Today, I spoke with Fox announcer and former Dallas Cowboys great Troy Aikman. Aikman spent the day pitching the benefits of the new ExxonMobilMasterCard (the card gives users 30 cents off every gallon of gas for the first 60 days and 15 cents per gallon thereafter).
Aikman has been among the smarter of the athlete businessmen out there, so I thought that with the economic downturn it would be a good time to talk with him.
Darren: You bought into the car business in 2005 and opened up Troy Aikman Ford in Dallas and you got out in November of last year. (The Dallas Morning-News reported that Ford paid Aikman $5 million to $10 million to close his franchise). Did you get out at the right time?
Aikman: Well, it was very challenging. I got into the car business in the early 90s with the Troy Aikman Automall (Chevy, Chrysler, Plymouth and Jeep Eagle). We did very well. I got in at the right time and we sold a lot of vehicles. Six years in, my partner made a very significant offer and bought me out. I then got into Ford, betting that they would get things going. That didn’t happen. We did OK and we were never in a position of losing money. I had personal discussions with (Ford president and CEO) Alan Mulally because I was interested in the plan and he said the goal was for Ford to be profitable by 2009. In the end, it got to the point where Ford basically came in and bought me out. And I would tell you today, three months after they purchased my dealership, they probably wouldn’t have done the same deal with me.
Darren: You’ve endorsed your share of products, including Coca-Cola. But that’s asking someone to buy something that’s worth a $1. How much is your name worth on a car dealership?
Aikman: Well, it certainly helped. The car business, if done correctly, and at the right time, can be a very profitable business. I used the value of my name to my advantage and what it did was it got people in the door. And with all things being equal, they’d give us the business.
Darren: You’re in real estate now. Your company called Direct Development has seven properties in Texas and Oklahoma. How are you doing?
Aikman: Well, it’s obviously affecting us, but it makes us feel glad that we’re in Texas and Oklahoma relative to other parts of the country. We have a good relationship with our client base, which anchors are properties including JC Penney and Target. It’s definitely tough economic times, but I think we’re in as good of a position as you can be in right now.
Darren: You’ve made out pretty well with your investments. What advice do you give to current athletes?
Aikman: I’d advise them that whatever they’ve made whether it’s $20 million or $40 million, don’t try to immediately turn it into $100 million. That’s when guys get in trouble. Just do a good job hanging on to what you’ve got. I’ve tried to surround myself with good people. I think I have a knack of hiring those people to surround me and I’ve made very few mistakes. I still have the same financial advisor I picked in 1989. Everyone pays attention to what agent they are going to hire. Well, the guy who you hire to handle your finances is more important that your agent. And if you are going to invest in the market--and this is not new--just be diversified so you are not that exposed to any one movement.
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