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Originally published Tuesday, January 8, 2013 at 12:50 AM

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Jumeirah Group ends sponsorship with McIlroy

The Jumeirah Group is not renewing its five-year sponsorship deal with top-ranked Rory McIlroy amid expectations that the Northern Ireland golf star will sign with Nike next week.

The Associated Press

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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates —

The Jumeirah Group is not renewing its five-year sponsorship deal with top-ranked Rory McIlroy amid expectations that the Northern Ireland golf star will sign with Nike next week.

The global luxury hotel company based in the United Arab Emirates signed the deal with McIlroy when he was 18 and was one of his first corporate sponsors.

"I would like to thank everyone at the company for their support in helping me become the player I am today," McIlroy said Tuesday in a statement. "I have enjoyed five very exciting and successful years with Jumeirah and will always have great memories of my time with the company. Celebrating my first professional win at the 2009 Dubai Desert Classic with the Jumeirah team was a particular highlight."

Gerald Lawless, president and CEO of Jumeirah Group, described McIlroy as a "tremendous ambassador for our brand, both as a consummate golfing professional and as a young man with a great future ahead of him."

The announcement allows McIlroy to pursue a lucrative endorsement contract, with strong indications that he will sign with Nike in a deal that one industry observer estimated at $20 million a year. That would give Nike golf's two biggest stars in McIlroy and Tiger Woods, who has been with the sportswear company since he turned pro in 1996.

In October, McIlroy cut ties with Acushnet Co., which had supplied him with Titleist and FootJoy gear since he turned pro five years ago.

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