Many star athletes have put their winnings into the food and beverage business. If you’ve had a beer and chicken wings while waiting for a flight at the Raleigh-Durham International Airport, or grabbed a smoothie while shopping at the Federal Plaza in Rockville, Maryland, or enjoyed a steak dinner at New York’s Grand Central terminal, you’ve got a sports celebrity to thank.
Serena Williams, who lost the U.S. Open final to Japan’s 20-year-old Naomi Osaka on Sept. 8, recently invested in Daily Harvest, a New York-based subscription service specializing in frozen, plant-based, one-step-prep foods and founded by CEO Rachel Drori. Other investors in Daily Harvest include: actress Haylie Duff, chef and restaurateur Bobby Flay, Oscar Award-winning actress and founder of Goop Gwyneth Paltrow, and venture capital firms Lightspeed Venture Partners and VMG Partners.
Here's a look at the investments of 13 athletes, including Serena and Venus Williams, Dale Earnhardt Jr., LeBron James, Michael Jordan, Greg Norman and Danica Patrick.
Former National Football League tight end, who, as head coach, led the Chicago Bears to victory in Super Bowl XX in 1986, Mike Ditka owns six restaurants under the Dikta’s moniker. They serve classic American food with clever titles, like the Fridge Burger, which features Ditka’s BBQ Sauce and is named after Bears defensive tackle William "The Refrigerator" Perry.
Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Third-generation Nascar driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. owns Dale Jr.’s Whisky River, known for “beer & wings.” Whisky River boasts three locations in the Carolinas, including one at the Charlotte Douglas International Airport and another at the Raleigh–Durham International Airport . A fourth location in North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, is coming soon. “Our unique blend of unpretentious charm, feel-good music and enticing food has made us the South's favorite spot to unwind,” says the company website.
Walter “Clyde” Frazier
National Basketball Association Hall of Famer Walter “Clyde” Frazier opened Clyde Frazier’s Wine and Dine in 2012. Occupying a full block in the trendy Hudson Yards neighborhood on Manhattan’s West Side , the restaurant celebrates the former New York Knicks star’s career and serves a wide range of American cuisine, including pasta, burgers, fajitas, steak, lobster and smoked barbecue. “The bar and lounge offer an extensive cocktail menu along with a carefully curated selection of American, world and limited release whiskeys,” says the website. “With its free-throw basketball court and over 40 television screens with unlimited access to your favorite sports events, it's a place where fans and foodies alike can revel in a lively and festive atmosphere.”
A National Hockey League legend, Wayne Gretzky is a partner in Wayne Gretzky’s Toronto, a sports-themed restaurant and bar, decorated with memorabilia from the Canadian athlete’s career and located near the Rogers Centre stadium, where the Toronto Blue Jays Major League Baseball team plays. “The upscale dining room has a unique décor which highlights Wayne’s greatest moments, where our guests can enjoy great food and great, friendly service,” says the website. “The winning sports bar boasts 50 HDTV’s showing all sports, all the time. The fabulous Oasis rooftop patio is as individual as the restaurant, and welcomes guests to relax under the sun and stars seasonally from May to October.”
Los Angeles Lakers fans have been lining up at Blaze Pizza locations ever since LeBron James signed on with the National Basketball League team. James invests in the California chain, which claims it can cook pizza in 180 seconds. In philanthropy, James is giving back to the community in Akron, Ohio, where he was born. The LeBron James Family Foundation, in partnership with the Akron Public Schools, recently opened the I Promise School to 240 at-risk third- and fourth-graders.The school provides students with tuition, uniforms, meals, transportation, a bicycle and helmet, and tuition for all graduates to the University of Akron.
A seven-time Nascar champion, Jimmie Johnson has invested in Southbound, a taco shop. Southbound is “relaxed, and the menu is simple, featuring authentic, made-from-scratch Mexican street food with a Southern California twist,” says the restaurant’s website.
The winner of six National Basketball Association championships with the Chicago Bulls in the 1990’s, Michael Jordan founded Michael Jordan’s The Steak House, located in the balcony of New York’s Grand Central Terminal. The restaurant features “perfectly charred steaks, pristine seafood, lush desserts and classic dishes,” the website boasts.
An Australian native and member of the World Golf Hall of Fame, Greg Norman owns Greg Norman Australian Grille in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. The restaurant serves up seared salmon Rockefeller and seared Ahi Tuna.
One of the most successful female professional racecar drivers, Danica Patrick owns winery Somnium, which is Latin for “dream.” Patrick started her career in IndyCar before she switched to Nascar. Patrick retired earlier in 2018.
Ranked number one by the World Tennis Association on five different occasions, Maria Sharapova owns candy maker Sugarpova, which makes truffles and other chocolates and candies.
The former Miami Dolphins head coach, who won two Super Bowls with the team in the 1970’s, Don Shula owns a chain of 25 steakhouses and burger joints that carry his name. The restaurants use the “Shula” cut, which uses the coach’s strategy for choosing and aging beef.
Serena Williams lost the U.S. Open final to Naomi Osaka on Sept. 8, just over a year after giving birth and nearly dying from a post-labor pulmonary embolism. In addition to tennis and motherhood, Williams is an investor. She recently invested in Daily Harvest, a New York-based subscription service specializing in frozen, plant-based, one-step-prep foods and founded by CEO Rachel Drori. Other investors in Daily Harvest include: actress Haylie Duff, chef and restaurateur Bobby Flay, Oscar Award-winning actress and founder of Goop Gwyneth Paltrow, and venture capital firms Lightspeed Venture Partners and VMG Partners.
Currently ranked the ninth tennis player in the world by the WTA, Venus Williams is an experienced entrepreneur. “The seven-time grand slam champion also has a degree in fashion and has been creating stylish yet functional workout gear since she first launched her clothing line, EleVen, in 2007,” reports Shape. She also owns a handful of Jamba Juice smoothie makers in the Washington, D.C. area.