What do athletes do when they retire? If they are lucky, and depending on the sport, they can play into their 40s. Once their careers are finished they need to transition into something else, as they hopefully have at least half their lives in front of them. Athletes have many options, one of which is to remain in the sports world. Some decide to become coaches in their respective sports and enjoy great success. Phil Jackson is a great example of a former athlete who became a successful coach. Others, such as Jerry West or Billy Beane go into management. Countless athletes become analysts on TV. While some such as Charles Barkley are great in this role, it does seem like every former athlete is on TV in one capacity or another. A select few former athletes become owners of professional franchises.
There are precious few athletes who become team owners. Some of these athletes purchase minority shares in a franchise while others were successful enough to become the principal owners. The following list mentions ten former athletes who currently own a stake in a sports franchise. Three people in this article are still active athletes yet they still own a stake in teams in different sports. Unbelievably, one of these owners played for the franchise he owned simultaneously. A few of these individuals have an ownership stake in multiple franchises. Here are ten former athletes who own a stake in a professional sports franchise.
10. Dale Hunter – London Knights
Dale Hunter played in the NHL for the Quebec Nordiques, the Washington Capitals and the Colorado Avalanche over 20 years. In that time, he accumulated over 1,000 points and over 3,000 penalty minutes. Hunter retired from the NHL in 1999 and in 2000, purchased the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL), along with his brother. Hunter not only owned the Knights, but he was also their head coach. He resigned the position during the 2011/2012 season as he replaced Bruce Boudreau as the head coach of the Washington Capitals. After being eliminated in the second round of the playoffs, Hunter decided to return to the Knights. Under Hunter’s ownership, the Knights have won three OHL Championships and one Memorial Cup.
9. Warrick Dunn – Atlanta Falcons
Warrick Dunn enjoyed a productive twelve year career in the NFL. He played for both the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who drafted him in 1997, and the Atlanta Falcons. Dunn made three Pro Bowl appearances in his career and in 1997 was named the Associated Press Offensive Rookie of the Year. Dunn played for the Atlanta Falcons between 2002-2007 and was released in March 2008 when they signed running back Michael Turner. After playing one more year with the Buccaneers, Dunn retired from the NFL and bought a minority stake in the Falcons ownership group led by Arthur Blank.
8. The Williams Sisters – Miami Dolphins
Venus and Serena Williams are probably the most successful sibling athletes. They each have won four Olympic Gold medals and have combined to win 24 Grand Slam singles titles. They have both been ranked world number one and were also ranked number one in doubles. Besides their dominance on the tennis court the sister have ventured into the world of fashion and entertainment as well. In 2009, the Williams sisters became part owners of the Miami Dolphins. The Williams’ joined a string of high profile celebrity part owners of the Dolphins. The list includes Gloria and Emilio Estefan, Mark Anthony and Jennifer Lopez. The Williams’ are the first African-American females to obtain ownership in an NFL franchise.
7. LeBron James – Liverpool
In 2011, LeBron James and his marketing firm struck a deal with the Fenway Sports Group. The deal made the Fenway Sports Group the sole marketer of LeBron James’ brand around the world. As a result, LeBron received a minority stake in one of the world’s most iconic football clubs, Liverpool. Both Liverpool and LeBron were excited at the prospect of being affiliated with each other and felt their association would help them both grow their brands. LeBron became affiliated with Liverpool when the club were going through a bad spell but they are currently on the cusp of winning their first league title in 24 years and will surely participate in next season’s Champions League.
6. Oscar De La Hoya – Houston Dynamo
Oscar de la Hoya was one of the greatest boxers in history. He won ten world titles in six different weight classes in his illustrious career. He was the winner of a gold medal in the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona. What distinguishes De La Hoya from other great boxers is his career after retirement. De la Hoya formed his own promotion company named Golden Boy Promotions and is heavily involved in promoting some the biggest fights today. He has been involved in a variety of projects since retirement and has even been nominated for a Grammy. In 2008, his Golden Boy Enterprises company acquired a 25% stake in the Houston Dynamo of the MLS.
5. Michael Jordan – Charlotte Bobcats
Michael Jordan is acknowledged by most to be the greatest basketball player of all-time. He is also the first former NBA player ever to become the majority owner of a league franchise. Jordan acquired a majority stake in the Charlotte Bobcats in 2010 after being a minority owner since 2006. His tenure with the Bobcats has been uneven. Under his ownership, the Bobcats posted a record of 7-59 during the lockout shortened season of 2012, which was the lowest winning percentage of any team in NBA history. Jordan petitioned the NBA to change the Bobcats name back to the Hornets, which will come into effect starting next season. After years of losing, the Bobcats are on the verge of qualifying for this season’s playoffs and currently own the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference.
4. Magic Johnson – Los Angeles Dodgers
Even in retirement, Magic Johnson is one of the most recognizable athletes in the world. Since his highly successful career with the Los Angeles Lakers, Johnson has enjoyed a very successful career in business and has become a bit of a mogul. With respective to ownership, Johnson is involved in the ownership of three franchise,s most notably the Los Angeles Dodgers, who were purchased for a record $2 Billion in 2012. Johnson is also involved in the ownership of the Dayton Dragons, a minor league baseball team that has sold out over 800 consecutive games. In 2014, Johnson was also involved in the purchase of the Los Angeles Sparks of the WNBA. There were also rumors that Johnson would get involved with the Detroit Pistons. The only reason Johnson is not higher on the list is because Johnson does not have a controlling interest in any of these franchises.
3. Jerry Richardson – Carolina Panthers
Jerry Richardson had a brief NFL career. He played two seasons in the NFL with the Baltimore Colts. His most memorable NFL moment was catching a touchdown pass from Johnny Unitas in the 1959 NFL Championship game. After his brief career, Richardson started a fast food chain called Hardee’s. Richardson later became the CEO of Flagstar, which was the sixth largest food service company in the United States. In October 1993, Richardson became the owner of the Carolina Panthers as they became the 29th franchise in the NFL. Richardson was the first former player since George Halas, in 1920, to become an owner in the NFL.
2. Mario Lemieux – Pittsburgh Penguins
Mario Lemieux was one of the greatest players in the history of the NHL. He spent his entire playing career with the Pittsburgh Penguins and is the current principal owner of the franchise. He is the only individual in NHL history to win the Stanley Cup as both a player, 1991 and 1992, and as an owner, which he did in 2009. Lemieux became owner of the Penguins in somewhat peculiar fashion. The Penguins had declared bankruptcy in 1998 and Lemieux, who had deferred his salary for years, was their largest creditor. He converted most of the money owed him into equity and gained a controlling interest in the team. For a period, Lemieux played in the NHL while owning the team. This unique situation turned awkward during the 2004/2005 NHL lockout as he had a conflict of interest.
1. Mike Ilitch – Detroit Tigers and Red Wings
Mike Ilitch is the founder and owner of Little Caesars, an international fast food chain that specializes in Pizza. Before founding a pizza restaurant that would balloon into what it is today, Ilitch played baseball. Ilitch signed a $3,000 contact with the Detroit Tigers to play minor league baseball from 1952-1955. He started his Pizza business in 1959 and after enjoying considerable success, he ventured back into the sports world. Ilitch briefly owned a professional softball team called the Detroit Caesars in the late 1970’s. Then in 1982, he purchased the Detroit Red Wings. Prior to his ownership, the Red wings had made the playoffs twice in fifteen seasons. Since Ilitch took over the team, they have won fifteen division championships and four Stanley Cups. In 1992, Ilitch purchased the Detroit Tigers, ironically from the owner of Domino’s Pizza.
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