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Li Na

Rich and rested: China’s Li Na tops list of highest-earning retired women sports stars

PUBLISHED : Friday, 01 April, 2016, 10:31am
UPDATED : Friday, 01 April, 2016, 11:59am

China tennis ace Li Na is the world’s highest-earning retired women’s sports star, according to a Forbes magazine study.

The 34-year-old, who retired two years ago but remains an iconic endorsement figure in her homeland, was 14th overall having earned US$14 million last year. She won the 2011 French Open and 2014 Australian Open titles.

NBA legend Michael Jordan and English football superstar David Beckham are the world’s richest retired sports stars.

Jordan, a six-time NBA champion in the 1990s with the Chicago Bulls who now owns the league’s Charlotte Hornets, made US$110 million last year to top the magazine’s list. He retired in 2003.

With his Nike brand still a top money-spinner and endorsement deals, Jordan, 53, is worth US$1.1 billion and will make at least US$30 million more than any other athlete in the world this year, active or retired, the magazine estimated.

Beckham, leading an investment group in the early stages of launching a Major League Soccer expansion team in Miami, ranked second at US$65 million. Major endorsement deals in Britain and China helped boost the 40-year-old’s position.

Golf legend Arnold Palmer, 86, ranked third at US$40 million. His Bay Hill resort hosts a PGA Tour event and his iced tea-lemonade drink is a top-selling US brand.

Junior Bridgeman, who played mainly as a reserve for 12 years in the NBA before retiring in 1987, was fourth at US$32 million, thanks to a owning a diverse lineup of restaurant franchises, with 1950s National Football League player Jerry Richardson, owner of a restaurant chain and the NFL Carolina Panthers, fifth on US$30 million.

Jack Nicklaus, who won a record 18 major golf titles, was sixth on US$26 million, largely due to his course design business.

He was followed by former NBA big man Shaquille O’Neal on US$22 million, former race car driver turned car dealer and team owner Roger Penske on US$20 million, South African golf legend Gary Player on US$19 million and NBA legend Magic Johnson at US$18 million.

Among other top international athletes was Australian golfer Greg Norman, 12th overall at US$15 million thanks to course design and the sale of a sports management business, and Brazilian football icon Pele on US$14 million.