Just call him the Big Entrepreneur.
Shaquille O'Neal retired from the NBA after last season, but business is just beginning to pick up.
Shaq, who was a pre-IPO investor in Google, owns fitness centers and some Five Guys burger franchises. (Perfect sequencing: You've got to hit the gym after enjoying those cheeseburger and fries.)
He is also reported to own equity stakes in Vitamin Water and Muscle Milk, among his various financial interests. Because he is eager to check out new investment possibilities, Shaq gets his share of oddball pitches. In an interview with Inc., Shaq was asked about the strangest business proposal he has ever received.
"A guy wanted to take my sweat, mix it with chemicals and create a cologne, and call it something like Elliuqahs (Shaquille spelled backwards)," Shaq replied. "Needless to say I turned that one down."
He also said he isn't interested in companies that are looking for an athlete just to juice up the star power on a project.
"The biggest surprise is that I do my due diligence ahead of time," he told Inc. "If you contact me, I do my homework. Then, if I like your idea or your company or your product, I'm not really looking for an endorsement deal. I want a partnership. You get a great partner when you get me. I'm not interested in just taking your money. I'll promote, I'll help, I'll do anything I can to make it work for both of us."
Shaq knows about homework. He earned his MBA online through the University of Phoenix in 2005, and he is pursuing a doctorate degree in Leadership and Education with a specialization in Human Resource Development at Barry University in Miami.
But he learned a big lesson outside the classroom from Apple icon Steve Jobs. Apple has done a great job of generating buzz and demand for its products, but giving freebies to celebrities, which is the strategy for many companies, isn't part of building this cachet.
"I've always wanted to be the one that's on the edge of technological curve," Shaq told Fast Company. "I always wanted to be ahead of everybody else. The great Steve Jobs, rest in peace, when the iPhone was first coming out, I used to call him every other day. Can I please get one first? Can I please get one first? He never gave me one. He said, 'Shaq, I can't, I can't, I can't.' He was a great guy."
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