Google, Apple, Lyft And Ring: Shaquille O'Neal's Track Record Of Phenomenal Startup Investments

Shaquille O’Neal may be best known as one of the greatest basketball players of all time, but since his retirement from the NBA, he’s become increasingly respected for his business acumen.

You might know of O’Neal’s impressive portfolio of franchises from his regular appearances in various commercials. O’Neal has owned as many as 40 24 Hour Fitness gyms, 150 car washes, 155 Five Guys Burger & Fries, nine Papa John’s, 17 Auntie Anne’s pretzels and a few Krispy Kreme restaurants. He has sold some of these holdings, including all of his Five Guys holdings.

Potentially more impressive is O’Neal’s venture portfolio. With roughly 90% of startups failing, the number of companies reaching a valuation of over $1 billion is so rare they’re called unicorns. O’Neal’s investments in Alphabet Inc.’s Google, Lyft Inc., Ring and Vitaminwater surely have proved lucrative.

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O’Neal’s basketball career: O’Neal’s made his NBA debut in 1992 with the Orlando Magic, an organization he is now looking to buy. During his rookie year, he made $3 million, won the Rookie of the Year Award and rocketed to the forefront of sports news. O’Neal played with the Magic until 1996, earning about $17.4 million during his time with the team.

He left the Magic to sign a $120 million free-agent contract with the Los Angeles Lakers. By 2002, O’Neal had earned over $100 million from his basketball career.

O’Neal’s first big venture capital investment: O’Neal reportedly first heard about Google from two Google employees in the lobby of the Beverly Hills Hotel. He overheard of this new technology where “you can type in anything” and the answer comes up. After a brief conversation, O’Neal knew he wanted to invest so his agent introduced him to Ron Conway, a high-profile angel investor with a long list of impressive startup investments. Shortly after, O’Neal was a proud investor in Google.

While his exact share price, or gains, weren’t reported, he likely made off well. In an interview with Vanity Fair, O’Neal said his only regret was that he didn’t buy more.

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O’Neal, the venture capitalist: This was only the beginning for the now business magnate. Since investing in Google, O’Neal has appeared in dozens of commercials and invested in a wide range of companies. Around the same time as his Google investment, O’Neal reportedly invested in Apple Inc.

In 2013, O’Neal invested in Lyft a year after it was founded. Lyft later went public in 2019 at a valuation of $22 billion.

Just two years after Ring got kicked off “Shark Tank” without a deal, O’Neal saw the potential and not only invested but also became a brand ambassador. He appeared in a number of commercials for Ring, which was later acquired by Inc. for $1 billion.

O’Neal’s portfolio is expansive and impressive, but it’s even more impressive when you consider that 65% of NBA players go broke within five years of leaving the game.

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