The fantastic Nelson Smith is now a staff writer on TSM. Mostly because I felt that you needed something more awesome to read.
Allow me to make a gross blanket statement, because it’s kinda what I do.
People love hearing about former high profile athletes going bankrupt. Former Mets and Phillies center fielder Lenny Dykstra went spectacularly bankrupt back in 2009 as his various business interests imploded. He’s in jail now. Boxers Mike Tyson and Floyd Mayweather are terrible with money, each have burned through hundreds of millions worth of earnings. Evander Holyfield pays tens of thousands in child support every month, since he has 11 different children with 9 different women. The ranks of retired NFL and NBA players are littered with stories of failed business ventures, greedy family members, and personal bankruptcies.
What about the other side of the coin? It’s not very often we look at athletes who were actually smart with their money. And it’s really too bad, since some of these people make savvy investments and turn their millions into legitimate empires. Let’s look at seven.
1. Greg Norman
As a pro golfer, Norman is remembered more for the events he didn’t win — specifically the 1996 Masters — even though he was one of the best players of his generation. He’s made up for it as an entrepreneur, leveraging his brand into a golf empire. He owns interests in many successful courses, a golf apparel/accessory company, a turf company, a golf course design company, and a wine company. His estimated net worth is $300M.
2. Tiger Woods
Speaking of golfers, Tiger Woods is still pretty loaded, even after the world discovered his weakness for sex with everyone except his wife.
Woods doesn’t have much going on except for huge endorsement deals with companies like Nike, Electronic Arts, Rolex, as well as many more, especially before the whole unfortunate business a few years ago. He lost something like $300M when he and his wife split up, and he’s still worth an estimated $600M. It’s good to be Tiger.
3. Magic Johnson
Magic is probably best known for telling the world about his positive AIDS test back in 1991, but he’s been quietly accumulating assets since.
Magic owned a small chunk of the Lakers, purchased in 1994 for $10M. He later sold that to a Los Angeles billionaire for a reported $50M. He also owns Magic Johnson Enterprises, a company that owns movie theaters, a production company, and a promotional company. He also owned 175 Starbucks stores before selling them back to the company back in 2010. His net worth is estimated at $500M.
4. George Foreman
George Foreman is my new favorite person. He has five sons, and they’re all named George. He has seven daughters, all with the middle name George. (Except for one daughter. She is named Georgina.) He retired from professional boxing for a decade, and then mounted a comeback when he was 38, eventually winning the heavyweight title he lost two decades earlier.
Oh, and he also signed on to be the spokesman for a certain grill you’ve heard of. He reportedly sold the right to use his name for over $100M. He’s also a spokesman for a muffler company, and often is hired as an analyst during boxing telecasts. His net worth is estimated at some $250M.
5. Wayne Gretzky
Gretzky retired from hockey back in 1999, and promptly jumped into the endorsement field, famously doing commercials for McDonalds and Ford. He also owns a restaurant near Rogers’ Center in Toronto, as well as a company that makes hockey apparel and another company that makes roller rinks. His net worth is $100M or so.
6. Michael Jordan
No rich athlete list can be complete without the greatest basketball player of all time.
Jordan is well known to live extravagantly, traveling around the world to golf, party, and especially gamble. He’s survived a divorce, an ill-advised comeback with the Wizards, and an even less ill-advised minor league baseball career. And yet he still has a net worth in excess of $500M.
Jordan is a endorsement machine, primarily still raking it in from his signature shoe which is still a great seller for Nike. He’s also done deals with MCI, Hanes, Coke, Gatorade, McDonalds, and those are the ones I can remember off the top of my head. He was also in Space Jam, which was kinda fun I guess.
7. Nolan Ryan
Let’s wrap things up with Nolan Ryan, one of the greatest pitchers in MLB history. Ryan threw seven no-hitters, struck out about a billion batters, and punched the crap out of Robin Ventura when he rushed the mound after getting hit with a fastball in 1991. Ryan giving it to Ventura might be the best baseball highlight of all time.
Ryan invested in what he knew, becoming the principal owner of the Texas Rangers in 2010. He continues to run the team today, and is often shown during Rangers’ telecasts sitting in his spot near the field, often with former U.S. President George W. Bush.
Can you think of any athletes that haven’t squandered their millions? Let us know in the comments.
Most of us are in awe at how much money professional athletes make now, but the truly successful ones are the ones that are good businessmen. Every one of the people mentioned either have a retail product of their own or they have gone on to be owners/ upper management with sports franchises.
Agreed! Musicians are like that, too. Ie Jay-z built an empire
Positive *HIV test.
All of these are once-in-a-generation talents though. I’m interested in the ones who barely have any business playing their sport and yet found a way to capitalize on that fame to make a ton of money… Tim Tebow comes to mind.
And I at least partially would disagree with you about Floyd Mayweather. He may not spend his money as wisely as he could, but he’s among the top in structuring his business so that he keeps a higher percentage of the money he generates.
Fair, I’ll give the Floyd Mayweather point 😉
Athletes have so many opportunities once their sports career is over. They seem to be very in-demand for media personalities and analyst positions. Additionally they have connections, are “known”, and usually are fairly likeable. This all makes for a very favorable entrance into business.
Fair enough. There are some who just aren’t very good at taking the opps and running with them!
I agree with you that many athletes are really prone to bankruptcy after they sport careers ended. Especially in the NBA, Michael and Magic are still rich today maybe because they have more endorsement deals than those players that went bankrupt or having financial struggles. Even for those in golf, they have dozens of endorsement deals that gives them ton of money and makes them richer and richer than the other unknown golfers.
That is true. Also, a ton of them who to invest their money in different ventures.
Gah I want to get sick when I hear about the millions athletes and celebrities in general have squandered. It’s just do depressing! It’s nice to hear the good stories. I think a lot of athletes get away with murder in college and are probably passed in classes simply because of who they are. There is no sense of grounding or responsibility.
Agreed! Although there are some very smart ones out there too!
Not just athletes, any one making millions has to be smart. Only if you are smart you can make money, else not or simply only if you can make money then you are smart. Which one ?
There are many more athletes that have done well, but these are at the top. There are unfortunately too many that have blown their riches.
Terrific list and love the humorous, biting, commentary, haha. All great examples of how to be successful businessmen. It would be interesting to study why these few managed to hold on to their riches and make it multiply when the majority of pro athletes flame out in spectacular fashion…
These athletes are wise enough to invest their money on businesses so they have a fall back once their careeer is over.
Here is a good story about Steve Young’s football income, still today.
Michael Jordan for the win! Indeed the greatest basketball player of all time