Rich Dudes│How Shaquille O'Neal Built His $400 Million Fortune On and Off The Basketball Court

Rich Dudes│How Shaquille O'Neal Built His $400 Million Fortune On and Off The Basketball Court

Shaquille O'Neal made $292 million as a basketball star, but he also invested it early on. Here's what's in the NBA champion's portfolio.

Rich Dudes│How Shaquille O'Neal Built His $400 Million Fortune On and Off The Basketball Court
MoneyMade

ByMoneyMade

Updated Dec 21, 2022

Moriah Costa

Updated Dec 21, 2022

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  • Shaquille O'Neal made most of his money as a basketball star, but started investing in car washes and franchises early on. 
  • Today, Shaq invests in various franchises, brands, startups, and real estate holdings.
  • With a net worth of $400 million, Shaq is the second-largest shareholder of Authentic Brands Group.

Shaq O'Neil is one of the most famous basketball players, making $292 million just from playing the sport.

It took Shaq blowing through $1 million in a day for him to figure out that he needed to become a smart businessman and investor.

But Shaq is more than a successful athlete. As the second largest shareholder in Authentic Brands Group, Shaq is set to make between $230 million to $270 million when the retail and brand owner goes public.

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But Shaq wasn’t always so great with money. He says he blew his first $1 million paycheck in 20 minutes. After spending the million before paying taxes, he realized he had to save better. So, Shaq started to put his money into car washes and fitness centers. His father, a former drill sergeant, instilled in him the importance of doing something with his money.

While an estimated 60% of NBA players go broke five years after they stop playing, Shaq was determined not to be part of that statistic. Here’s how he used his talent on the court and as a savvy investor to build a net worth of $400 million.

Shaquille O'Neal at a glance:

Net worth

$400 million

Born

March 6, 1972 in Newark, NJ, U.S.A

Became a millionaire

1992

Occupations

Basketball player, investor, and DJ

Sources of wealth

NBA, Authentic Brands Group, restaurants

Asset classes

Franchises, Startups, Stocks, and Real estate

How did Shaquille O'Neal make his money? The Shaq net worth story

Shaquille O’Neal, AKA Shaq, is a former basketball player, sports analyst, and television host for Inside the NBA. He is considered one of the best centers of all time and played alongside the late Kobe Bryant at the Los Angeles Lakers. 

O'Neal was born in Newark, New Jersey, in 1972 to parents Lucille O'Neal and an estranged biological father. Shaq was a military brat on bases in Texas and Germany and began his professional basketball career in 1992 after getting drafted to the Orlando Magic. He was named both All-Star and Rookie of the Year that year. In 1995, Shaq signed a $120 million seven-year contract with the LA Lakers, inking one of the biggest deals in professional basketball.

The basketball star won the NBA championship four times throughout his career. Shaq played for several teams, including the Boston Celtics, Phoenix Suns, Miami Heat, and Cleveland Cavaliers. He even joined the Olympic basketball team in 1996, which made him an Olympic gold medalist. Most of Shaquille O’Neal’s fortune came from his time as a basketball star—$292 million, to be exact.

But even on the court, Shaq had a knack for business—he hired an accountant early on to help keep track of his finances. One of his first investments was a coin-operated car wash. He didn’t know what to do with all the coins, so he kept them at home. One day, his accountant freaked out about a missing $250,000 on his books, only to find out Shaq had it in loose change.

Shaquille O'Neal made $292 million as a basketball star. 
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Those car washes were just the start of Shaquille O’Neal’s foray into the franchise and investing world. Today, he invests his money in startups, franchises, real estate, and stocks.

How did Shaquille O'Neal invest his money?

While Shaquille O’Neal made his fortune as a basketball player, most of Shaquille O'Neal's net worth today comes from his business ventures. Most of his assets are likely in franchises, including Papa John’s, 24 Hour Fitness, Krispy Kreme, and car washes.

We don’t know all the details of his exact holdings (especially regarding stocks), but we do know the franchises Shaq has invested in and the estimated value of his real estate holdings.

Based on what he’s revealed to the press and public information, taking into account this $292 million basketball salary, we estimate that his portfolio is 36% franchises, 25% in startups, 21% in real estate, and 18% in other holdings, including stocks. However, the company expected to file for an initial public offering in the next few years, likely making Shaquille O’Neal a pretty penny.

Business franchises owned by Shaquille O’Neal.
Source: Fadeaway World

Shaq also has a stake in several restaurants, including nine Papa John’s, a historic Krispy Kreme in Atlanta, Big Chicken Restaurants, and the Shaquille’s dining chain with locations in Atlanta and Las Vegas. He once owned 10% of Five Guys' entire franchise portfolio, equalling 155 burger joints, and 17 Auntie Anne’s Pretzels, but has since sold his holdings. He’s also been a brand ambassador and board member of Papa John’s since 2019.

The former NBA star also still invests in car washes, reportedly owning 150. Shaq has also owned about 40 fitness centers. While it's unclear how many he still owns, they're likely raking him in decent money each year.

Shaquille O'Neal startups

Shaq was also an early investor in Google and said he regrets not buying more stock. Given his current net worth and that Google’s market cap is over $1.2 trillion, it’s unlikely that he's still significantly exposed to the tech giant.

He’s since gone on to invest in several startups, probably hoping to benefit from the next Google. He owns a CityPlex12 movie theatre in his hometown Newark, New Jersey, which he bought in 2012. Since movie theatres make an estimated $50,000 in profit, he’s likely earned more than his initial investment back in the last decade.

He also has a stake in NRG Esports, a professional gaming company, and co-founded ad agency Majority. Shaquille O’Neal also invested $1 million in home security company Ring, which was sold in 2018 to Amazon for $1 billion, likely making his stake worth around $10 million.

Shaquille O'Neal real estate

Shaquille O’Neal has a few real estate ventures. Besides his $16 million home in Miami, he also owns 15 acres in Atlanta that he purchased for $1.5 million, as well as a Las Vegas estate he paid $1.95 million for.

Shaq bought this Orlando, Florida mansion for $3.95 million in 1993 and sold it for $11 million in 2021.
Source: Los Angeles Times

But he actually started investing in real estate at a young age when he was still playing with the Orlando Magic. His main goal since the late 1990s has been to invest in affordable housing. His real estate investment company, O’Neal Group Investments, bought a $100 million affordable housing project in Denver. The company has since invested in a number of other housing projects, including a $1-billion commercial real estate project in Miami and an apartment complex in NJ.

Elevate Money

5.0

Real Estate

Shaquille O'Neal stocks

Given Shaq’s vast holdings in franchises and real estate, he likely holds the least amount of his wealth in stocks. We don’t know all the stocks he has invested in, but the former basketball player has revealed that he's a stakeholder in Lyft and Uber as well as Apple.

Besides his stock investments, the NBA superstar is also an investor in two SPACs, Forest Road Acquisition Corp I and Corp II. The first SPAC merged with Beachbody and Myx Fitness after raising $300 million. The second SPAC is in an acquisition deal with the transport and technology licensing company Hyperloop Transportation Technologies.

We don’t know his stake in the SPACs, but it’s likely on the lower end as he hasn’t done a lot of publicity for the companies.

Should you invest like Shaquille O'Neal?

Because Shaquille O’Neal mostly invests directly in businesses and real estate, it's hard to know precisely how much he returned. While we know the NBA champion invests in stocks, many of the companies and franchises he invests in are private enterprises, which means accurate data on them isn't publicly available.

However, if we look at average returns in the sectors which Shaq invests in, we can get a sense of the former basketball player’s investment returns. Taking into account Shaq’s high stakes in ABG and restaurant franchises as well as his interest in tech startups and real estate, our best estimate is that a portfolio similar to Shaq’s holdings had a 2.17% return over the past year.

While that might not seem like a lot, keep in mind that during the same time, the S&P 500 lost 15.6%.

Shaquille O’Neal-inspired portfolio performance

Asset

Weight

1Y Perf

5Y Perf

Franchises

36%

8.96%

8.93%

Startups

25%

-25.98%

20.37%

Real Estate

21%

39.30%

20.92%

Stocks

18%

-15.60%

9.70%

Performance

H

2.18%

14.44%

One thing that stands out when looking at this data is that having a diversified portfolio with alternative investments tends to perform better during a bull market and sustains less of a loss during a downturn compared to a traditional 60/40 portfolio.

Shaquille O'Neal's investment strategy

It took Shaq blowing through $1 million in a day to figure out that he needed to be a smarter businessman and investor. Today the retired American basketball player encourages other athletes to plan for the future rather than live in the moment. Here are three pieces of Shaq's investing wisdom..

1. Invest with a purpose

It’s not just enough to invest—you need to know why you're investing. Invest in something that is going to make a difference. Shaq once heard Jeff Bezos advising people to invest in things that are going to change people’s lives, and Shaq applies this principle to his investments.

Dizraptor

Startups

2. Choose assets you believe in 

When Shaq makes a deal, he doesn’t just think about how much money it will make him. He also considers the brand and people he will be working with.

Rally

5.0

Sports Cards

3. Pick a market and stick with it

Shaq’s investments are also on point with his brand and the people who look up to him. While he has a diversified portfolio, he also sticks with a few niche investments he knows well.

Does Shaquille O'Neal own JCPenney?

Shaquille O’Neal is the second largest stakeholder of Authentic Brands Group, which owns JCPenney along with other brands like Forever 21, Vince Camuto, Juicy Couture, and Reebok. That means Shaq has a say in the ownership of JCPenney and many other ABG brands.

How many Papa John's does Shaq own?

Shaq owns nine Papa John’s in Atlanta and has been the spokesman and director of the pizza chain since 2019. He also earns 20 cents for each Shaqaroni pizza that is sold. With $3 million worth of pizzas sold just in 2020, that means Shaq made $600,000 by using his name to sell pizza.

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