Shaquille O’Neal Backing $29M Venture Because ‘Everyone Should Have Access To A World-Class Education’ | Check Out Shaq’s Updated $500M Business Portfolio

Shaquille O’Neal has built a corporate empire with a total worth in excess of $500M. When the Hall of Famer, one of the most charismatic, polarizing and larger-than-life figures the NBA has ever seen, retired from the game, he went full force into marketing his celebrity and building a corporate empire based on shrewd investments. 

Shaquille O'Neal Backs investment group donating $29M to Campus, a program helping community college students finish degrees and start businesses.
Shaquille O’Neal backs investment group putting $29 million in Campus, a startup helping community college students finish degrees and start businesses. (Photo: John Parra/Getty Images for Barry University)

Shaq Invests In $29M Funding Round To Campus: Helping College Students Finish Degree

Shaq’s latest investment is a startup called Campus, which aims to help community college students finish their degrees and go on to complete a bachelor’s degree.

O’Neal is part of a group of investors, along with Open AI’s Sam Altman and Discord’s Jason Citron, who have committed more than $29 million to the project.

Of course, Shaq doesn’t just make money to buy nice things for his family and floss for blogs. Every time he puts a part of his hard-earned fortune into someone else’s dream, he says it’s mostly about investing in people. 

In an interview with Fortune, O’Neal credits Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos for inspiring him to invest in projects like Campus.

“I heard Jeff Bezos say, if you invest in things that’s going to change people’s lives, you’ll always get a great return on your investment,” O’Neal said. “But this particular investment is not about great return because I feel that everyone should have access to world-class education.”

What Is Campus?

On its website, Campus’ slogan reads: A COMMUNITY COLLEGE FOR THE FUTURE. Because everyone should have access to world-class education.

The website boasts that students can earn a credential or an associate’s degree, or start a business based on the knowledge and insight gained at the university. They also have the option of advancing to a four-year college. Campus offers live classes online, some of which are taught by professors who also teach at four-year programs.

Shaq Made $292 Million In NBA Career

Despite building an impressive portfolio as one of the NBA’s all-time highest paid players, Shaq who made more than $290 million in his NBA career, often speaks about the way he values education. His early experiences of feeling disrespected in business meetings inspired his desire to continue his schooling and pursue his MBA. 

Shaq left LSU after three years to begin his NBA journey, but in 2000 Shaq received his Bachelor of Arts degree in general studies and then completed an MBA degree from the University of Phoenix in 2005. 

Never one to be outdone, Shaq also graduated with a doctorate in education (Ed.D) from Barry University in Miami, focused on Human Resource Development.

“I noticed that every time I go to a business meeting, the guys we were doing deals with would be like, ‘Hello Shaq, how are you doing?’ And then they would turn away and look at my lawyers and my accountants,” O’Neal said in 2022. “So I said, ‘Oh, you guys don’t think I’m in charge? You guys don’t think I understand the lingo?'”

Campus founder Tade Oyerinde wrote in a press release that O’Neal was the ideal match as a partner.

“When we met and he shared his life story with me, it was almost immediately obvious that his values aligned with our mission of maximizing access to world-class education,” Oyerinde wrote. 

O’Neal said he and Oyerinde were going to hit this endeavor with the same force that he and another legendary teammate came with on the NBA court.

“He’s gonna be Kobe and I’m gonna be Shaq, and we are going to knock this thing out of the park,” O’Neal told Fortune.

Shaq’s Business Portfolio Exceeds $100M: Investments 

Knocking business ventures out of the park is something Shaq has done well. Prior to linking with Camps, Shaq opened the doors to his Big Chicken franchise in Houston this past June. His opening event drew so many people that the fire marshal had to shut it down. 

Big Chicken

NBA legend Shaquille O’Neal opened the doors to his Big Chicken franchise in Houston last June and the event drew so many people the fire marshal had to shut it down.

Big Chicken was founded in 2018 by Shaq in conjunction with JRS Hospitality, and Authentic Brands Group. The goal was to combine Shaq’s home-cooked childhood favorites with popular flavors.

Each item on the menu has Shaq’s personalized touch with staples: chicken sandwiches, popcorn chicken, tenders, sliders, salads, fries, shakes, ice cream sandwiches, and cookies. All foods the TNT NBA analyst ate as a child.

“This is my creation — Excuse me, this is my mama’s creation. Coming from where we come from … had to eat chicken a lot,” Shaq told reporters. “Chicken sandwiches, chicken tacos, chicken everything. When the opportunity came to create this franchise, we had a meeting and sold over 250.”

Currently Big Chicken franchises are sold out in Arizona, Idaho, Florida and Utah. Opportunities remain in the rest of the U.S.

Auntie Anne’s: Shaq is the current franchise owner of 17 Auntie Anne’s pretzels restaurants with an investment of $300,000. 

Five Guys:  This chain is the first substantial investment in a franchise that Shaq made, and he flipped it into a fortune, eventually owning and selling 155 of the restaurants. That was 10 percent of their company at the time.

Papa John’s:  Shaq owns nine Papa John’s locations in and around Atlanta. He’s appeared in commercials as a brand ambassador and was named the first Black board member in company history in 2019. In addition to hsi franchises, the company purchased the right to use his likeness for $8.5M

24-Hour Fitness Centers: Shaq had purchased 40 fitness centers which all add to his business portfolio. 

Car Washes: Shaq owns 150 car washes or so, which is why he has a lot to say about them as investments. These are some of the most lucrative money-makers. 

Krispy Kreme: Shaq supposedly acquired a deep love for Krispy Kreme donuts while breaking records in college at LSU. Shaq reportedly had owned one on his bucket list years ago and finally was able to purchase one in Atlanta that was almost 60 years old. 

Shaq’s Other Business Ventures Outside Of Franchising 

Shaq has reportedly purchased shares in a diverse number of brands from beauty and fashion to food and transportation. He also has several Las Vegas nightclubs, a cinema, and a strip mall, in addition to investing in other high profile business brands, including: 

Lyft, JCPenney, Gold Bond, Icy Hot, The General Insurance and Forever 21.

Shaq Makes $10 Million Per Season On TNT’s “Inside The NBA”

Shaq’s brand continues to explode in his role as co-host of the legendary “Inside the NBA” show that has amassed 17 Emmys. Shaq rejoined his nemesis Charles Barkley on the award-winning show this NBA season, along with Ernie Johnson and Kenny “The Jet” Smith. Shaq reportedly makes $10 million per season and in 2022 he signed a deal that is unofficially reported as being a 10-year agreement. Shaq, however, maintains that he can terminate his contract at any point. 

During Black History month, it’s only fitting that we celebrate a Black American hero such as Shaq, who at the age of 51 is still learning, building, expanding his empire while also serving the people who have supported his celebrity all these years.

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