How Shaquille O'Neal Has Built An Incredibly Successful Business Empire

By on May 13, 2020 in ArticlesSports News

Shaquille O'Neal had himself an impressive NBA career. The Big Aristotle took home MVP honors in 2000, won four championships, earned eight All-NBA First Team awards, and made 15 All-Star Game appearances. He's had his jersey retired by two different franchises: No. 34 with the Los Angeles Lakers and No. 32 with the Miami Heat. 

Yet O'Neal's second career as a businessman might be even more incredible. Here's a look at his investing strategy, plus some of his smartest investments.

O'Neal told the Wall Street Journal last year that he saves 75 percent of his income, referencing an analogy a man had shared with him. 

"I met a gentleman one time. He had a piece of paper. He said, 'This is $100.'" After ripping the piece of paper in half, the man told O'Neal: "Smart people invest this $50 and then they have $50 left."

However, the man added that wealthy people take half of that $50 and put it away, so O'Neal started doing that. He encourages all investors to follow the same strategy of investing 75 percent of their income and living off the remaining 25 percent. 

That may not always be feasible, but it's a good reminder to be smart with your money – something O'Neal struggled with when he first entered the league. He bought expensive cars for his mom, dad, and himself, and also paid off his mom's house. In the span of an hour, he had spent $1 million.

O'Neal is much more strategic with his money nowadays. And his net worth has grown considerably as a result.

Rich Fury/Getty Images

Snacking On Food Investments

As far as investments go, let's start with Shaq's most recent move. Just 14 months ago, Papa John's brought O'Neal on as an endorser, franchisee and board member. The company paid Shaq $4.1 million to endorse the brand, adding nearly 90,000 shares of stock as a sweetener. Papa John's recently reported 2020 first quarter sales increased by almost 27 percent from the previous quarter. That makes Shaq's stock alone worth $7 million.

Shaq is also a global spokesperson for Krispy Kreme and owns its downtown Atlanta shop, which has been open for more than half a century. In 2016, JAB Beech, which also owns Keurig, Caribou, and Peet's Coffee, purchased Krispy Kreme for $1.35 billion. 

It's unknown how much Shaq makes as part of his spokesperson agreement. However, Krispy Kreme did $887 million in sales last year just in the United States, so O'Neal is certainly reaping some benefits. In keeping with the fast food theme, O'Neal owns a total of 17 Auntie Anne locations across Buffalo, NY and Michigan. 

O'Neal used to own 155 Five Guys restaurants, which equaled 10 percent of the company's entire franchise portfolio. He's since sold his stake, but has said the burger business was a "very good" investment.

Rolling Into Automotive And Travel Industries

Despite his healthy appetite for food, O'Neal has invested in non-edible opportunities, too. He reportedly owns more than 150 car washes across the country, a steady source of income that can run itself fairly reliably.

O'Neal became the spokesperson for The General auto insurance in 2015, appearing in commercials and other marketing materials. The comical juxtaposition of Shaq next to the tiny animated general has delighted fans for years.

You've also likely seen O'Neal starring in ads for Carnival Cruise Line. The big man holds the important role of Chief Fun Officer, and he provides updates on new company features.

Building A Real Estate Empire

Shaq is a big believer in real estate as an investment vehicle. He created The O'Neal Group to find those kinds of opportunities and partnered with MDM Development to create Met Miami, a complex in downtown Miami. It holds a thousand units and stands at 866 feet tall, making it one of the tallest residential high-rises in the country. The complex also includes a Marriott hotel, 24-Hour Fitness, and multiple office workspaces.

The O'Neal Group got into the movie business in 2012, purchasing and renovating a movie theater in Newark, which is where Shaq grew up. The theater was in a state of total disrepair but after $7 million of renovations, the CityPlex 12 theater re-opened. It featured 12 brand new screens, digital projection, stadium seating, and 3D capability. Naturally, O'Neal put some personal branding into one of the theaters, a 300-seat auditorium called Shaq-DX.

An Early Leap Into Tech Companies

O'Neal has made some wise tech moves, too. He was a pre-IPO investor in Google – an opportunity he scored after a babysitting gig – and has invested in Apple, as well.

In 2016, Shaq learned about Ring, the doorbell camera home security system. He was so impressed by the company that he tracked down founder Jamie Siminoff. Shaq starred in several commercials, invested in the business, and made a healthy amount of cash when Amazon purchased Ring for more than $1 billion.

Shaq can also lay claim to being the first-ever verified account on Twitter. That hasn't earned him any extra money, but it's a cool thing he can point to.

The Shaq Line Of Businesses

Standing at 7'1″ and weighing more than 300 pounds, Shaq stands out quite easily in a crowd. He's used that to his advantage, building a brand around his larger than life frame and personality. He's created Shaq-branded suits, sneakers, jewelry, and his own children's books. Yep, you can grab a copy of Little Shaq to read the next time you need some encouraging words from the big fella.

Missed Opportunities

Of course, like any solid businessman, O'Neal has made a mistake or two when it comes to investing in companies. Way back when he was just starting his NBA career, in the 1990s, O'Neal had a conversation with Howard Schultz, then the CEO of Starbucks. Schultz offered O'Neal a chance to be the lone franchisee for the coffee company.

As O'Neal tells it: "So I looked at the great Howard Schultz's face and said, 'Black people don't drink coffee, sir, I don't think it's gonna work.' And you should have seen the look on his face."

Schultz ultimately offered the franchisee deal to Magic Johnson. Johnson sold 105 Starbucks franchises in 2010, earning about $70 million.

Still, O'Neal has done exceptionally well for himself over the years. He's likely got more investments up his massive sleeves, too. Based on his track record, we'd bet on them turning out successfully.

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