Troubled Norwegian cross country skier Petter Northug was relieved on Thursday, after grocery chain Coop decided to uphold their sponsorship deal. Northug’s future looked shaky after he crashed his car while driving drunk earlier this month, but Coop agreed to continue the deal after Northug said he would cut ties with his management team.
“Our requirement is that he comes to an agreement with New Heights (Nye Høyder, Northug’s personal team established after he quit the national team last year) over terminating the agreement they had with each other,” Coop’s communications director Kristin Paus told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). Northug agreed to the condition last week.
“That Coop has the intention of continuing the partnership is very pleasing,” said Northug, in an SMS via his current New Heights manager Are Sørum Langås. “It is also my intention and my wish.”
Northug put his future in jeopardy when he drunkenly crashed his car in Trondheim at the start of the month, injuring his passenger. He fled the scene and initially lied to police about his involvement.
While Coop decided not to use its exit clause and terminate the deal, a final agreement had not been reached. “We hope of course that this will quickly come into place, but I do not know any more about these conversations,” said Paus.
Coop also pulled its new TV commercial, which Northug filmed at a Coop Extra store in Stjørdal just days before the crash. It featured Northug sitting at a checkout while a secret camera captured surprised customers’ reactions. “The film has almost finished being edited, but it will be put in the drawer for now,” Coop Extra chain manager Hårvard Jensen told newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN).
To add to the uncertainty, the Norwegian Ski Association (Norges Skiforbund) warned Northug and Coop this week the ski star could not be used in Coop marketing from November 1 until April, if he wants to compete in world cup and world championship events for Norway. Northug’s line of products would also have to be pulled from the shelves during the competition period. Neither Coop nor Northug have commented on the matter, reported NRK.
Meanwhile, Northug’s lawyer Ola Haugen and New Heights’ lawyer Morten Brandhaug are negotiating the parting of ways, with New Heights demanding compensation for severance of their three year contract after just one year. “It is normal business practice in the Norwegian industry that if you want to leave a contract, you have to sit down and talk about it and reach agreement over replacing the losses which we eventually must have,” said New Heights’ Lars Christian Engen.
Audi, another of Northug’s major sponsors, had not decided if they would continue their deal. Northug destroyed his luxury Audi A7 in the crash, and will likely be banned from driving. “The status for our part is that we are in discussion with the team around Petter and have had a good conversation with them,” said information manager Marius Tegneby. “We will have more meetings with several parties, we have a few more questions we want answers to.”