MACLEAN'S REVIEWS

SPORTS

How a sweetheart named Nancy is becoming a money machine

Jack Batten November 1 1968
MACLEAN'S REVIEWS

SPORTS

How a sweetheart named Nancy is becoming a money machine

Jack Batten November 1 1968

SPORTS

How a sweetheart named Nancy is becoming a money machine

Jack Batten

JUST ABOUT the only place where you could find Nancy Greene over the last half-dozen or so years — strapped into a pair of Rossignol fibreglass VR17s skimming down a freshly powdered mountain slope — is the last place you can expect to find her this winter. After winning an Olympic gold medal, two World Cups and a couple of hundred assorted downhills, slaloms and giant slaloms since 1960, there’ll be little time for skiing, even pleasure skiing, for Nancy in 1969. This is the year that Nancy Greene, Canada’s Sweetheart, turns into Nancy Greene, Monster Money-Making Machine.

When Miss Greene announced in April, 1968, that she was through with amateur skiing, she allowed that she didn’t necessarily expect to make a lot of money out of her fame. She was, she said, mainly interested in keeping up her image among young people as a kind of wholesome alternative to the hippies and their way of life. But,

as things are working out, money just seems to be sticking to Nancy, and if young people manage any contact with her these days, it’s mostly to hear her extol the merits of Jobs In The Communications Industry (on behalf of her client, the British Columbia Telephone Company) or of the WideTracking Capabilities Of The Brand New 1969 Pontiac (for another client, General Motors of Canada).

Besides selling cars for GM, with whom she has a three-year contract, and jobs for BC Tel, with whom she has a two-year contract, she’s talking it up in other TV commercials, personal appearances, industrial shows and newspaper and magazine ads for, among others, Mars Candy Bars, Jergens Hand Lotion, Lange ski boots, Rossignol skis and for a selection of Nancy Greene ski wear manufactured by a Toronto company in three price lines, ranging from Tiger (low-priced, for kids) through Gold Medal (medium-price) to Auto-

graph (expensive). She’s also marketing two books — a picture album depicting her career, and an autobiography which, her publisher claims, “could hit 25,000 sales” — and she’s pushing a series of syndicated newspaper columns filled with ski tips. Then there’s her TV work, including a job as color commentator during the CBC’s coverage of the Olympic Games in Mexico, and the endless string of personal appearances, ribbon cuttings, parade marshallings and sport-banquet head-tablings that has already taken her from the Lobster Festival at Summerside, PEI, to Klondike Days in Edmonton to the grand Opening Day Ceremony at Vancouver’s Pacific National Exhibition.

No one is saying exactly how much all of this frantic activity is going to earn Nancy. GM, her major benefactor, declines to disclose the salary they’re paying Miss Greene, and her manager, a former Toronto sportscaster named Doug Maxwell, only concedes that, well, all things considered, her income will reach at least $200,000 in the next couple of years. Whatever she does make, it will stand as a record high among Canadian athletes who don’t happen to be hockey players (Bobby Hull, for one, is cashing in at a more lucrative rate), and it will — alas, alas, alas — probably be a lot less than she could make if she had signed, as she could have, with Mark MacCormack, the preeminent genius among American sport entrepreneurs.

MacCormack, who manages such millionaire athletes as Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus, recently negotiated another of his clients, Jean Claude Killy, the great French skier and the male counterpart to Nancy Greene, into a three-year, $300,000 deal with General Motors in the United States. But Nancy turned down a management offer from MacCormack, and with it, presumably, a $300,000 contract of her own, for patriotic reasons — she wanted to go Canadian and she opted for Maxwell.

Alan Eagleson, for one, thinks that

Nancy should have put aside her chauvinistic motives, admirable as they are. Eagleson is the Toronto lawyer who acts as counsel to the National Hockey League’s Players Association and who, this summer, reportedly worked out a $400,000 contract for Bobby Orr with the Boston Bruins. “I have no criticism of Maxwell and his operation,” Eagleson says. “It’s just that people like MacCormack know how to move around in a slicker way and how to make more money. Maxwell came in to see me and offered a kind of trade — I’d do some work for Nancy and he’d do something for my client, Bobby Orr.

“I asked him, just for the sake of speculation, what he could make for Bobby in the next year in contracts outside of hockey. He named a figure and I thought, no deal, I was already making Bobby twice that much with various manufacturers.”

But then, as Nancy said in the beginning, she isn’t interested in just money. And, true enough, through her, all of her clients are linked with the cause of ski promotion in Canada in one way or another — GM is supplying cars to transport the National Team from meet to meet, Jergens Lotion is raising money for the team through its ads and so is Mars Bars. But, most of all in Nancy’s public service campaign, she’s involving herself in the Sports Task Force, a threeman group (a businessman, a physician and Nancy) given six months and $50,000 by Prime Minister Trudeau to investigate and report on the deficiencies in amateur sport in Canada (why don’t we win more international competitions, what is the effect of pro sports on amateur athletes, why aren’t we better?).

Thus, as Nancy Greene roars around the country this year, operating as Nancy the Money-Making Machine, scrubbing up as Nancy the Young People’s Image, she’s also serving as Nancy the Sports Investigator and, possibly, the Sports Savior, which is, after all, not bad for a Canadian Sweetheart turned pro.