Kobe Bryant Joins the Athlete-Entrepreneur Hall of Fame
Steve Nash, Los Angeles LakersMagic Johnson, Los Angeles LakersBrandon Williams, Pittsburgh Steelers Venus Williams, American Professional Tennis Player Maria Sharapova, Russian Professional Tennis PlayerDerek Jeter, New York YankeesMichael Jordan, Chicago BullsGeorge Foreman, American Professional BoxerPeyton Manning, Denver BroncosWayne Gretzky, New York Rangers
Kobe Bryant's latest score? Startup investor.
The L.A. Laker, who's recently been sidelined due to an Achilles injury, announced last week his first investment in BodyArmor, a sports-drink company founded by entrepreneur Mike Repole. Repole founded and sold VitaminWater to Coca-Cola in 2007. Bryant told ESPN that he's investing millions (he wouldn't specify how much) in the company with plans to invest more in other companies and possibly launch some too. He started up Kobe Inc. to focus on building his future sports-related business empire.
The basketball star is just the latest professional athlete to catch the entrepreneurial bug over the years.
Here's a look at Inc.'s list of the entrepreneurial-athlete hall of fame:
In 2010, Nash, the famed point guard, started a hybrid marketing and investment company called Consigliere, with Mike Duda, an advertising executive. Their firm offers fee-based marketing consulting services and seed capital to startups. The duo said raised about $20 million to invest up to $250,000 in consumer products companies.
Johnson has invested so frequently and so much in ventures ranging from Aids-research organizations to Loews movie theaters and in franchises like Burger King, Starbucks, and 24-Hour Fitness clubs that it's hard to keep track. In 2011, Johnson joined Detroit Venture Partners, as a partner. The firm has invested in about 20 companies in the beleaguered city , which has bled hundreds of thousands of jobs, and most recently filed for bankruptcy protection.
In addition to the Steelers, Williams also played for the San Francisco 49ers and the St. Louis Rams. He also founded the Brandon Williams Economic Development Corporation, which funds various business undertakings in the St. Louis area. BWEDC also hosts something called Venture Draft, which brings together professional sports players and venture capital investors to talk about startup and fund ideas.
Venus Williams has one of the meanest backhands around. Plus she's chic on and off the court. And she's applied her aesthetic to her startup V Starr Interiors, an interior design company that specializes in commercial and residential spaces. The tennis pro has also invested in Jamba Juice franchises and is a minority owner of the Miami Dolphins.
So, she has a sweet tooth, in addition to a phenomenal ability to mop up a tennis court with her opponents. The top-seeded Sharapova started the gummy, psychedelic candy company Sugarpova with earnings from her $26 million in grand slam payouts. Sharapova plans to keep expanding the product line when she retires.
With a fortune estimated at around $250 million, Jeter, the ex-Yankee, started Jeter Publishing for adult non-fiction, middle grade, and children's books in 2013. He also invests and serves as brand emissary for a startup called Luvo, which sells ready-made meals for the health-conscious.
The face of Nike's Air Jordan sneakers, a brand relationship from which he earned an estimated $90 million in 2013 alone, Jordan also invests money in other sports ventures. In 2010, Jordan purchased an 80 percent stake in the Charlotte Bobcats, for close to $200 million. Did we forget to mention Jordan also owns seven restaurants and a car dealership? He does.
Not many people can brag they've made as a big a contribution to consumer product culture as heavyweight boxing champion Foreman. In addition to selling hundreds of millions of his signature George Foreman Lean Mean Fat-Reducing Grilling Machines, Foreman has made hundreds of millions of dollars lending his face and name to products ranging from cleaning solutions to men's clothing. In 2005, he owned a 35 percent stake in a George Foreman Enterprises, whose sole asset was George Foreman's face and name. GFE ceased trading in March due to escalating losses.
What can we say, except the Denver Broncos quarterback likes pizza, a lot. Two years ago, he invested big-time in the Papa John's franchise, snatching up 21 of the chain's restaurants in the Denver area. Well-timed, some say, with Colorado's legalization of Marijuana around the same time.
Wayne Gretzy, dubbed by his fans as "the Great One," is considered one of the best hockey players of all time. He also earned an estimated $100 million at the height of his career in the 1990s. Famously pecuniary--he's a brand spokesman for TD Waterhouse and talks about his frugal father--he now owns a restaurant called Wayne Gretzky's in Toronto and has invested in hockey rinks and sports equipment makers.