SBJ/August 15-21, 2011/People and Pop Culture

Norman on the economy: 'It is the worst I've ever seen America with the confidence level'

Greg Norman last week said that he was close to landing a new title sponsor for the Shark Shootout, which has been without a title sponsor since Bank of America/Merrill Lynch decided not to renew in January, after five years in that role. Norman also said he was in deep talks with a global company on a new endorsement deal to add to his portfolio. Norman took a few minutes to speak to Drew Shull at SBJ/SBD before last week’s PGA Championship in Atlanta, where Norman made an appearance on behalf of his endorsement partner Omega.

What’s your take on what’s going on in the financial markets this week?

Norman: I think it’s disgraceful, I really do. I’m going to say it from two aspects. I’m going to say it as a very fortunate Australian who moved to America in the ’80s who has been through two recessions, nothing to the magnitude that we’ve seen and nothing to the magnitude that we’re in now. I’ve seen it from a player, I’ve seen it from a business owner, I’ve seen it from an entrepreneur. It’s just pathetic leadership and I say that with all honesty because you lead from the top down. There’s no question about it. I ran my business — and everybody since 2008 had to have made some kind of adjustments to their current business model to survive. We all had to do it, we all had to make pay cuts, we all had to make sacrifices.

What do you see next for the economy?
Norman: It is only my observation, but we have trillions of dollars in cash sitting on the side. Corporations are now investing overseas because they don’t want to get zero percent on their money. So what happens is that we have all this cash sitting on the side and nobody is going to invest in the lifeblood of America — create jobs and stimulate the economy — when they don’t know what is going on. There is no certainty in the market and the market, Wall Street, certainly hates uncertainty. And until they get that confidence, whether that comes from the present leader or somebody else in the future, I don’t see anything happening in America for a very long period of time. … It is the worst I’ve ever seen America with the confidence level. Do I blame the media to some degree? Yes. The hype, speculation and the negative attitude. They have the right to do that because it is there. It is black and white. I see it in my business. It is very, very difficult right now for all of us. I don’t want to invest into growing my business in America right now until I see confidence coming up. Now, Great White Shark Enterprises is a little more China-centric, with the development potential of my brand in China. China is a force that is going to be there for a long, long period of time. If I can find a way to leverage my brand into that 1.3 billion people base, I’m going to do it.

What Great White Shark Enterprises business segments are you seeing strength in?
Norman: In the United States? None, in our business. Absolutely none. The housing market obviously has dictated that
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In U.S. segments, Norman sees opportunities but not strength.
golf courses are not being built up in communities. Resorts are dead in America. There is more of an opportunity from a distressed part than going out there and spending $300 [million] to $400 million on a new resort. Are there great opportunities going forward in the United States? Absolutely. I see the market caps of some of these great companies and you go, “Wow.” There is cash to be had if people have confidence to invest. There are going to be corporations swallowed up with the way that their market caps are right now. The rest of the world, third-world countries are really propping up the global economy. The capital is being spent in certain places: Vietnam, Belize, Argentina, Brazil, Australia to a degree. Australia is a two-speed economy because of the commodities. Money is still being spent down in Australia. I have six jobs down there. It is amazing how a small country like Australia keeps churning it out.

You said recently that “golf is in a tough place in the United States.” In what sense?
Norman: I think it is a perception problem, it is a reality problem, it is a financial problem. It is a time problem — the time it takes to play the game of golf. It is in a tough box right now. Consumers are really saving their dollars today and reducing their own debt, but when they feel more comfortable and want to get rid of that disposable income, [golf] is one of the things that they are going to look at. Golf will come back.

What is your opinion on the current state of business of the PGA Tour?
Norman: I can only say that if I experienced what I’m currently experiencing [in trying to find a sponsor for his Shark Shootout], heaven forbid what the PGA Tour is experiencing. They are in TV negotiations right now. I would love to be a fly on the wall because the ratings are down. The game of golf from the players’ perspective is global, so they don’t have the Tiger Woods factor anymore. Even though he does move the needle, he is nowhere near the player that he used to be. Now the players have gone global, and I think that is fantastic for the game, but it’s got to be a tough slog for them, though.
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