Even during a withering sex scandal, EA Sports stuck by Tiger Woods as the face of its golf franchise. Now, however, the company's CEO says Woods must perform like the world's No. 1 golfer, or risk the company looking elsewhere.
Electronic Arts CEO John Riccitiello, speaking Monday at a business leader summit, said EA has no immediate plans to drop Woods. But, saying that his remarks were ""no threat against Tiger," Ricitiello said the relationship is conditional upon Woods being at least perceived as the world's top golf pro.
"It's a business relationship on the basis of we make the best golf game and he's the best golfer," Riccitiello said, noting that his remarks are "no threat against Tiger. "Both of those things need to be true in the long run for the partnership to make sense."
On Oct. 14, Woods lost the world No. 1 ranking he has held, with only brief interruptions, since the first Tiger Woods PGA Tour game released in 1998. He also went winless on the PGA Tour this year for the first time ever. If that happens again, it'd be perfectly understandable for EA to start rethinking this deal.
Earlier this month, EA Sports announced a Facebook golf game with the PGA branding but not Woods', its first golf product in a dozen years without him on it.
The Woods scandal reached its nadir around the time EA Sports launched its browser-based Tiger Woods PGA Tour Online in January. EA Sports president Peter Moore repeatedly said the company was sticking by him even as other sponsors fled. Woods shared the cover of this year's game with another golfer for the first time, though that touted its new team match-play mode. Since then, EA Sports has announced a Facebook golf game with the PGA branding but not Woods.
"He sort of stuck with us for a very long time and we made great business together," Riccitiello said, "and we're willing to give him the benefit of the doubt for a period of time."