Entrepreneurs

10 celebrities building business empires with franchising

Chris Morris, special to CNBC.com
Extending the celebrity brand
Jimmy Buffett owns a Krispy Kreme franchise in West Palm Beach, Fla.
Matthew J. Lee | The Boston Globe | Getty Images

It's not uncommon for celebrities to run businesses outside of the profession they're most famous for. Clothing lines, perfumes and restaurants are popular choices.

All too often, though, those ventures fail. The name power of a famous person might turn heads, but if the quality of the product isn't up to par, customers won't stick around. That's especially true when the actor, singer or athlete doesn't have the expertise or time to dedicate to the venture.

By buying a franchise location of an established chain, though, many of those problems are solved. Quality is consistent. And there's an adequately established talent pool to ensure the operation can run more independent than, say, a single-location high-end restaurant.

It's a lesson a number of celebrities from a variety of fields have taken to heart.

—By Chris Brown, special to CNBC.com
Posted 12 May 2016

Peyton Manning (Papa John's)
Peyton Manning owns 21 Papa John's franchises.
Source: Papa John's | YouTube

The recently retired Denver Broncos quarterback has been one of the most visible high-profile names in the franchise world, thanks to his association with (and commercials for) Papa John's pizza. He owns 21 franchise locations of the chain in Colorado — a keen move, given the state's legal views on marijuana. ( "Pizza business is pretty good out here, believe it or not, due to some recent law changes," he said in a 2014 interview.)

Rick Ross (Wingstop)
Rick Ross attends the Wingstop Grand Opening at Wingstop on November 13, 2015, in New York City.
Johnny Nunez | WireImage | Getty Images

The rapper owns at least 25 of the fast-casual chicken-wing chains and loves them so much that he has done everything from talk about his favorite flavor (lemon pepper) to brag about his stake in the company in his music (see 2012's "Trap Boomin'").

He has locations in Miami, Harlem, the San Francisco area and suburban Atlanta. ( "I had never tasted it before," Ross told Complex Media. "As soon as I tasted it, I knew that anybody who tasted it would like it.")

Shaquille O’Neal (Five Guys, Auntie Anne's)
Shaquille O'Neal owns a reported 155 Five Guys Burgers and Fries restaurants.
Getty Images | Flickr CC

When it comes to celebrity franchisees, no one tops Shaq. Beyond his voluminous endorsement deals, the former NBA star also owns a reported 155 Five Guys Burgers and Fries restaurants, 40 24-Hour Fitness Clubs and 17 Auntie Anne's Pretzels, among other businesses in a variety of locations around the country — from New York to Michigan.

( "I needed people to understand that when they're doing business with me, you're doing business with a businessman, not doing business with an athlete," he told the NCAA annual convention in 2013.)

Magic Johnson (Burger King)
Magic Johnson
Getty Images

Through his Magic Johnson Enterprises, the NBA Hall of Famer is one of the most successful black businessmen in the country. While the investments of that company vary, they include a reported 30 Burger King restaurants and more than a dozen 24-Hour Fitness clubs. He also owned 105 Starbucks at one point but sold them in 2010 for an undisclosed amount.

Jimmy Buffett (Krispy Kreme)
Jimmy Buffett owns a Krispy Kreme franchise in West Palm Beach, Fla.
Matthew J. Lee | The Boston Globe | Getty Images

The emperor for life of Margaritaville also has a bit of a sweet tooth. Sometime around the turn of the century, the musician bought a Krispy Kreme franchise in the West Palm Beach area of Florida.

In 2002 he, the parent company and another Krispy Kreme franchisers combined their operations to create the South Florida Partnership, which oversees and is in charge of accelerating all Krispy Kreme growth in the area.

Chris Brown (Burger King)
Chris Brown owns 14 Burger King franchises.
Getty Images | Flickr CC

The rapper is best known for his multiplatinum recording career and the domestic violence case with his then-girlfriend Rihanna from 2009. But in an US Weekly story late last year, he also mentioned he currently owns 14 Burger King franchises.

Phil Mickelson (Five Guys)
Phil Mickelson owned the rights to the Orang County, Calif. market for the Five Guys chain.
Getty Images | Flickr CC

Mickelson turned heads in 2010 with his announcement during the Players Championship that he had gone to Five Guys six days in a row. Days later it was revealed that he was more than a fan; he owned the rights to the Orange County, California market for the chain.

He's also expressed interest in other restaurant franchises, attempting (and failing) to gain control of 105 Waffle Houses in four states.

Venus Williams (Jamba Juice)
Venus Williams owns four Jamba Juice locations.
Getty Images | Flickr CC

The tennis superstar suffers from Sjogren's syndrome, an autoimmune disease that results in lower energy levels and joint pain. That put her on a vegan diet, which ultimately led her to Jamba Juice, a company that focuses on healthy products. She has opened four locations in the Washington, D.C., area to date and expects to open more in the years to come.

Drew Brees (Jimmy John's)
Drew Brees runs three successful Jimmy John's locations in New Orleans and signed a deal to open 20 more in the city.
Getty Images | Flickr CC

As the quarterback of the New Orleans Saints, Brees had plenty of franchise opportunities over the years but ultimately held out for a place he personally frequented: sandwich shop Jimmy John's. When the backup quarterback from his Purdue days (and then Jimmy John's director of operations) called and let him know the New Orleans market was being explored, Brees lobbied to be the person who ran them.

After running three successful locations, he signed a deal to open 20 more in the city. And as an added bonus for customers, Brees himself said he tries to deliver an order whenever he's in one of his stores.

Hank Aaron (Popeye's Chicken)
Hall of Famer Hank Aaron opened his 24th Popeye's franchise last year.
Getty Images | Flickr CC

Hammerin' Hank sure seems to love that chicken from Popeye's. Last year the 82-year-old baseball legend announced plans to open his 24th franchise location of the chicken chain.

He and his wife, Billye, got their start as franchisees in 1995 with just a pair of Popeye's, and they've grown the collection ever since. Today his 755 Restaurant Corp. also owns a pair of Krispy Kremes. All of the franchises are located in the greater Atlanta area.

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