Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Magic Johnson Buys Los Angeles Dodgers

Magic Johnson is a very shrewd and successful businessman.

I heard him speak in 2008. At that time I wrote:
Former NBA great Magic Johnson was the keynote speaker at the opening of the AFP conference. Although I am a big NBA basketball fan, I was only lukewarm interested in attending his speech. With crisis brewing all around, the last thing I needed was to hear Magic describe how his no look passes always hit their man. Was I in for a surprise. Magic has got to be one of the most interesting business success stories going and the kind of role model urban youth need.

I always knew that Magic had launched a few move theatres after he retired from the NBA, but I never realized he is a mogul.

He owns 119 Starbucks, a bunch of 24 Hour Fitness operations, he supplies beef to half the Burger Kings in the United States and he raised a billion dollars just before the markets turned down, so he has a billion dollars cash on the sideline waiting for further declines in real estate, before he plunges in.

Read the rest here.


  1. A few years ago (2009) when I was at a conference Magic was the key note speaker. I almost didn't go thinking he would be have nothing useful to say. Well, I was wrong. This guy is probably one of the most incredible business people you will ever listen too. Everything he does is innovative. The best thing though came when someone asked him what he wanted to be remembered for. It was kind of a lead in question to all the charitable work he does or maybe his time on the court. However, his answer shocked everyone. He said he wanted to be known as a great businessman that created jobs for people that otherwise wouldn't have had the opportunity of joining the workforce. He even said at one point that giving away money is easy and probably the least effective way to help people. He then went on to say that the best way to help people is to create a profitable business that employs thousands of people.

    BTW, I thought he sold his Starbucks coffee stores back to Starbucks for something like half a billion.

  2. I'm not sure what's happened to make this team worth so much since Pauper Frank bought them in 2004 for $430 million. As a Dodgers fan I can tell you how extremely poorly the McCourts ran this franchise. The fan base is smaller and softer. The stadium is in disrepair. People are talking about replacing it. Can anyone make sense of this? I suppose that TV contracts might have changed significantly since then, and that could account for this valuation. But is it possible that this is just a huge wad of Bernanke's funny money finding someplace to go?

    RW, what do you say?

  3. I would be impressed if he was successful without favorable government benefits.

  4. I tend to like anybody with a strong business message. The fact that Magic says that business is the best form of charity speaks well of him as an ambassador for business. But I tend to empathize with Anonymous @ 2:55pm. I like Magic. I loved watching him play basketball with the Lakers. And I am sure that he was a quick study on the different business models that he observed in the league and while travelling with and for the Lakers, and with contract negotiations. From a business standpoint, one of the features of a superstar are the product endorsements. Think Tiger. Wenzel says that in order to do well in business, you got to get out there . Well, as a professional NBA player, Magic got out there. But Magic is connected. My cynical strain says that the whole AIDS confession was a PR move to make it an issue inside a very lucrative corporation--the NBA--with its media contracts and its wildly popular league. Once Magic went public with a personal health issue, he joined businessmen in LA and began buying up real estate in Baldwin Hills, creating movie theater chains, and joining key business deals on prime downtown LA property. Then franchises. Within a few years of his "tragic" confession, Magic had his own TV talk show and an expanding franchise business. He was making more money as a businessman than as a forward with the Lakers. Is it a case of him making great things from a bad situation? Maybe. I don't want to begrudge anybody's success, though so far my critique is bordering on the begrudging. I just think that the confession was bankrolled by big pharma to pursue several different agendas. Who comes out and says "I got AIDS"? The statement itself is false. AIDS is an acquired condition. Not a death sentence upon hearing that someone has a particular virus floating around in their system. Magic’s confession builds support for AIDS funding. Think Cancer funding. Think Heart funding. Each of these are lucrative; each is big business. AIDS is an acquired condition, no something you have after a single blood test. Once it was “known” that Magic had AIDS, to sell the story and tragedy color commentators would interview him as he sat passively in the stands of a game in a city around the country and ask him personal questions about how he was coping with his "condition." It was a promotional for the AIDS drugs. Those AIDS drugs are responsible for more AIDS deaths than AIDS itself. Was Magic pimping for big Pharma? You decide. I think that he made a ton of money to bring AIDS out of a condemning light and put it under a sympathetic light, to pull the topic out of its original seedy context of gay bar sex scenes and poor black communities around the world to a top tier athlete. If he could get it, anybody could. The racist component to his confession was that nobody questioned the promiscuity of a professional black athlete. What was the purpose of Magic’s confession versus coming out of the closet? Was it to humanize AIDS and legitimize it for federal funding? Was it to humanize AIDS AND, through a series of follow-up interviews of Magic by media color commentators down on the court and in the stands asking intimate questions about his health, argue the pro-Big Pharma case that only drugs can save us from catastrophic conditions like AIDS? I've heard through the years how professional sports leagues were notorious for drug dealing (Allen Iverson, et al., tatted and ratted) a drug dealer. Was Magic the legitimate pimp for big pharma? I am glad that Wenzel posted this and celebrated Magic's successes. Just not sure that Magic is, as Anonymous @2:55 asserts, a free-market guy.