NBA Hall of Famer, TV analyst and business mogul Isiah Thomas III is at it again, pushing the boundaries of business and the path to future success for African-American hoop stars turned entrepreneurs.
Born and raised on Chicago’s West Side, Thomas’ professional career spans more than three decades in business, sports and entertainment. The former point guard is Chairman and CEO of ISIAH International LLC, a holding company with a diverse portfolio of business ventures and investments. For over 35 years he has invested in, owned and operated a laundry list of new and existing businesses, with a specialization in startups and rebuilds.
With his latest venture, Thomas has changed the game again, as he’s the only African-American in this space, one who actually owns 100 percent of his company in a white-dominated champagne business.
“Cheurlin has been in the states for three years now and our first event was actually the Democratic National Convention,” Thomas told The Shadow League on Tuesday before announcing a partnership between Cheurlin and the National Basketball Players Association. “I partnered with the Cheurlin Family to make our champagne.”
Thomas describes this latest venture as both highly rewarding and challenging.
“Let’s put it this way” Thomas chuckled… “I’ve gotten more “No’s” than I have “Yes'”…any startup can be tough. There hasn’t been any ownership in this space so resistance is expected. People of color have represented and owned brands but never actually owning the champagne and the company.”
France Inspires Historical Money Move
A wine and champagne enthusiast, Isiah wanted great tasting champagne without the added sugar found in most brands. His research revealed France’s champagne growers pay homage to nature focusing on soil, topography and climate. Isiah concluded that artisanship was the answer and the future of champagne.
His pursuit led him to the Cheurlin family who has crafted France’s finest champagnes since 1788. Confident they were the region’s best producer of champagne – an alliance was born. From the vineyard in Celles-sur-Ource, the Cheurlins have leveraged the optimal climate and fertile grounds of historic Champagne, France to produce award-winning champagnes that generations have enjoyed.
Thomas has already has garnered awards for his product, winning Champagne Producer of the Year in 2017 and 2018 at the New York International Wine Competition.
In 2018, Thomas and the Cheurlin Family crushed the competition, winning two double gold medals for their CHEURLIN Spéciale (Brut) and Cheurlin Thomas Célébrité (Blanc de Blanc), as well as a gold medal for their Cheurlin Thomas Le Champion (Blanc de Noir) and silver for their CHEURLIN Rosé de Saignée.
But what differentiates Cheurlin from other champagnes is the health value.
“When you can see the amount of success we have had and the quality of the product…it speaks for itself,” Thomas said proudly. ” Once people taste it they get real champagne… no sugar. They don’t get the headaches that they normally experience. They don’t get sick, no hangover. Our champagne is truly unique. The quality of the champagne has definitely helped us in 14 states and five countries.”
Three years ago, Thomas and Cheurlin ventured into the U.S. market to more rave reviews. Thomas’ portfolio of rare champagnes rated 90 plus and above, meaning he also has one of the highest quality products here in the United States.
Maintaining his role as an adviser to current and former NBA players, and sharing the legendary business acumen that has garnered him a wealth of riches, Thomas has announced a partnership with Cherurlin, the NBA Players Association and THINK450, to tip-off the week of the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago.
Thomas, NBPA Executive Director Michele Roberts and THINK450 President Payne Brown will lead a discussion that will cover new business updates from the NBPA and THINK450, and provide an overview of this groundbreaking and exciting partnership with ISIAH Imports and Cheurlin Champagne.
“Seeing former players like Isiah succeed in the business world is an achievement our union desires for all of our current and former members,” said Roberts. “We hope this partnership will inspire more players to follow their passions off the court and to continue to invest in themselves as entrepreneurs.”
“This is a first-of-its-kind partnership,” said Thomas. “For athletes in business or going into business this lays the foundation for the new generation to do business with a union that they trust. I am excited about this partnership and all that we can accomplish together.”
The venture is another of Roberts’ bold power moves that helps empower NBA players and allows them to capitalize on their brand beyond their salaries.
“Being a former NBPA President myself, I just thought it was a natural partnership for us to be in business together,” said Thomas.
Thomas’ hookup with Roberts and the NPBA is the first time in history that the union has partnered with one of its players in the business space. THINK450 is the arm of the union that represents the players and their marketing and licensing deals.
“Having access to their marketability and branding… and them being involved in the space as equity partners I thought was a unique and strategic partnership to have,” Thomas said.
The deal ensures that players benefit from the business as well.
“Players have equity in his business,” Thomas explained. “Every time they are drinking or celebrating with their own champagne and product they are making money with it as opposed to spending money on someone else’s product.”
Thomas says the deal was a complicated one that took them almost a year and a half to work through the legalities and complete.
“So you have to credit Michele Roberts with being the driver to make this happen for all of us,” Thomas insisted.
There are no limits to dreaming in business but those which we self-impose.
Isiah Thomas III is proof of that.