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Audemars Piguet, LeBron James to Partner

Miami Heat star will represent the watch brand while the company lends support to his charitable efforts.

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Special Issue
Men'sWeek issue 04/07/2011

LeBron James is on a new team.

This story first appeared in the April 7, 2011 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Audemars Piguet will reveal at a press event in Miami on Saturday that James, the star forward for the Miami Heat, will become the company’s newest global brand ambassador.

“He’s young and he’s one of the very top, top players in his field,” said François-Henry Bennahmias, president and chief executive officer for the North American arm of the luxury watch company. “We have hope that he’ll be one of the greatest players of all time and will be remembered 10 years from now, too.”

As part of the association, James will represent the watch brand in both the U.S. and overseas while the company lends support to James’s charitable efforts.

“LeBron James is a gifted athlete and an exceptional humanitarian. His mission truly mirrors ours and we are [pleased] to welcome him to the Audemars Piguet family,” said Philippe Merk, ceo of Audemars Piguet.

The athlete’s namesake charity is the LeBron James Family Foundation, which works with children and single-parent households dealing with adversity to build hope through education, physical fitness and better health.

“We saw the impact he has on kids and we wanted to be involved with that,” Bennahmias said. Audemars Piguet sponsored an event on Feb. 18 in Los Angeles, where James and Arnold Schwarzenegger launched the After-School All-Stars’ Hoop Heroes Program. That event raised $2 million, he said.

Bennahmias said that with its other brand ambassadors — who include Quincy Jones, Formula 1 driver Michael Schumacher, golfers Rory McIlroy, Lee Westwood and Ian Poulter, and the “God of cricket,” Sachin Tendulkar — the company has created a watch at the same time as unveiling the association. But with James, the watch will come at a later date.

“That is the first time this has happened,” Bennahmias said. “We will work with his charity and other children’s charities first.” And the watch launch? “Not in 2012, but maybe in 2013.”

Until then, he will “wear something from all our collections, not just the Offshore, which is a favorite of athletes. He dresses well and is stylish, so anything in the collection can work for him.”

James has committed to donate the proceeds from any future auctions of his timepieces to his foundation and its children’s-related activities.

“I am pleased to be working with such a prestigious brand as Audemars Piguet. We both strive for excellence in everything we do,” said James. “To collaborate with AP on an exclusive timepiece while helping my foundation and other worthwhile charities is a real honor.”

James, a two-time NBA Most Valuable Player, was selected as the number-one pick in the 2003 NBA Draft and has the distinction of being named the youngest-ever Rookie of the Year.