Being successful on the sports field is one thing; being successful in the field of business is quite another. Not all athletes manage the transition from sports- star to cooperate- leader, but for those that do, the rewards are plain to see. Some stars like to splash their name across a pair of sneakers, others like to use their fame for philanthropic pursuits, still others like to increase their sporting salaries through wise investments. Regardless of how they choose to make their dough, make their dough they do… with athletes now regularly ranking among the world’s richest, it’s time to look at what turns a regular sportsperson into a global success story with a rundown of the top 50 athlete entrepreneurs of all time.
50. Brad Pyatt
You may have heard the name MusclePharm before, but did you know the man behind the supplement giant is actually former NFL star, Brad Pyatt? Pyatt helped found the company in 2008, and is credited with developing it into one of the world’s leading sports supplement brands. After serving as company CEO and president for 8 years, Pyatt resigned from MusclePharm in 2016… just 8 months after an investigation was launched into the company’s “financial irregularities."
49. Marques Harris
Since retiring from the game, former American Footballer Marques Harris has enjoyed considerable success as a real estate mogul, life coach and motivational speaker. He currently sits on the board of directors for the charitable foundation, Athletes for Care, who’s mission is to ‘ provide support through career transitions, help athletes leverage their influence to give back, and build meaningful business relationships.'
48. Rosevelt Colvin
After a 10-year diet of broiled chicken and broccoli, former linebacker for the Chicago Bears and New England Patriots, Rosevelt Colvin, could be forgiven for chucking the healthy options in for some well-deserved treats. Unlike many former players who simply indulge their own sweet tooth, Colvin saw an opportunity to treat both himself and his neighbors: in 2009, he and his wife partnered up to open SweeTies Gourmet Treats, a cake shop in Indianapolis. Even if his fans prove to be less enthusiastic about his pastries than they were of his sacks, he needn’t worry too much; his financial fortunes are already secure thanks to the 2 lucrative UPS stores he opened in 2008.
47. Craig Bellamy
If you were wondering how athletes fund their lavish lifestyles at the end of their sporting careers, the answer lies in a little business acumen and a healthy interest in philanthropy… at least if former British soccer player, Craig Bellamy, is anything to go by. Bellamy is a prime example of what can be achieved with a charitable disposition and a famous name- in 2008, he established the Craig Bellamy Foundation, an organization which aims to position soccer alongside education to help elevate poverty in some of the most deprived communities in Sierra Leone. Unfortunately, Bellamy’s bookkeeping skills weren’t quite on par with his talents on the soccer field, and in 2016, the charity’s activities were halted after certain “financial irregularities” were unearthed. Bellamy has nonetheless soldiered on, earning a role as academy coach at Cardiff Football club, ownership of the Cardiff Combat MMA gym, and a commentating gig with Sky Sports.
46. Gagan Narang
Gagan Narang has both the honor of being the first Indian to qualify for the London Olympics in 2012, and the distinction of being one of India’s rising entrepreneurs. His shooting academy, Guns for Glory, provides one of the best sporting infrastructures in the country, and is responsible for bringing together the talents of various world class coaches, physiotherapists, sports injury management teams, and others with the shared aim of producing India’s next generation of shooting stars.
45. Peyton Manning
When Peyton Manning retired just a month after winning his second super bowl, he was still at the peak of his athletic abilities. However, he’s subsequently taken his career to new heights thanks to lucrative sponsorship deals with brands such as Nationwide Insurance and Gatorade. Before cashing in his stake in 2018, he could also claim to be the proud owner of 31 Papa John’s Pizza shops in Denver.
44. Leander Paes
Indian tennis player Paes bought home an Olympic Gold medal in 1996, and has continued to do his nation proud thanks to the achievements of his sports management company, Leander Sports. Established in 2005, the company’s diverse activities include sports, media, social content and sports infrastructure. According to Entrepreneur, Paes has also developed a reputation as an accomplished motivational speaker, and has shared his words of wisdom with the employees of a number of global corporations, including Microsoft and Nestle. A partnership with IMG-Reliance completes his resume, while future plans include a move into animation and fashion.
43. Randy Flores
Randy Flores began his career with the New York Yankees in 2002, and since the end of his playing career, has won acclaim for his entrepreneurial talents. As well as providing on- air commentary as an analyst for ESPN and PAC-12 Network, Flores has coached for USC and founded his own business, OnDeckDigital. The company capitalizes on video capture technology to give players and scouts the opportunity to assess game play. Since its launch, the product has been a major hit with the scouting departments of MLB clubs, while Flores himself has enjoyed similar fortunes as Cardinal’s Director of Scouting.
42. Kevin Seraphin
There’s no denying French basketball player Kevin Seraphin knows a thing or two about the power of social media. In 2014, Seraphin launched Thorolgraffix, a photo editing app that allows users to edit their social media offerings through filters, masking and various other effects. The app has been a runaway success: as CISION reports, within just the first few days of its launch, it achieved over 10,000 downloads. Seraphin is now looking to expand his empire further, and is currently beta testing a new social networking app, Looks.
41. Kristi Yamaguchi
During her time as a professional figure skater, Kristi Yamaguchi achieved what all athletes aspire to, but few achieve: an Olympic Gold Medal. Further to her success in the ring, Yamaguchi has claimed considerable success with her very own fashion brand, Tsu.ya. Despite a portion of the brand’s proceeds going to Yamaguchi’ s Always Dream Foundation (a charity set up to promote childhood literacy and education), Yamaguchi still sees her fair share of the fortune… with a net worth of $8 million, she can boast the title of one of the world’s richest female athletes.
40. Saina Nehwal
Saina Nehwal’s prowess on the sporting field has turned her into something of a national treasure. The badminton star can claim first (and so far, only) Indian badminton player to win an Olympic medal; the only Indian to have won medals at every major BWF individual event; the only Indian woman to achieve world No 1 ranking, and the first Indian female badminton player to reach the finals of the All England Open. Along with her sporting achievements, Nehwal has also racked up a fair share of business glory: her first venture came with an investment in health start up, Paree (which she also endorses), and she’s since created her own line of sporting attire in partnership with Yonex.
39. Daniel Wilcox
Ever wondered what an NFL tight end does after retirement? In the case of Daniel Wilcox, the answer is “get successful”. After he quit the game in 2008, Wilcox began rolling out plans to dominate the business world. A year later, he launched Mr. 83 Degreez Renovation and Designs, a remodeling company named after the number 83 he wore on his football jersey. In 2010, he furthered his ambitions with a second business, the event planning and design company, Stickly. He’s also kept close ties with the game, and according to Go Banking Rates currently occupies the role of director of player personnel and recruiting at Georgia State University.
38. Abhinav Bindra
As the only Indian to win gold at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Abhinav Bindra would be forgiven for spending the rest of his years reflecting on past glories. However, the talented athlete has more ambition than that; not only does he own Abhinav Futuristic, an Indian company with interests in the sports, fitness, and health sectors (and, slightly bizarrely, an agreement with Walther Arms to manufacture its rifles in India), he also owns Shooting Star LLP, a $2 million VC incubation fund that promotes startups.
37. Gale Sayers
Gale Sayers (or The Kansas Comet, as he was known throughout his NFL career), tapped into the potential of the dawning computer age when, in 1984, he founded Crest Computer Supply Company. Just a decade later, the company was generating sales of $55.3 million… a fortune which no doubt contributed to Sayers incredible $50 million net worth.
36. Li Na
With a reported net worth of $50 million, it’s unlikely Li Na will be skipping out on her lunch bill anytime soon. The tennis star rose to fame in 2011 when she earned the title of first Asian to make the finals of the Australian Open. Her 2014 return to Australia bagged her the Grand Slam title, as well as heralding her retirement from the sport. Her retirement didn’t put an end to her earnings, however, and in 2014 alone, Na pulled in over $18 million in endorsements. Since then, she’s gone on to enjoy a hugely successful partnership with Nike, which culminated in the launch of the own line of apparel, the Li Na Collection, in China.
35. Eddie Jordan
Irish racing car legend Eddie Jordan won multiple successes on the track in the 1970’s, including winning the Formula Atlantic Championship with Marlboro, and appearing in Formula 3, 2, and 1. Not content with a life behind the wheel, Jordan took center stage in the early 1980’s when he established his own racing team, Eddie Jordan Racing. The team went on to achieve multiple championship wins for Jordan, who in 1990, took his career to the next level with the founding of the world-famous, Jordan Grand Prix. Since the sale of Jordan Grand Prix in 2005, Jordan has achieved great success as a sports pundit and journalist.
34. Shaquille O’Neal
The giant stature of Shaquille O’Neal may have put the fear of god into his opponents during his NFL career, but these days, O’Neal enjoys putting the fear up his business competitors instead. O’Neal has built up a healthy portfolio that includes 155 Five Guys restaurants, forty 24 Hour Fitness Gyms, and multiple tech investments. Add to the list a controlling interest in the O’Neal Group (a real estate investment company), and it’s clear why O’Neal is just as fierce a proposition in the boardroom as he was on the field.
33. David Robinson
If you follow basketball, you’ll know the name David Robinson. If you don’t, you may still have heard of the former Olympic medalist thanks to his subsequent achievements in business. Robinson has previously enjoyed a board position at the USAA Federal Savings Bank, and currently co-owns Admiral Capital Group, a company dedicated to community development and real estate management.
32. Kevin Durant
Although he considers himself a hooper before anything else, others are fast waking up to the entrepreneurial talents of basketball star, Kevin Durant. Durant Co., his co-owned venture with manager and business partner, Rich Kleiman, has investments in over 30 companies, including tech start-ups, Skydio, JetSmarter and Yoshi, and venture capital firm, CerraCap Ventures. As reported on Hoops Hype, the basketball legend also has stakes in numerous eateries, from a fine dining New York restaurant to the pizza chain, Pieology. It doesn’t stop there… Durant has also founded his own entertainment company, Thirty Five Media, and invested in Overtime, an app which shows highlights of up-and-coming high school athletes.
31. Carmelo Anthony
Former professional basketball player, Carmelo Anthony, has enjoyed almost as much success off the court as he did on it. In 2003, he signed with Nike’s Jordan brand for a whopping $3.5 million per year for 6 years. The following year, his first signature shoe, the Jordan Carmelo 1.5, hit the shops… 14 years later, his Melo line can rack up 13 releases to date. Anthony has also played a part in community outreach; his North American Soccer League expansion club, Puerto Rico FC, was founded in 2015 as a means of helping underprivileged kids develop through football, as well as providing Anthony with the opportunity for long term investment revenue.
30. Tom Brady
Some men get all the luck. Tom Brady is not only married to a supermodel and viewed as a living legend among football fans, he’s also a hugely successful businessman. Brady has essentially turned his name into a brand, and can now boast a highly successful website, a bestselling book (The TB12 Method: How to Achieve a Lifetime of Sustained Peak Performance), and multiple appearances on TV and film. He’s also racked up his fair share of endorsements; in 2014 alone, he was credited by Forbes to have pulled in $7 million in endorsement deals.
29. Steph Curry
American basketball player Steph Curry can boast co-ownership of not one, but two, tech startups: Slyce and Coachup. Slyce was launched in partnership with former Nike affiliates, Bryant Barr and Jason Mayden. The company provides a platform which aims to enhance communication between players and their fans, allowing the exchange of messages and play relevant content. CoachUp, meanwhile, serves as a private coaching app that partners personal trainers and coaches with athletes.
28. Greg Norman
During his time as a golfing pro, Norman managed to win more than 90 tournaments, including 20 PGA Tour events. Since leaving the golf course behind, Norman has continued to pull in the wins, thanks in no small part to the success of his multinational cooperation, the Greg Norman Company. As reported, the business has its fingers in almost every pie likely to turn a profit, from clothing and consumer products to asset- based lending and golf course design.
27. Isaiah Kacyvenski
It’s hard to know which achievement of former NFL linebacker, Isaiah Kacyvenski, is most impressive: his 8-year career in American football, his two degrees from the University of Harvard, or his multiple successes as an investor and entrepreneur. With a resume that includes Managing Partner at Blue Star Innovation Partners, Co-Founder and Managing Director of the Sports Innovation Lab, Global Head of Business Development at MC10, Co-founder and Managing Partner of Will Ventures, and Investor and Adviser to over 25 companies, there seems no end to Kacyvenski’s talents…. and that’s not even to mention the 7 technology patents he holds in his name.
26. Shawntae Spencer
Former American football cornerback turned technology angel investor, Shawntae Spencer, has a resume that would turn even the best of us green with envy. After leaving the game in 2013, Spencer began investing heavily in startups, starting with the education platform, Zana, and taking in 11 more companies on the way to his most recent investment with German holiday rental company, HomeToGo. If the stress of his multiple ventures proves too much, he won’t have far to travel for some light relief: according to his LinkedIn profile, Spencer currently sits on the Board of Directors for Maitri Medicinals, a medical marijuana producer and dispensary in Pennsylvania.
25. Chris Paul
Consistently ranked by Forbes as one of the highest paid athletes in the world, Chris Paul has an extensive list of endorsements to his name, including sponsorship's with Nike, State Farm, Tissot, Hook & Albert and Muzik. The Houston Rockets point guard secured his fortunes for good this year when he and his Oh Dipp!!! production company partnered up with Live PD producer Big Fish Entertainment to develop new digital and entertainment content. Project plans are already underway, and there’s some talk over whether Paul may host one or two of the shows himself. Whether he does or not, there’s no doubting his bright future.
24. Rick Mirer
Playing with 7 different teams over the course of a 12-year career would be enough to drive anyone to drink, and that’s certainly the case for this former NFL quarterback. Since quitting the game in 2004, Mirer has enjoyed a prosperous second career as a winemaker, and currently co-owns the Mirror Wine Company, a Napa County winery established in 2008. Mirer doesn’t get the luxury of drinking all the profits, however; a percentage of all proceeds from the wine sales goes towards the Mirer Family Foundation. With CNBC reporting an average retail price of between $75 and $90 per bottle, it’s unlikely the foundation will be facing financial difficulties any time soon.
23. Tiger Woods
2019 Masters winner, Tiger Woods, can claim to be a lot more than just the world’s greatest golfer. In 2006, Woods announced the launch of Tiger Woods Design, a design company that would provide the footing for Woods’ ambition to roll out a global series of golf courses. The company’s initial project was set to be the Al Ruwaya Golf Course in Dubai. Unfortunately, the project ran into difficulties early on, and in 2011, the New York Times reported that it has been shelved. Follow-up projects suffered similar fates, thanks in part to the general decline in the global economy in 2009, and Woods’ infidelity scandal of the same year. On the bright side, Woods is still racking up the hits thanks to his best-selling golf instruction manual, How I Play Golf; his 2017 memoir, The 1997 Masters: My Story; his own line of headphones; ownership of The Woods Jupiter restaurant, and profitable endorsements with the likes of Rolex, Nike and Upper Deck.
22. Arnold Palmer
Professional golfer Arnold Palmer is widely regarded as one of the best players in golfing history, even earning himself the nickname “The King” in recognition of his sporting prowess. After his retirement, Palmer took it upon himself to turn his home city of Orlando into a recreational playground and “golfing paradise." This desire extended to building one of the key destinations on the PGA tour, the Bay Hill Club and Lodge, which Palmer owned a controlling interest in up until his death in 2016. As well as designing more than 300 golf courses across 37 states, 25 countries and five continents, Palmer also ventured into the food and beverage sector when, in 2001, his eponymous sweet iced tea launched to massive success.
21. Dave Bing
After a long career spanning seven All-star seasons, Dave Bing retired from the world of professional basketball in 1978. He did not, however, take his “retirement” too seriously… 2 years after hanging up his jersey for the last time, he founded Bing Steel, a steel and manufacturing company which within just 5 years of creation, would see yearly profits of over $40 million. In 1980, the company transformed into the Bing Group, a base of manufacturing companies that became one of the largest steel conglomerates in Michigan. In 2008, Bing entered the political arena when he declared his intentions to run in the Detroit mayoral elections of 2009. Bing won the election and continued his duties until 2013. Unfortunately, Bing’s career in office was slightly less auspicious than his career on the basketball court… during his term, Detroit become the largest city in US history to file for bankruptcy.
20. Ion Tiriac
Former professional tennis player and Olympic ice hockey player, Ion Tiriac, can add a new title to his resume: “tycoon”. According to Forbes, the Romanian has accrued a net worth of $1.1 billion thanks to profitable investments in real estate, banking, insurance and oil. He also owns a minority stake in Romanian insurance company, Allianz- Tiriac.
19. Kobe Bryant
After a 20-year career with the Lakers, basketball legend Kobe Bryant officially retired from the game in 2016. That same year, Forbes named him as one of the richest entrepreneurs under 40. Bryant’s current wealth owes much to the $68 million in salary and endorsements he pulled in during his career, but a fair portion of his $400 million net worth can also be attributed to the business ventures he’s pursued since leaving the game. His activities have been numerous, and include a role as a global ambassador for the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup in China, a now- folded independent record label, and most significantly of all, a $200 million stake in Kobe Inc, an investment company which aims to acquire and develop brands within the sporting industry. Bryant also co- owns Bryant- Stibel, a venture capital operation which, since its establishment, has invested in more than a dozen different startups, including the hugely successful Legal Zoom and Alibaba Group.
18. Chris Webber
Former basketball player and five-time NBA ALL-Star, Chris Webber, is a leading example to other players hoping to continue their careers after retirement. Since leaving the game, Webber has enjoyed success as an analyst on NBA TV’s NBA Gametime Live, and has also made regular appearances as a panelist on TNT’s Players Only. Outside of his commentating gigs, Webber has tried his hand as a restaurateur (not altogether successfully, it must be said – his Sacramento restaurant, Center Court with C-Webb, closed in 2009), as a music producer (hits includes Nas’ “Surviving the Times” and “Blunt Ashes”), and as a host (check out his skills on Podcast One’s Fearless or Insane). His primary occupation these days, however, is the collection of African – American artifacts. Webber began his collection in 1994, and unveiled it to the public during the Celebrating Heritage Exhibition at Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit.
17. Serena Williams
The younger Williams sister is a double threat; not only is she one of the best female tennis players in the world, she’s also a very successful (and very rich) businesswoman. Since the early 2000’s, Williams’ has racked up endorsement deals with the likes of Puma, Nike, Gatorade, Chase Bank and OPI. Currently, she’s sitting pretty as the Chief Sporting Officer for luxury automotive manufacturer, Aston Martin, and as one of the directors for SurveyMonkey. If that wasn’t enough to keep her occupied, Williams can also lay claim to her own apparel line (Aneres), a nail polish collection (Hair Tech), numerous cameos on TV and film and, as reported by ESPN, a hefty stake in the Miami Dolphins.
16. Eddie George
Former running back, Eddie George, ended his professional football career after nine years and 4 consecutive visits to the Pro Bowl. Since retiring, George has made good use of his MBA from Northwestern University’s Kellogg’s School of Management, with successes that span the philanthropic, the political, and the commercial. In 2006, George became spokesperson for Tennessee's GetFitTN program (an initiative aimed at promoting a healthy lifestyle and preventing diabetes), and a year later, he used his household name status to campaign for Barak Obama’s presidential bid. In between projects, George has found time to develop EDGE, a leading landscape design company that has overseen such major projects as the John Glenn Columbus International Airport in Ohio and Hocking College Energy Institute.
15. Magic Johnson
As magic in business as he was on the court, the former basketball player has achieved huge success since quitting the game in 1996. Johnson’s off- court activities have included hosting duties on his own talk show, The Magic Hour (although admittedly, Johnson proved slightly less successful as a host than as a pitcher, and the show was cancelled within just 2 months of airing), motivational speaking, founding a record label, and running Magic Johnson Enterprises, a conglomerate that includes a chain of movie theaters, a promotional company, and a film studio. In 1994, Johnson returned to his old stomping ground when he became a minority stakeholder in the Lakers. In 2012, he sold his interests in the club but stayed on as unpaid Vice President. To add to his portfolio, Johnson can claim a majority interest in EquiTrust Life, co-ownership of the Los Angeles Football Club, and multiple investments in real estate.
14. Wayne Gretzky
As one of hockey’s most successful players, Wayne Gretzky is no slouch when it comes to business either. Since leaving the game, Gretzky has made a fortune by affiliating himself with such brands as Coca-Cola, Sharp and Domino’s Pizza. His most profitable endorsement to date has been with EA Sports video games, Gretzy NHL. He’s also been making a few bucks from his Canadian restaurant ventures, while his position as partner and vice-chairman of Oilers Entertainment Group is likely to be propping up his bank account nicely. To top it off, Gretzky can claim the honor, dubious though it may be, of an appearance in a Nickelback music video. I’m not sure how many hockey players would want to boast the same, but there’s little doubting how many would want a chance at his $200 million fortune.
13. Roger Staubach
However impressive Roger Staubach’s achievements on the football field were (and impressive they undoubtedly were, as his title of Most Valuable Player of Superbowl VI and VI, they’re unlikely to match up to his subsequent successes in real estate. The former NFL quarterback took his first strides in business in 1977, when he co-founded the real estate business, The Staubach Company, alongside Henry S. Miller associate, Robert Holloway Jr.. In 1982, Staubach bought out Holloway to claim controlling interests in the venture, and served as its chairman and CEO until June 2007. In 2008, The Staubach Company was sold to Jones Lang LaSalle for a staggering $613 million. The sale grossed more than $100 million for Staubach, who continued his interests in the business via a position as executive chairman. Along with the fortune he’s pulled in from real estate, Staubach has also raked in dollar aplenty from his work as spokesperson for Anderson Little and his television commercials for Rolaids. Whatever comes next for Staubach, it’s unlikely he’ll be worrying about making rent anytime soon.
12. Cal Ripken Jr.
An illustrious,20-year career with the Baltimore Orioles seems insignificant compared to the success former shortstop Cal Riken Jr. has achieved since leaving the athletics world behind. Not only is Ripken a best-selling author, with credits such as 2013’s Hothead and Wild Pitch to his name, he’s also owner of several minor league baseball teams, including the Aberdeen IronBirds, the Augusta Green Jackets, and the Charlotte Stone Crabs. If that wasn’t enough to keep him busy, his work as President and CEO of the Ripken Baseball Inc. should be more than plenty: founded in 1991, the company aims to encourage a love of baseball from a grassroots level, with activities including youth camps, a youth baseball academy and the marketing and sale of baseball merchandise. Thanks to his endeavors, Ripken has managed to accrue an estimated net worth of $75 million.
11. Venus Williams
If you thought the elder Williams sister was intimating enough on the tennis court, you’ll certainly not want to go up against her in business. As if winning 7 Grand Slam Singles titles and 15 Grand Slam doubles and mixed double championships wasn’t enough, Williams has achieved spectacular success off the court thanks to her entrepreneurial spirit and dogged determination. In 2003, she founded V*Starr, an interior design company that caters to both private and cooperate clients. Four years later, she partnered up with the retail giant Steve & Barry to launch her own clothing line, EleVen. Both businesses proved successful, and in 2009, her achievements were recognized when she polled 77th on Forbes’ Top 100 Most Powerful Celebrities. Since then, Williams has continued to add to her portfolio with a controlling interest in NFL’s Miami Dolphins, and authorship of a New York Time’s Best Seller with her first book, Come to Win; How Sports Can Help You Top Your Profession. How she continues to find time for a game of tennis is anyone’s guess.
10. Lewis Howes
Lewis Howes’ career may have started in the arena of professional athletics, but it’s his subsequent ventures in business that have come to define him. In 2008, Howes launched the social media sports marketing firm, SportsNetworker, along with a membership website for the sporting elite, Sports Executives Association. Since then, he’s gone on to claim 2 appearances on the New York Bestseller’s list with the aptly titled “The School of Greatness”, and the rather more ambiguously named “The Mask of Masculinity”. Howes’ success was cemented when he was recognized by President Obama as one of the top 100 entrepreneurs in the country under 30. If that wasn’t enough, he also features regularly in The New York Times, People, Forbes, Fast Company, ESPN, and various other media outlets.
9. David Beckham
David Beckham may be married to the Artist Formerly Known as Posh Spice, but he hasn’t let that get in the way of his entrepreneurial ambitions. Since his retirement from soccer in 2013, he’s collected a small fortune from his endorsement of brands such as Pepsi, Adidas, H&M, IBM, Samsung and Breitling. Thanks to his status as the ultimate “metrosexual”, he’s also in hot demand by every clothing designer, fashion magazine, cosmetics company, spa, and exercise promoter that understands the value of a softly spoken voice and a great hairdo. When he’s not plugging every product known to man, Beckham finds the time to promote his range of eponymous video games, his personal fragrance line, Instinct, and his ambassadorial role with UNICEF. Somehow or other, he’s also managed to find time to invest in Inter Miami CF, which is due to launch in 2020. How much this will add to his already significant net worth of $450 million remains to be seen.
8. Vinnie Johnson
Vinnie Johnson started his career in 1972. After achieving multiple successes on the pitch, Johnson retired from the game in 1992. Unlike many former players, his retirement plans didn’t include beating a quiet retreat to the golf club. Instead, Johnson decided to try his hand at business, starting with the launch of Piston Automotive in 1995. The company, which specializes in the design, manufacture and supply of auto parts, systems and assemblies, has seen astronomical growth since its inception, and can now boast over 850 employees across 8 nationwide facilities. Johnson’s aspirations didn’t end with automotive parts, however… today, he can claim bragging right as Chair and CEO of the umbrella organization, Piston Group, a company with over 10,000 employees, 2.3m facilities, and a revenue of $2.88 billion. Not bad for a man formerly known as "The Microwave”.
7. Maria Sharapova
If you thought athletes lived off broiled chicken and broccoli, think again…. Maria Sharapova has been living quite handsomely lately off the proceeds of her candy creation, the not quite eponymous Sugarpova. The line of confectionery features a dozen differently flavored candies, with such saccharine names as Flirty, Splashy and Smitten. Before you scoff too heartily, you should know that a portion of all sales go to the Maria Sharapova Foundation, a charitable organization which awards scholarships to Belarus children affected by the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. Alongside her charitable work, Sharapova lends her name to numerous brands, including Nike, Prince and Canon, while also acting as the “face” of several fashion houses. In 2010, she launched her own line of tennis apparel, the Nike Maria Sharapova Collection, while simultaneously designing a line of shoes and handbags for fashion brand, Cole Hann.
6. Tony Hawk
You don’t have to be a skateboarding fan to know the name Tony Hawk… but then again, Hawk’s ascension to household name status owes more to his business acumen than it does to his ability to pull off the perfect 900. The skateboarding legend’s first experience of the corporate world came with his line of licensed video games, and he’s since gone on to see success with Boom Boom Huck-Jam, a show tour featuring freestyle skateboarding and BMX; amusement park rides; a Youtube channel; endorsement of everything from clothing lines to bikes, and multiple film and TV appearances. He’s also worked extensively with his philanthropic organization, The Tony Hawk Foundation, which has donated more than $5.8 million to the creation of safe and legal skate parks across the US.
5. Oscar De La Hoya
Not many athletes would have the initiative to start their own promotional company, but I guess Oscar De La Hoya isn’t like most other athletes. During his career as a professional boxer, De La Hoya racked up multiple world titles in six weight classes, giving him the title of 9th best boxer of all time according to Boxrec. De La Hoya announced his retirement from boxing in 2009, but by then his future was already guaranteed thanks to Golden Boy Promotions, the combat sport promotional firm established in 2002. Even if Golden Boy had failed to lay the proverbial golden egg, it’s unlikely De La Hoya would be losing too much sleep about it; since retiring, he’s been raking in the cash with activities including a line of active wear with Mervyn’s department store, hosting duties on boxing reality TV series, The Next Great Champ, a children’s picture book entitled Super Oscar, and a 25% stake in Major League soccer club, Houston Dynamo. It also seems De La Hoya may have political ambitions: according to CBS, the former boxer is keen to face off against Trump in the 2020 election battle. Now, that’s one fight I think we’d all pay to see….
4. LeBron James
Lebron James’ off-court credits include ownership of LRMR Marketing (an agent and sports-marketing company that handles all of James’ marketing), a laugh-out- loud appearance on the Amy Schumer vehicle, Train Wreck, and endorsement deals with a multitude of big brand names such as Coca-Cola, Dunkin’ Brands, McDonalds, Nike, State Farm and Beats by Dre. James’ first and most major endorsement to date came when Nike, Reebok, and Adidas launched a 3- way bidding war for his affiliation. Nike eventually won the deal after parting with a staggering $90 million. Since then, James’ global presence has been cemented via his co-ownership of production company SpringHill Entertainment and digital video company, Uninterrupted, which in 2015 benefited from a $15.8 million cash injection from Warner Bros and Turner Sports. With such a rich resume, it’s little wonder James is regularly cited as one of America’s most successful and influential athletes.
3. Michael Jordan
Michael Jordan may be revered as the most successful basketball player in NBA history, but in recent years, he’s also proved himself a mighty fine businessman. Thanks to his multiple business ventures and endorsements, Jordan is now ranked as the nation’s third richest African-American (outflanked only by Robert F. Smith and Oprah Winfrey). His endorsements of brands such as Coca-Cola- Gatorade, MC, and Nike has seen him pull in a yearly income of approx. $45 million (although some may say this is peanuts compared to the $800 million a year in sales the Jordan Brand makes for Nike). However, there’s more to Jordan’s success than product endorsements: in 2014, Jordan increased his controlling interests in the Charlotte Hornets to 89.5%, and in 2017, he became part owner of the Miami Martins of Major League Baseball. If that wasn’t enough, Jordan also co-owns the Jordan automotive group, manages a chain of restaurants, and has authored multiple bestsellers, including 1993’s Rare Air: Michael on Michael, and 1998’s For the Love of the Game: My Story. From the look of things, the only thing Jordan can’t do is take a break.
2. John Elway
Even If John Elway had faded into obscurity the moment his professional football career bit the dust, he’d still have left a lasting impression. When he hung up his football boots for the last time in 1999, Elwyn held the distinction of being the second most prolific passer on NFL records, and the only quarterback to have ever scored a rushing touchdown at four separate super bowls. Since his retirement from the game, Elway hasn’t exactly been taking it easy: between 2003 and 2008, he co-owned and acted as General Manager for the arena football team, Colorado Crush. In 2011, he returned to old territory when his took over as General Manager and Executive VP of Football Operations at Denver Broncos. Elway has also been a busy boy outside the sporting world: with four steakhouses, a partnership with Bassett Furniture, and a philanthropic interest in the Elway Foundation, it’s unlikely we’ll be seeing Elway join his fellow retirees on the golf course any time soon.
1. George Foreman
He may have been a heavyweight champion in the boxing ring, but George Foreman has proven to be an equally heavy hitter in the business world. Since hanging up his boxing gloves in 1997, Foreman has earned a considerable fortune thanks to his affiliation with the George Foreman Grill. Foreman’s association with the lean, mean, grilling machine started in the mid 1990’s, when he sold Russell Hobbs, Inc, the right to use his name on the product for a return of 45% of the profits. Since then, the grill has gone on to sell more than 100 million units. As CNBC reports, Foreman’s other business ventures (which include a range of frozen meats, a shoe line and a range of shakes) have proven less profitable; however, thanks to the over $130 million Foreman pulled in when he sold the naming rights to the grill in 1999, I doubt he’s sweating the small stuff.
Written by Garrett Parker
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