Being a superb tennis player is something many people can learn to do with enough practice. However, being the youngest winner of a Grand Slam is a whole different story. Michael Chang is a spectacular and singular tennis player (retired). Moreover, he didn’t just take those wins and settle down. In the years during and since his professional sports career, Michael has done a lot of charity work and established a business of his own. After all, you can make good money playing sports, but keeping your net worth in the double-digit millions takes good financial sense and planning.
The Early Years
Born in Hoboken New Jersey, in 1972 Michael Te-Pei Chang is best known for his winning tennis career, but that would not have been possible without his family. His father Joe was a Chinese Diplomat, and his mother Betty was a chemist. Both he and his older brother Carl learned the sport after the family moved to St. Paul, Minnesota. Their first tennis coach was their father Joe who introduced his sons to the game. Soon they relocated again, to California for better tennis opportunities for the boys. His mother was very devoted and quit her job to take him on tour as a tennis player. At just 15 years old Chang dropped out of school to get his GED and pursue tennis. At the time he was ranked #163 in the world already. It was a huge decision, but he knew where he wanted to be in life even as a teenager. Fortunately, he had the skill and talent to back up his life-changing decision. He was already getting international attention. As a youth, he won several important events.
- USTA Junior Hard Court singles (age 12 &13)
- Fiesta Bowl 16s
- USTA Boys 18s Hardcourts and the Boys 18s Nationals (age 15)
By 1989 Michael Chang became the youngest winner of the French Open. He would have been 17 at the time and already had a promising sports career. That’s quite an accomplishment for anyone, let alone a young man under 20. In 1990 he helped his team wing the Davis Cup, and two years later he won the US Open.
Because of his many wins and the attention he received, sponsors also noticed Michael Chang. In 1988 Reebok and Prince (sporting goods, not the singer) contacted him. He signed endorsement deals with both and even had a tennis racket named after him. Reebok provided his shoes and clothing and years later in 1997; they put out a line of watches in his honor as part of an endorsement deal. Though they weren’t the only companies he worked with over the years, Reebok and Prince were among the first.
Anyone who watches sports can tell you endorsement deals are where the big money is at in the industry. Companies are happy to pay well to have winning athletes rep their brands on TV commercials, on billboards, and in print ads. It’s great for the companies who make millions by appealing to a sporty crowd, and good for the athletes who can pad out their bank accounts, adding to their net worth.
- 1989 Nissin Foods (noodles)
- 1990 Cathay Pacific Airlines
- 1991 Bristol-Meyers Squibb (Nuprin)
- 1993 Stelux Watches
- 1996 Discover Card
- 1990s Longines, Panasonic, Tiger Balm, Eveready Batteries, Yale Locks & Procter & Gamble (Rejoice Shampoo)
The Olympics is often seen as the height of athletic achievement. Being chosen to represent your country as an Olympian is a very rare honor indeed. In 1992 Chang was a participant in the Barcelona Summer Olympics. He made it to the second round but was unfortunately eliminated. Though he was the number one seed pick for the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, he chose to opt out. Most people will never even see an Olympic game live. Those who do are very fortunate. Participating or being asked is incredible enough, but Chang was invited three times. He was on the US 2000 Olympic team and went to the Sydney Summer Olympics.
No athlete competes forever, and Chang had an astounding record as a top-tier tennis player. Throughout his whole career, Michael Chang won 34 top-level professional singles titles. That’s an incredible number of wins for any player. The highlight of his career was in 1996 when he was the #2 tennis player in the world. That is a height few aspire to, and even less can ever reach. It’s also rather lucrative. His tennis prize earnings totaled over $19 million. He was the highest paid Tennis Player in the world. That accounts for almost two-thirds of his current net-worth, though he doubtless spent some of the money in his sixteen-year stint as a pro player.
The Chang family must be very close and loyal to each other. In addition to participating in tennis, they went into business together and created CMCB Enterprises, a real estate venture. With it, they eventually bought Dunton Realty Co. and SullivanHayes Cos. The family is invested in lots of commercial real estate, including several shopping malls all over the southwest ( Arizona, California, Colorado, and Texas). It must have been an interesting transition from sports star and being in the spotlight to a quieter existence behind the scenes as an equally prestigious but less lauded property mogul. In addition to their other ventures, the Chang family also started the Chang Family Foundation. They use the foundation to host the Michael Chang Open, a tennis tournament and they run the Christian Sports League. The CSL is a basketball and volleyball sports program that focuses on faith and community as well as fitness. Michael enjoys giving back to the community by helping others achieve their athletic dreams and stay fit.
As with so many talented and smart people, the money really comes from the value they created with their own skills and sensible investments. However, if you want to count the dollars and cents of it, his tennis winnings and endorsement deals are a huge part of what made Michael the millionaire he is today. At the same time, opening such a large venture and going into real estate probably cost more than his current net worth all told. Fortunately, when you own commercial property, you get paid rent. Michael Chang’s current net worth likely comes from his family business and their many parcels of land. Not too shabby for a kid who dropped out of school to swing a tennis racket.