Many of the attendees at the annual meeting the International Franchise Association held last February in San Diego (California, USA) were surprised to find that former NBA player Shaquille O’Neal (Newark, 50 years old) was one of the keynote speakers at the congress. “I learned from the great Magic Johnson that it’s good to be a basketball star, but at some point you have to think about doing business and investing,” he admitted. O’Neal in an interview on CNBC television during the event.
Gone is this young athlete who at the age of 21 spent his first million in one day after being signed by the Orlando Magic in 1992. Now O’Neal, and has a net worth of $400 million from 19 seasons as a professional athlete and investments in various restaurant and fast food franchises, among others. in addition to the five richest players in the NBA, just preceded Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Junior Bridgeman and most notably Lebron James with 1,000 million.
“The franchise is a simple model. If it works, you follow the rules and it will keep working… If you stick to the values you’ve learned, you can’t go wrong.” With this philosophy, O’Neal, who holds an MBA (Master of Business Administration ) from the University of Phoenix (Arizona) and has a PhD in education, hailed the king of the franchise, “It’s just something I should have on my resume when I get back to reality. One day I might have to get a basketball.” put it down and have a regular 9-5 schedule 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, which he later sold. In addition, O’Neal also owns 17 Auntie Anne’s Pretzels restaurants, an American chain specializing in confectionery, and has invested in nine Papa John’s restaurants, another American pizza and fast food franchise.
Not only does he put his money into 150 car washes, owns 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 his new venture into other American cities like Austin and Phoenix, in addition to incorporating it as a menu item with cruise line Carnival, which he calls himself “the fun CEO.” His passion for food has even led to this a recipe book which was published in early April. With a lid of hamburgers, Brownies and fried chicken, Shaq’s family style, as the title says, advertises “championship recipes to feed family and friends”. He himself says in the text that he wanted to call it “Recipes for Dummies” and decided to use simple recipes from his childhood: “Things I like to eat, places I’ve been, people I love, things that I believe in and some of my best inventions,” he said, accurately referencing the Big Chicken recipes.
Believe in business and follow your instincts
The former four-ring winner of the most famous basketball league has explained in numerous interviews that he has always been aware that money can come into his hands very easily and just as quickly evaporate. According to a study, the Los Angeles Lakers center is far from being among the 60 percent of former NBA players who go bankrupt five years after their retirement published in the magazine sports illustrated. Among them figures like Dennis Rodman or Scottie Pippen.
When the man also known as Shaq retired from the NBA, he had earned more than $292 million in salary as a player, plus another $220 million in sponsorships and endorsements for brands like Oreos , Pepsi or Reebok. But before he left the courts, O’Neal had already made his big investment: buying Google stock. “I heard two people talking about a search engine and its operation and they offered me to invest in it and I bet on it,” he explained in 2019 in a newspaper interview The Wall Street Journal.
In the same interview, the athlete would also confess that his success as an entrepreneur is based on never investing in or advertising a company whose products he would not use himself. “My ability is that if something comes my way and I don’t believe in it, I don’t even waste time looking for it,” O’Neal explained. The athlete illustrated this in the same presentation with his refusal of the offer he had received from the Wheaties cereal company, which suggested appearing on their boxes, but he declined because his favorites were from the competition, the Fruity Pebbles company, at last appeared.
Although, as he himself admits, following his instincts hasn’t always helped him when deciding whether or not to invest in a project. The DJ, actor and basketball talk show host recalled that one of his biggest business regrets was not doing business with the Starbucks CEO. “My agent called me and said, ‘Howard Schultz wants to do business with you,'” explained the player, who grew up in a family that mainly drank sweet tea and hot chocolate. “My idea was that black people don’t drink coffee,” added O’Neal, who turned down the famous company’s offer to open franchises in predominantly African-American communities. “I told him, ‘Black people don’t drink coffee, sir, I don’t think it’s going to work.’ And you should have seen the look on his face.”