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‘Sir, That’s Not Going to Work’: Shaquille O’Neal Reveals His Biggest Business Regret That Ultimately Lined Magic Johnson’s Pockets with Millions

Former NBA superstar Shaquille O’Neal has amassed an estimated fortune of nearly half a billion dollars throughout his career. 

But as it turns out, he could have pocketed a lot more money if it were not for a business blunder he made in the late 1990s. “The biggest mistake I made was when I met with the founder and CEO of Starbucks [Howard Schultz], and he wanted to put Starbucks in the ’hood,” O’Neal shared during an Aug. 29 appearance on “Access Hollywood.” “That’s how he announced it, ‘in the ’hood,’ and I’m from the ’hood, and I was like, ‘Sir, I don’t think that’s going to work.’”

From owing Krispy Kreme and Papa Johns storefronts, Shaquille O’Neal has no shortage of business deals secured, but there is one franchise he regrets not investing in more than two decades ago. (Photo: @shaq/Instagram)

As it turned out, O’Neal passing on what would prove to be a beyond lucrative deal was the perfect alley-oop for former Los Angeles Lakers player Earvin “Magic” Johnson Jr. 

“Then Magic Johnson went and did all those Starbucks ‘in the ’hood.’ That was my biggest mistake, turning down all those Starbucks franchises,” added the four-time NBA champion. 

While Johnson was ready to swoop in on the opportunity, he has previously said that pitching his investment conglomerate, Magic Johnson Enterprises, showcasing his business portfolio, and boasting a household name all helped him secure meetings regarding the deal. But it was Black women who helped him to seal the deal.

While Schultz was eager to tap into the disposable income of Black communities, even he was not completely sold on the idea of Black people spending their cash with Starbucks. Johnson had to prove it was indeed possible.

So, in 1995 Johnson invited Schultz to attend a viewing of “Waiting to Exhale” at  one of his Magic Johnson Theaters location. 

“Our biggest screen had 500 women inside. All of a sudden every woman thought she knew Whitney Houston personally and started talking to the screen,’ recounted Johnson during a 2010 Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania presentation. “So Howard grabs me about 20 minutes in and says, ‘Earvin, I never had a movie-going experience quite like this.’ Guess what happened? That got me the deal.”

In 1998 Johnson and the coffee company opened the first of what became 105 coffee shops in urban communities. For twelve years the former Laker owned a 50 percent share in the partnership with Starbucks. In 2010 he sold his half back to the company for a reported $75 million.

While having that sort of pocket change would have easily added tens of millions of dollars to O’Neal’s bottom line, the big guy is surely not hurting for funds. In partnership with Authentic Brands Group, O’Neal secured a deal to purchase Reebok for roughly $2.5 billion. While the deal will not be closed until the first quarter of 2022, O’Neal is already thrilled with the prospects of getting Reekbok back in the game of manufacturing shoes and athleisure that attracts customers.

“When I first was drafted in 1992 Reebok was a strategic player in the game,” said O’Neal who launched two shoes — the Shaq Attaq series and Shaqnosis. He continued “I have a great history with Reebok. We do great products, you know especially for women, especially for athletic wear and I wanted to have an opportunity to try to get back in the game. I think it was a good purchase for us. Reebok will be back, I guarantee it.” 

As for his signature shoes making a resurgence, O’Neal had this to say: “Everything Shaq will be back.”

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