Ex-Athletes Turned Business Tycoons

Ex-Athletes Business Tycoons

“I’ve never had this before. I’ve never had a team fall off a cliff like this before in my life. I’ve had dips. I’ve had slumps. I’ve had rough patches. But this is akin to an 18-wheeler going right off a cliff.”

Although Brian Burke is referencing to his limited time spent in Toronto, it perfectly describes the management team of the Toronto Maple Leafs since 2003.  I am obviously referring to the terrible decisions the Leafs’ executives made for the last decade.  They traded all-star goaltender Tuukka Rask for Andrew Raycroft and the picks that ended up being Tyler Seguin and Dougie Hamilton for Phil Kessel. They also made a terrible decision of trading higher up during the 2011 draft to pick Tyler Biggs instead of acquiring John Gibson. And the list can go on and on, but for the sake of all Leafs fans, I’ll stop that thought here.  However, it is frustrating to know that they would have had two starter goalies, a first line center, and top defensemen.

But Brendan Shanahan, an entrepreneur who had no managerial experience, has taken over this team as President of Hockey Operations. His only experience was on the Ice, mostly with the Detroit Red Wings. Because of this lack of experience, many doubted Shanahan’s ability to fix the mess he inherited. However, in his three-year tenure, he has demonstrated his strength as an entrepreneur and has been successful thus far. He has changed the culture of Leafs and is turning them into a competitive team. So far, his decisions seem to be flawless, and he is considered to be one of the best Executives that stepped foot in the Toronto Maple Leafs’ front office.


Why Magic Johnson Could be Successful as an Ex-Athlete Business Tycoon

After hearing that Magic Johnson, ex-NBA all-star, took the title of President of Basketball Operations for the Los Angeles Lakers, I immediately thought of Brendan Shanahan’s tenure in Toronto. Many are skeptical of Johnson taking the position because he has no experience and will only lead to failure. Also, Johnson’s situation is similar to Shanahan’s because the Lakers suffer from, what I like to call, Maple Leafs’ syndrome – Being the laughing stock of the entire NBA. They haven’t made the postseason the past three years and got swept by the San Antonio Spurs in the first round of the playoffs in 2013.

But this skepticism is the reason why I compiled this list of world-renowned athletes who found success as entrepreneurs after retirement. It shows that just because someone was a professional athlete, it does not mean they will fail as an entrepreneur. If Shanahan’s success taught us one thing, it is that Johnson does have a chance to be successful. However, only time will tell if his career as an executive “is akin to an 18-wheeler going right off a cliff.”

Larry Bird

The three-time NBA champion and three-time MVP for the Boston Celtics has worked his way up to becoming President of the Indiana Pacers.  He drafted Paul George and won executive of the year in 2012 when the Pacers made it to the conference finals.

Steve Yzerman

The Former Captain of the Detroit Red Wings has had a successful entrepreneurial career after retirement. A year after retirement, he attained the position of Vice President and Alternate Governor of the Detroit Red Wings. Then he became the General Manager of the Tampa Bay Lightning.  In his tenure in Tampa, Yzerman’s team made it to the Eastern Conference Finals twice and the Stanley Cup Finals once. And he has been the Executive Director for the Canadian Men’s hockey team, which won two Olympic gold medals.

Michael Jordan

His name is probably the most famous on this list. It has been over 13 years since he played his last NBA game, but his name is still known today. His name remains in pop media thanks to Jordan’s brand from Nike. The Air Jordan are such a powerful name that it gets forgotten that he is the Owner and Chairman of the Charlotte Hornets.

Tony Hawk

Yes, even skateboarders can make it as entrepreneurs! Tony Hawk turned his nickname, “The Birdman,” into a business – Birdhouse. However, he made this company when the skateboarding industry was sinking and not in demand. But now, his company is the leader in the industry. He put skateboarding back on the map and has been very successful since doing so.



Michael Policicchio | The Edge Blog


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