Athletes who succeeded as entrepreneurs
By Vasilia Polycarpou, The Sports Financial Literacy Academy, Nicosia, Cyprus
Without a doubt, entrepreneurship has completely reshaped the traditional business landscape with innovative start-ups transforming work as we know it, creating a new meaning for business success. Entrepreneurship has also had an impact on the world of sport.
We see great professional athletes making a transition from sport into the world of business, with entrepreneurship now being a significant part of the modern athletes’ mindset, and consequently redefining their lives. With the athletic career usually being more volatile and short-lived, relative to a career in any other industry, athletes need to find ways to safeguard their financial stability after retirement from sport, meaning that they need to shift their focus from how to spend to how they can build with their money. There are numerous success stories of elite athletes, who have gone on to have successful business careers as startup founders and innovators, in fields outside sport.
To begin with, NBA legend Earvin ‘Magic’ Johnson, with one of the most inspiring careers in basketball, has also managed to have one of the most impressive business track records of any athlete. Being the Chairman and CEO of Magic Johnson Enterprises, an investment conglomerate, he has been involved in a wide range of business ventures. In his early years of entrepreneurship, he partnered with Sony Pictures to develop Magic Johnson Theatres, and, later on, acquired 125 Starbucks stores, which he eventually sold. In terms of the sports industry, in 2012, he became co-owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers, a Major League Baseball franchise for US$2 billion dollars. Johnson also co-owns the Los Angeles Sparks of the WNBA, Major League Soccer’s Los Angeles Football Club, and eSports franchise Team Liquid. Furthermore, Johnson has controlling interests in a US$20 billion financial services company, as well as in a food service and facilities management company, and is a major investor in numerous minority-owned tech companies.
The tennis legends Venus and Serena Williams are another great example of athlete entrepreneurs, with Venus being the owner of VStarr interior design company and CEO of her own sportswear brand EleVen, before even retiring from sport. In the meantime, Serena has her own clothing line S by Serena, whilst also being the CEO of Serena Ventures, an investment company that contributes to the launch of startups. It is also worth mentioning, that they both have part ownership of the Miami Dolphins and UFC. Another tennis pro, who chose to follow the entrepreneurship path, taking time off the court, is Maria Sharapova. She launched her own line of premium candy, Sugarpova, whilst also being a co-owner of a sunscreen brand.
Additionally, former professional boxer George Foreman, is another athlete, who has succeeded as an entrepreneur, by endorsing the world-famous George Foreman Grill. According to Forbes, since it was introduced, hundreds of millions of units have been sold, with Foreman making as much as US$8 million per month at some point.
Former NBA pro, Shaquille O’Neal, has also shown a passion for entrepreneurship. He formerly owned 10% of Five Guys’ entire franchise portfolio and, at some point, owned 40 24-Hour Fitness locations, to which he added his own touch, being an expert in sports.
Seven-time Superbowl champion, Tom Brady, has used his knowledge of physical wellness to launch his own lifestyle brand, TB12, including a line of sportswear, supplements and workout equipment. According to Forbes, he also cofounded an NFT company, which raised US$170 million in January 2022. Brady also launched his own film production company, to develop documentaries, films and TV shows.
With his career still in full swing, Portuguese soccer superstar, Cristiano Ronaldo, keeps adding to his fortune by strengthening his entrepreneurial profile year after year. He launched his own line of eyewear, footwear, underwear and fragrances, under the CR7 brand name. He has also entered the hospitality industry, partnering with a hotel group, to launch a number of lifestyle hotels carrying his name, but also his idea of a healthy lifestyle. Moreover, the soccer star has launched a number of gyms where members can work out exactly like himself. Always keeping up with the trends, he has recently expanded his portfolio, announcing an NFT partnership.
Billionaire basketball icon, Michael Jordan, is not only known as one of the NBA greatest players of all time, but also as a business mogul. His long-standing partnership with NIKE has led to the launch of the Jordan Brand; with one of the world’s best-selling sneakers in history - NIKE Air Jordans; making him an innovator in the field of athletic shoes with his creative input. Jordan is, amongst others, the Chairman and majority owner of the NBA Charlotte Hornets, a NASCAR team co-owner, as well as the majority investor in a golf course.
David Beckham is one of the first footballers to make a name for himself outside soccer and in the world of fashion - with his name being directly associated to style. He may have retired from sport but still has a lot on his plate, with brand endorsements, such as Adidas, L’Oréal, H&M and Tudor, amongst many others. It is worth noting, that in he is co-owner and President of the Major League Soccer Club Inter Miami CF. Recently, retail and entertainment conglomerate Authentic Brands Group established a partnership to co-own Beckham’s global brand, with Beckham becoming a shareholder in Authentic Brands, which owns retailers, such as Barneys New York.
To conclude, it is not uncommon for athletes to join the field of entrepreneurship, whilst having a career in sport, or once they retire from sport, in an attempt to maintain high levels of financial stability. A common factor amongst all these successful athlete entrepreneurs is that they carry the personality traits that have helped them to achieve their sporting goals into their entrepreneurial endeavors, each following paths in which they are passionate!
For further information, advice and guidance in this field, log onto: ‘www.moneysmartathlete.com’