Yesterday’s article spoke about the ways that the principles of sport can be transferred to the franchising world, within the context of the emerging Professional Athlete Franchise Initiative (PAFI). The issue of former athletes, particularly pro athletes, finding an outlet for their passion and drive after the spotlight has faded is a hot topic. Stories are abundant about professional athletes who have struggled in their transition to “normal life” following the conclusion of their athletic careers.
However, there are two sides to the coin. For the group of former athletes that are struggling in their transition, there is a group that is flourishing. The following athletes bucked the trend in a big way to find lucrative success following their playing days through franchising – and serve as role models to those who wish to do the same.
- Ulysses “Junior” Bridgeman: Bridgeman, who was a highly successful star player for nine seasons in the NBA, is arguably more successful as a franchisee than he was on the court. After playing, he founded Bridgeman Foods, Inc. and Manna, Inc. Under these companies, Bridgeman and associates oversee 161 Wendy’s restaurants in five states and 118 Chili’s restaurants in seven states as of September 2011. Bridgeman also owns a small stake in Milwaukee soda bottler Black Bear Beverages.
- Earvin “Magic” Johnson: Johnson may be the poster child for post pro-athlete success. After retiring from the NBA in the 1990s, he founded Magic Johnson Enterprises, a far-reaching company that encompasses all of Johnson’s areas of interests. One of the most distinguishing features of his business resume is the fact Johnson was Starbucks’ only franchise operator until their agreement expired in 2010 when he sold his stake in 105 Starbucks locations to the company. Other franchise systems Johnson has, or has had, a stake in include T.G.I. Friday’s and Burger King.
- Jamal Mashburn: Mashburn saw firsthand how short the career prospects were for athletes (his father was a pro boxer). This knowledge spurred him onto thinking ahead to life after the game. However, he didn’t wait until his playing days were over. Mashburn began buying franchises while in the NBA with a group of investors. Since announcing his retirement in March 2006, Mashburn has amassed a noteworthy 37 Papa John's, 34 Outback Steakhouses, and three Dunkin' Donuts. He also owns the largest Toyota dealership in Kentucky.
- Alex Roberts: Roberts spent 14 years as a professional ice hockey player and coach, highlighted by being a draft pick of the NHL Chicago Blackhawks, and four years leading the USA National Under-18 team. Currently the president of Mr. Handyman, he joined the company in 2004 as a franchise development manager. Roberts has also served as the president of ProTect Painters and the vice president of franchise development for all Service Brands International (SBI) brands (Mr. Handyman, Molly Maid, 1-800-DryClean and ProTect Painters).
- Michael Stone: Stone is a seven-year NFL veteran. After athletic retirement he founded Allied Athlete Group, a private membership organization for professional athletes, along with co-founding Coliseum Enterprises where he serves as Chief Executive Officer. Under the Coliseum Enterprises banner, Stone founded the PAFI with the main mission of advocating the value of the franchise industry to the professional athlete community and vice versa.
The athletes listed below are recently retired or still active participants in their respective sport. They don’t have enough of a franchising track record to be called “Franchise All-Stars” yet, but they are a sampling of the many athletes on the right track for post-athletic success via franchising.
- Drew Brees, NFL (Jimmy John's)
- Keyshawn Johnson, NFL (Panera Bread, Cold Stone Creamery)
- Bobby Labonte, NASCAR (Red Mango)
- Willie McGinest, NFL (WingStop, Swirlz Yogurt)
- Shaquille O’Neal, NBA (Auntie Anne's, 24-Hour Fitness, Five Guys, and others)
- Venus Williams, Tennis (Jamba Juice)
It is important to note that like all other franchisees, opening a franchise is not a slam dunk for former pro athletes. The same hard work and business savvy required of those from other backgrounds is just as important to them finding success in the venture as well.