NBA Player: Shaquille O’Neal, the King of Franchises: 155 Burger Joints, 40 Gyms and a $400 Million Net Worth | Sports

Attendees at the International Franchise Association conference in San Diego last February were surprised to learn that speakers at the gathering included former NBA player Shaquille O’Neal. “I learned from the great Magic Johnson that it’s okay to be a basketball star, but at some point you want to start investing in companies.” O’Neal told CNBC during the event.

Gone is the 21-year-old athlete, who spent his first million in a single day after signing with the Orlando Magic in 1992. Thanks to his 19 seasons as a professional athlete and his investments in various restaurant franchises and fast food chains, among other businesses, O’Neal now has a net worth of $400 million. He is one of the five richest players in the NBA, followed by Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Junior Bridgeman and Lebron James who have a net worth of $1 billion.

“The franchise is a simple model. If it works, follow the rules and it will keep working. If you stick to the values ​​you’ve learned, you can’t go wrong.” That philosophy was inspired by O’Neal, who holds an MBA from the University of Phoenix and a Ph.D. in education, to the king of franchising. “It’s just something I should have on my resume when I come back to reality. One day I might have to put a basketball down and have a normal 9-5 like everyone else,” the player said at his graduation a decade ago.

Since announcing his retirement in 2011, the NBA star has owned 155 Five Guys hamburger operations, accounting for 10% of the entire company. (He later sold the franchise.) O’Neal also owns 17 Auntie Anne’s Pretzels restaurants and has invested in nine Papa John’s restaurants.

Not only does he put his money into 150 car washes, 40 24-hour gyms and a movie theater in his hometown of Newark, but he also runs his own fast food chain. In 2018 he founded the chicken sandwich brand Big Chicken. With more than 10 offices in the city of Las Vegas, the businessman wants to expand to other American cities like Austin and Phoenix. The franchise’s chicken sandwiches are now appearing on the menus of the cruise line Carnival, for which he calls himself “Chief Fun Officer”. His passion for food has even led to a recipe book he published in early April. With a cover of burgers, brownies and fried chicken, Shaq’s family style promises “championship recipes for feeding family and friends”. He says in the lyrics that he wanted to call the book “Recipes for Dummies” and went with simple recipes from his childhood: “Things I like to eat, places I’ve been, people I love, things , in which I believe and some of my best inventions”, he writes, referring to the Big Chicken recipes.

Believe in business and follow your instincts

As he’s said in interviews, the four-time NBA championship winner has always understood that money can disappear just as quickly as it appeared. According to a study published in sports illustrated, 60% of former NBA players go bankrupt within five years of retirement. Such was the fate of players like Dennis Rodman and Scottie Pippen — but not Shaq.

By the time the player retired from the NBA, he had earned more than $292 million from basketball, along with an additional $220 million in sponsorships and endorsements for brands like Oreos, Pepsi and Reebok. But before he left the court, O’Neal had already made his big investment: buying Google stock. “One day I overhear these two gentlemen talking about Google search engines […] I want to invest in that. My guy hooked it up, we invested, and then I forgot everything,” he explained in a 2019 interview with The Wall Street Journal.

In the same interview, the athlete admitted that his success as an entrepreneur is based on never investing in or promoting a company whose products he would not use himself. “My ability is that if something comes on my desk and I don’t believe in it, I don’t even look at it,” O’Neal explained. The athlete said the Wheaties cereal company wanted him to be the face of the brand, but he declined because he preferred their rival: Frosted Flakes – he would later appear on their cereal boxes.

However, he admitted that following his instincts hasn’t always worked for him. O’Neal, who is also a DJ, actor and presenter, recalled how his biggest regret was not doing business with the Starbucks CEO. My agent calls me and says, ‘Howard Schultz wants to do business with you, and I’m like coffee? Because growing up, I had never seen a black man drinking coffee in my household,” he told American journalist Graham Bensinger. “So I put the big Howard shield in my face,” he continued, “and said, ‘Black people don’t drink coffee, sir. I don’t think it will work. And you should have seen his face.”

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