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How Shaquille O'Neal Negotiates, Picks His Portfolio

How Shaquille O'Neal Negotiates, Picks His Portfolio

The new face of Tonka Trucks is certainly familiar.

Over the last two decades, you’ve seen it peddling just about everything under the sun: Muscle Milk, Fruity Pebbles, Ring doorbells, Zales, Soupman, J C Penney Company Inc (NYSE: JCP), Comcast Corporation (NASDAQ: CMCSA), Vitaminwater, Dove, Nintendo, AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T), Monster speakers, Taco Bell, Icy Hot, Macy’s Inc (NYSE: M), Nestle, Oreos, American Express Company (NYSE: AXP), PepsiCo, Inc. (NASDAQ: PEP), Burger King, Buick, Gold Bond, NBA 2k, Arizona beverages, Radio Shack, Capelli slippers, Spalding, Drone watches, Toys R Us, iGO Headphones, Susta sugar substitute and a sleep apnea mask.

And that’s just a partial list.

Shaquille O’Neal is also the CFO — “Chief Fun Officer” — of Carnival Corp (NYSE: CCL), a Papa John’s Int’l, Inc. (NASDAQ: PZZA) board member, and an advocate for the Boys & Girls Club of America.

“It’s just being in the right place at the right time, and different opportunities come in,” Shaq told The Wall Street Journal about his unique résumé.

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The Shaq Empire

Over Shaq’s storied career, he amassed 28,596 points, $292 million, four NBA championships, and a fan base in six different teams.

And when he wasn’t marketing for other businesses, he was running his own. Currently, Shaq has 150 car washes, 40 24-Hour Fitness centers, 17 Auntie Anne's Pretzels, nine Papa John’s franchises, multiple Las Vegas nightclubs, a few Krispy Kreme franchises, a Big Chicken restaurant, a shopping center and a movie theater. Until recently, he also had 155 Five Guys Burgers franchises.

“My favorite one right now is Krispy Kreme,” he told WSJ. “I love donuts, and Charles Barkley loves donuts, and he’s my biggest customer.”

How Shaq Seals The Deals

Shaq is less a passive investor than a savvy negotiator, leveraging his brand power to encourage governance changes and diversification of leading companies.

In 2019, after being approached by the beleaguered Papa John’s, Shaq agreed to become the new face of the pizza brand on three conditions. One, Papa John’s had to sever ties with Papa John Schnatter. Two, it had to give Shaq a board seat. Three, it had to give Shaq franchises.

Not only can the NBA All Star throw leverage, but he’s smart on execution.

“We’d like to see if we can create a little synergy under the Shaq umbrella,” Shaq once said at a gathering of his brands, according to the New York Times.

How Shaq Picks His Plugs

While the eclectic and massive array of endorsements might make Shaq seem a bit of a “Yes” man, he’s far from undiscerning. Shaq only puts his name on products he likes — like The General Insurance, which covered his first car.

“If something comes across my desk and I don’t believe in it, I won’t even look at it,” he told WSJ. “I can’t lie to the people.”

Like Starbucks Corporation (NASDAQ: SBUX). Shaq was once approached by Howard Schultz, who wanted to bring the coffee chain into black communities.

“I was like, I’m from the 'hood and I ain’t never seen a Starbucks,’” he told the NBA. “I told this man to his face: Black people don’t drink coffee. I never saw my folks drink coffee. Then he says ‘fine’ and goes to Magic Johnson and gives him the offer. Magic gets like 15 or 20 franchises and I felt bad, especially now, when I go and see black people drinking coffee in Starbucks.”

Starbucks is one of Shaq’s biggest business regrets, although the investment wouldn’t likely have met his other investing criteria: affordable products and funny commercials.

How Shaq Keeps Himself Busy

Shaq’s resume is replete with side hustles. The “Inside the NBA” analyst, NBA Hall of Famer and father of six — who, by the way, has an MBA from the University of Phoenix and doctorate of education from Barry University — trained as a reserve officer with the Los Angeles Port Police and Miami Beach.

He’s worked with Cartoon Network and Toys for Tots. He’s done commercial and residential real estate development, and he was an early investor in Google (NASDAQ: GOOG). He starred in “Kazaam,” produced a platinum rap album, and recently dabbled as an EDM DJ.

“I have a lot of dreams and aspirations,” he told WSJ. “First one is to be sheriff somewhere. That’s my next big dream. Second one is law school. Third one is to open up children’s schools — K through four.”

That’s just what he wants to do. What he can do is a whole different story.

“I could easily be a professor,” he once told the Times. “I could easily be a sheriff. I could easily be a CEO. I’m leaning hard towards law school. Not sure yet, though.”


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