Lance Armstrong may lose as much as $200 million in future earnings potential, more than the wealth he accumulated in a championship cycling career now gutted by revelations of doping.
Just days after he was stripped of a record seven Tour de France titles, Armstrong is facing demands that he repay up to $16 million in purses and bonuses from those victories.
But his lost earnings potential far outpaces that, said sports marketing analysts. With a net worth estimated by Forbes at $125 million, the 41-year-old American would have had a prosperous future as an endorser and motivational speaker had the evidence gathered by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency not surfaced, according to Patrick Rishe, an economics professor at Webster University in St. Louis. Nike and Armstrong's other sponsors deserted him after the USADA's report.
"To think that he would be able to make $15-$20 million annually over the next 10 years is not out of the question," Rishe said in a telephone interview. "That puts his loss in potential future earnings at between $150-$200 million."
The French cycling federation, which distributes Tour de France prize money on behalf of the race organizer, the Amaury Sport Organization, said it plans to cooperate with the family-owned company to reclaim the $3.8 million (2.95 million euros) it estimates Armstrong won during his career. SCA Promotions Inc., which insured bonuses Armstrong received for winning the race from 2002 through 2004, said two days ago it will seek almost $12 million.
Armstrong earned $17.5 million in endorsement and speaking fees in 2005, when he won his last Tour de France, Sports Illustrated reported. That number grew to $21 million in 2010, Forbes said. The revenue gain as his career declined is an indication that Armstrong, who survived cancer and started the Livestrong foundation that has pumped what it says is more than $470 million into helping others with the disease, would have remained a potent corporate spokesman and health advocate.
Now that career is in the past.
"I can't imagine anyone being able to make a positive out of a relationship with him at this point," said Jim Andrews, senior vice president of content strategy at IEG, a sponsorship consultant.
Pauline Juliard, a spokeswoman for the French cycling federation, said the group has not begun proceedings to try to recoup money paid to Armstrong. It would be the first time it has asked for money back from a rider, she said.
Armstrong sued SCA for failing to pay his $5 million 2004 bonus. The company settled the case, paying Armstrong that money and $2.5 million in interest and court costs. SCA will work quickly to try to regain almost $12 million from Armstrong, said Jeffrey Tillotson, an attorney for the company.
An email to Tim Herman, Armstrong's attorney, seeking comment about the French cycling federation's plans, SCA and Armstrong's endorsement deals wasn't immediately returned.