One cultural staple in Black culture is the pride the community takes in their names. There is power and authority in a name, from the generational classics to the unique identifiers that cause one to shine bright in any environment. The late rap legend DMX confirms this truth in his 1999 classic, “What They Really Want.”
The power of a name becomes more robust with a rise in influence and celebrity. As these things increase, so does the ability to monetize one’s likeness. NBA legend Shaquille O’Neal knows this truth firsthand.
In 2015, Authentic Brands Group (ABG) acquired the rights to manage the former Los Angeles Laker’s name in merchandise and endorsements.
The Big Sale
According to a legacy report from ESPN, O’Neal is in great company at ABG. The company manages the name and likeness of other celebrities like Muhammad Ali and Michael Jackson.
“We’re thrilled to have a true business partner in Shaq,” ABG president and chief marketing officer Nick Woodhouse told ESPN at the time. “Through his bigger-than-life personality, he has turned himself into one of the strongest sports brands in the world.”
When the NBA legend sold the management rights to his name and likeness to ABG in 2015, it did not come without immediate returns. O’Neal is the second largest shareholder in the company. In an interview with Footwear News, ABG CEO Jamie Salter explained how the shareholder deal came about.
“[O’Neal] says, ‘You know all that money you’re going to give me?’” related Salter. “I said, ‘Yeah.’ He says, ‘I’d like to invest it in ABG.’ And I said, ‘Hold on, I don’t understand. You need to explain that to me.’ He says, ‘I’m doing a deal with you to sell you 50% of everything I have going on for the rest of my life. Do you think I trust you?’ And I said, ‘I hope so.’ He says, ‘Why wouldn’t I be partners with you? We’re going to build this company together.’ And that’s how he became the second-largest shareholder of ABG.”
The O'Neal Approval
O’Neal found great confidence in ABG’s ability to manage his name and likeness as he continues his off-court career and investments.
“I wanted to partner with a company that could perhaps have my name go on forever. I met with a lot of companies, but when I met with Jamie and his family, I knew that this was the right place to be,” the NBA legend told Footwear News.
A Tried And True Business Man
According to Bleacher Report, O’Neal played 19 seasons in the NBA and earned nearly $300 million in on-court earnings. But his off-court earnings have cemented him among some of the highest-earning athletes in the world.