David Ortiz Has 99 Problems, Jay-Z is One

David Ortiz Has 99 Problems, Jay-Z is One

April 21st, 2010  |  Published in Blog, Uncategorized

It’s bad enough to lose your mojo and get benched in favor of the ancient Mike Lowell, but now David Ortiz has another problem to deal with: Jay-Z.

The entertainment mogul and his business partner Juan Perez are suing the Red Sox slugger for trading on their 40/40 nightclub’s name by opening a club called Forty-Forty in Santo Domingo. According to a report by the Associated Press earlier this week, the suit seeks more than $5 million in damages.

In the wake of the news, I’ve heard a number of people slam Jay-Z for being greedy; others have berated David Ortiz for being a goniff. I tend to side with the latter group. Though Jay-Z is a cunning and ruthless businessman, I think he’s clearly in the right in this case. Jay-Z’s name is one of the most valuable celebrity brands out there, earning him a slew of seven-figure endorsement deals over the years.

His 40/40 Club in Manhattan is a venture in which Jay-Z has invested significant capital — both financial and lyrical — and thanks to his efforts, he and his partners have been expanding their empire in recent years. In addition to opening additional locations in the U.S., they’ve licensed the 40/40 name to operators in Tokyo and Macau. Those clubs aren’t open yet, but you can bet Jay-Z received a hefty sum for the rights to use his club’s name.

David Ortiz didn’t come up with the name of his club by accident — the suit filed in Manhattan federal court notes that Ortiz had been to Jay-Z’s 40/40 many times. If he’s going to use the same name for his club, he should pay Jay-Z the same amount that the club operators in Macau and Tokyo are paying, though that sum is likely less than $5 million.

My guess is that Ortiz will settle for a few million dollars, and Jay-Z will gain a begrudging licensee for his 40/40 chain. No matter what happens, the brouhaha should spark interest in both clubs — any publicity is good publicity.

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Zack O'Malley Greenburg is the senior editor of media & entertainment at Forbes and author of two books: Michael Jackson, Inc and the Jay Z biography Empire State of Mind. In a decade at Forbes, Zack has investigated topics from pension fund scandals to Katy Perry's touring business to Wu-Tang Clan's secret album. His work has also appeared in the Washington Post, Billboard, Sports Illustrated, McSweeney's and Vibe; he's served as an expert source for BBC, NPR, MTV, NY Times and 60 Minutes, and as a speaker at SXSW, TEDx, Georgetown, Harvard and Yale, his alma mater. A recovering child actor, he played the title role in film Lorenzo's Oil (1992). Zack is now writing a new book, THREE KINGS, which will be published in 2017 by Little, Brown. Get Zack's quarterly email updates | Full bio

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