchful says:


    How ya been, John? Good to read ur posts again.  Like u, Muhammad was a big hero of mine. Funny thing is, I couldn’t stand him at first back around ’63-’64 bcuz I thought he was just a loudmouth braggart. LOL  Even bet against him in his first bout with Smokin’ Joe, but I never bet against against him after that. In fact, I enthusiastically rooted for him in EVERY one of his fights thereafter. I remember being very worried abt him when he went up against Foreman and was so shocked and thrilled when he knocked him out. He was a great symbol of racial pride for me as a young blk man growing up and even into adulthood. He’ll be sorely missed by millions across the globe for sure and there’ll never, ever be another pro athlete who will come even close to being as great a champion, and more importantly, a person. as he was. May he Rest In Eternal Peace and Power.

  4. Johnw11 says:

    Watchful Thank you; good to hear from you as well.
    You go much farther back with the Great One than I do. As I said, I became an Ali zealot. However, unlike most zealots of other personalities and object/dols, I did research his history and therefore do know about his early career. I know about his throwing his Olympic gold medal won in 1960 or 1961 into the Ohio River, after being refused a hamburger in a restaurant in his hometown of Louisville, Ky. They didn’t serve Blacks there at the time. I know about his getting into boxing after someone stole his bike when he was 12 (I believe). I know about his career being sponsored by a group of Louisville businessmen. I know about his winning the heavyweight championship in 1964, when few gave him a chance to defeat Sonny Listen. I know about his being stripped of his title in 1967 for refusing army induction. I know about his friendship with Malcolm X. And I didn’t learn about these things from the Will Smith movie either. I learned these things from my family and from reading.
    As I think about it, maybe I wasn’t a full blown zealot after all. Zealots are TOTALLY incapable of finding fault with their personality / idol of worship. But I did agree with my uncle that Ali was wrong for calling Sonny Listen an “ugly bear,” and Joe Frazier a “gorilla.” Those are racist terms used against Blacks. But overall, I believe he made a great contribution to Black people. Contrast him to that ignorant Charles Barkley & company, and my point makes itself.

  5. Watchful says:


    LOL … yeah, I do go back a ways. : )
    I also agree with u and ur Uncle on Muhammad being wrong in calling Sonny and Joe those disparaging and disrespectful names, but somethin’ tells me he may have later reached out to apologize to them, at least I hope so. And there’s no question whatsoever in my mind, as to his commitment and contributions to our people. And please, don’t even mention him and Barkley in the same breath.

  6. rod k says:

    Good to see your comments again John. I look at Ali as a sympathetic figure in the sense he was used by everyone he was associated with. From Elisha Mohammed to don king and Bob arum. He was a meal ticket. Don’t get me wrong I appreciate his early stances on civil rights, but he like other black figures of the 6o s loss the depth of their conviction, through status. A good example is bill clinton is giving the eulogy at his funeral. A young Ali would never been associated to a charlatan like bill clinton in the first place. I too have observed how American society has manipulated his legacy for racial harmony. I think where Ali went wrong was, sugar coating race relations for access to the 1% ers of the world. That’s a hard temptation to avoid, when you reach the pinnacle success. The young Ali had no problem hanging out in the hood, where the old Ali drove past it.

  7. Johnw11 says:

    rod k  Thank you. Good to hear from you too. I don’t know whether the people you mentioned “used” Muhammad Ali or not. I know that the boxing industry made more money off him, than he did them. All other rumors I have no knowledge of.
    I do not remember THE CHAMP as a “sympathetic figure.” So I disagree with you there; not to delegitimize your own views, but to assert mine. I remember him as a man who stood up; a man who spoke out against injustices against African Americans and his people everywhere. 
    I have already noted that he changed as time passed. Even so, I’ve never heard of him vocally speaking against African Americans.
    So I remember him fondly and with respect. Even if I had a negative narrative, as opposed to an alluding. I would wait until after the 30 day African American mourning period is over.

  8. Johnw11 says:

    Watchful Thank you, for your feedback. However, I mentioned Barkley only to show the contrast between a responsible Black athlete (Ali) and an irresponsible one (Barkley).

  9. rod k says:

    What I meant by sympathetic, had to do with trust. I remember how the black Muslims made him make disparaging comments about malcolm after he left the black Muslims. I know Ali loved malcolm but was swayed into parroting what Elijah Mohammed wanted. His being a strong black man will never be questioned, it goes without saying. I feel if there wasn’t so many people using him as a meal ticket and encouraging him to fight past his prime, he might still be with us regardless of his Parkinsons . I remember tearing up with my step dad watching him get pummeled by Larry Holmes. It was like the mythical figure we made him out to be, vanished in that fight. I just saw a documentary on Ali on Netflix about his trial and the supreme Court decision in his favor. One point that stood out to me was, their decision only applied to Ali, and no one else. Meaning his defense can’t be used as a precedence for cases after Ali s. This just illustrates how much influence he had and how afraid the establishment was of him. Interesting side note was, Thurgood Marshall chose to recuse himself from the case.

  10. Watchful says:


    Oh, believe me, John … I definitely got what u were sayin’ abt Charles. My reply was more rhetorical than anything. I’m fully aware that Charles, and damn near any other blk athlete of today, for that matter, couldn’t come anywhere close to being as responsible as Muhammad was.

  11. Watchful says:

    rod k

    I seriously doubt that Muhammad himself, had much of anything to do with Clinton playing such a huge role in his funeral service. That probably had more to do with his wife as she had power of attorney and had control of his affairs and decisions regarding his funeral arrangements given the state of his health.

  12. rod k says:

    My point about clinton had to do with status and how Ali association with people of status allowed someone like clinton to do his eulogy. It’s like the time Ali got a medal from George Bush in the white house . I might be mistaken but I believe Ali received that medal after the Katrina fiasco. A young Ali would never have allowed himself to be manipulated by either of these killers. It’s a shame that Ali s wife seem to be caught up in the limelight of his legacy. I read how she ostracized his son and some of his children. The article said she was to controlling. I’m waiting for Hillary Clinton to use his legacy on the campaign trail. To many black icons have become political pawns for the elites of this country.

  13. Watchful says:

    rod k

    Well, there’s no doubt that he was ‘manipulated’, and to a certain degree, exploited … but again, given the status of his health, that was probably to be expected IMO. I agree concerning his wife and how she dealt with certain members of his family, particularly his only biological son … that was inexcusable in my opinion. As to Hillary, or any other politician, for that matter … it should be expected that they’ll use any and every icon available, from any field, sports or otherwise, in an attempt to influence the minds of the voting public to secure political power.

  14. rod k says:

    I just looked up when Ali received the medal of freedom from George Bush. It was in November of 2005. Hurricane Katrina was in august of 2005, so 3 months prior to Ali getting this medal. No way in hell Ali would accept that medal if he was in his right mind. His wife went along with this photo op for Bush.

  15. Watchful says:

    rod k

    Yeah, rod … that’s what I believe, too.

  16. Johnw11 says:

    Watchful Agreed!

  17. Johnw11 says:

    rod k  Actually, I agree with most of what you say. However, my point is I have no evidence of anyone ripping off Ali other than the boxing industry; including “promoters” like Don King (a master con man, and CI-7’s role model). And as far as his relationship with Malcolm goes, it is my understanding that Ali remained in the NOI because he viewed that decision as being in his own best interest. There is a body of literature on the subject.
    Also, I just learned something from you: I didn’t know, or didn’t remember Thurgood Marshall’s recusing himself from the case. That I will check for greater detail. Thanks.
    I do disagree with your belief that boxing caused Ali’s alleged Parkinson debilitation. A lot of people think that narrative is true.While I agree that he should never have fought Larry Holmes ( a great champion in his own right), according many in his camp, including the well-known “Fight Doctor,”  a strange “doctor” came into Ali’s camp while he was training for the Holmes fight and diagnosed Ali as being afflicted with a “thyroid” disorder without having performed the required medical tests to support such a diagnosis.
    He reportedly gave Ali pills that Ali was seen regularly taking; calling the pills “vitamins.” It was then when Ali’s health began declining.
    While links still don’t work too often for me, check out “Muhammad Ali’s Real Reason for Parkinson” on youtube.
    I never did believe his condition was boxing caused: I remember his hitting other boxers upside their heads far more often than they hit him on his.
    Thanks again, I’m about to check out Thurgood Marshall’s recusal while I have a minute of time to spare.

  18. Johnw11 says:

    rod k  Right you are. And like Watchful said, “Lock up the Blacks,” Bill Clinton would never have had the chance to disgrace the funeral services if Ali’s wife had not agreed to such disgracefulness.
    I’ve been getting a lot of negative feedback about that woman lately. And while it is probably not inappropriate, I don’t recall many widows speaking at such events. They are supposed to be in mourning, leaving the speeches to others.
    Yet, after having ruined the services by inviting fakes and phonies to represent THE GREAT ONE’s legacy, she couldn’t wait to blather herself. Most of what she said, along with most of the others, had absolutely no connection to Ali’s legacy, the real world, or what Blacks old enough to remember his courage were mourning about.
    It was a TOTAL disgrace, with few exceptions, in my opinion.

  19. Johnw11 says:

    Watchful rod k  I learned about three years ago that his son was on welfare, often homeless, and shoveling snow for food and shelter. I thought it was wrong.
    I didn’t blame Ali. If I’d thought it was his fault I would have blamed him; hero or no hero. Right is right, and wrong is wrong. But the reporter stated clearly that it was alleged that the wife was keeping Ali’s family members away from him. The son even said that he doubted his dad was aware of his situation.
    Whenever some one seeks to divide and keep away family members from a person, you can bet your last dollar there’s some exploitation going on. As a rule, that is the way exploiters operate.

  20. Johnw11 says:

    rod k  You are correct about Thurgood Marshall’s recusal. Thanks for enlightening me in that regard.

  21. Watchful says:


    Couldn’t agree more, John … I couldn’t even watch most of the memorial service as I became disgusted at the sight of some of the speakers.

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