Why did Ewanick get a red card?
Sources say Manchester stretch triggered departure
DETROIT -- When General Motors' then-marketing chief Joel Ewanick approached Manchester United in the spring about a sponsorship deal, he had an authorized annual budget of about $70 million to play with.
The popular British soccer club asked for $100 million, according to two people with knowledge of the negotiations.
Ewanick's $70 million wasn't enough to sign on as Manchester's jersey title, which would allow GM to display the Chevrolet bow tie on the team's jerseys, the sources said. To cover the gap, Ewanick negotiated a separate media deal worth about $20 million to $25 million that included additional advertising rights, bringing the total price tag to more than $600 million over seven years, the sources said.
The decision to push through the side deal to get the sponsorship done led to a clash between Ewanick and GM General Counsel Michael Millikin, the two people familiar with the matter said. Millikin and other executives believed Ewanick had gone behind his superiors' backs while negotiating the Manchester deal and wasn't forthright about its details, the sources said.
Last week, Bloomberg reported that a whistleblower alerted GM executives to Ewanick's handling of the Manchester sponsorship. The news service, citing unnamed sources, said that there was no evidence Ewanick profited personally from the deal and that GM continues to investigate it.
GM renegotiated some elements of the sponsorship that Ewanick had crafted, Bloomberg and Reuters reported. GM announced the deal on July 30, the day after Ewanick's ouster became public.
Ewanick's departure was one of the industry's most tumultuous in recent memory. It also was striking given the fanfare with which he arrived at GM from Nissan in May 2010, shortly after a move there from Hyundai, to rebuild GM's reputation a year after its government-led bankruptcy.
A GM spokesman and Ewanick declined to comment. GM previously has said that Ewanick "elected to resign" and that he "failed to meet the expectations the company has of an employee."
In regulatory filings connected to its initial public offering on Friday, Aug. 10, Manchester United has said that the Chevy deal will generate $559 million through 2021.
You can reach Mike Colias at firstname.lastname@example.org.