Since King James’ initial investment back in 2012, the value of Blaze Pizza increased from $6 million in 2013 to $185 million last year, making it second place among America’s favorite pizza chains. The Blaze Pizza chain has become one of the fastest growing restaurant chains in America, eventually growing into a billion dollar entity.
With the opening of its 200th restaurant in Ohio on Tuesday, Blaze Pizza cemented its status as fastest growing restaurant chain in America. The chain, which was founded in 2011 in Southern California, started out with just two locations. But their fast, affordable take on the “build-your-own-pizza” model clearly resonated with customers. In just the past four years, they have gone from operating 2 eateries, to two hundred – the fastest start for a restaurant chain in the U.S., according to a report from Forbes.
LeBron James, apparently a keen businessman, has been on board since Blaze Pizza’s humble beginnings: He invested in the company in 2012 and became a franchisee a year later. The basketball superstar also appeals to his 91 million followers across his social media platforms to endorse the chain.
A video of James disguising himself as Blaze employee named Ron went viral last year.
According to Forbes, Blaze Pizza’s sales increased from $6 million in 2013 to $185 million last year. The chain’s CEO Jim Mizes expects to reach a total of $285 million in sales in 2017, hitting $1.1 billion by 2022. One poll put Blaze in second place among America’s favorite pizza joints, just behind Papa John’s, and actually beating out Pizza Hunt, a much more established brand. James must have faith in Mizes, because he walked away from an $15 million endorsement deal with fast good giant McDonald’s.
“We get to build this. If it doesn’t become successful, I can only blame myself,” James said of his partnership with Blaze in an episode of his web-series “Kneading Dough.” He owns around 10% of the company. Meanwhile, Mize says that his company plans to build 100 to 150 more restaurants in 2018 and beyond, and wants to explore further international expansion as well. Currently, there are locations in 32 states, and Canada. Sounds like this venture ahs been yet another resounding win for the NBA’s biggest star.
Along with his NBA contract and stake in Blaze Pizza, Lebron has many other successful business ventures under his belt.
Here’s a list of some of James’ successful ventures below:
1. James and his childhood friends Rich Paul, Maverick Carter, and Randy Mims formed an agent and sports-marketing company LRMR. LRMR handles James’ marketing. Also, James and his business partner Maverick Carter, own a production company called SpringHill Entertainment, whose first work was the Lions Gate documentary “More Than a Game, which was released in 2009. Jaems’ SpringHill compamy also produced the Disney XD sports documentaries Becoming, the Starz sitcom Survivor’s Remorse, and animated web series “The LeBrons.”
2. James has numerous endorsement contracts with several companies, including Audemars Piguet, Coca-Cola, Dunkin’ Brands, Kia, McDonald’s, Nike, State Farm, and Samsung. Coming out of high school, signed with Nike for approximately $90 million.
3. In 2011, Fenway Sports Group became the sole global marketer of his rights, and as part of the deal, he was granted a minority stake in the English Premier League football club Liverpool FC.
4. In 2014, James profited more than $30 million dollars off of company stock as part of Apple’s acquisition of Beats Electronics.
5. in 2015, James launched a digital video company titled, “Uninterrupted, which raised $15.8 million from Warner Bros. Entertainment and Turner Sports to help expand the company’s efforts to bring athlete-created content to fans.
6. In 2016, CNBC aired an unscripted series hosted by James called Cleveland Hustles, where four up-and-coming Northern Ohio entrepreneurs will be financed on the condition of revitalizing a neighborhood in Cleveland.