Professional athletes rule supreme in numberless fields of human endeavor: running, kicking, throwing, tossing, lobbing, hurling, heaving, befriending the powerful, marrying the beautiful, enthralling the common.
When it comes to earthly goods, our sports heroes’ triumphs are no less illustrious. We entrust them with the money necessary to buy the fast cars, big homes, good booze and shark tanks they deserve. And when the mood strikes, they apply their superior minds to the sphere of business.
In that realm, as in others, they tend to flourish. Basketball titan Shaquille O’Neal is the secret sauce inside the Five Guys burger chain, and tennis talent Maria Sharapova has doubled her $500,000 investment in the “Sugarpova” premium candy line.
But it may surprise you to learn that the business gambits of some sports stars have aimed for heights too lofty to succeed in this fallen world. Forthwith, we share five athletes’ commercial ventures that have, despite a dazzling concept, failed to become financially viable.
Torii Hunter, Furniture Raft
More than 70 percent of the planet is covered in water. And more than 70 percent of many homes’ floor space is covered in furniture.
So an inflatable furniture raft, designed to rest under couches in flood-prone regions, is a brilliant innovation.
When a putative inventor pitched the furniture raft to Torii Hunter, he immediately grasped its genius: A homeowner could sit high and dry on a floating sofa in the midst of a natural disaster. It’s basic supply and demand. Hunter wisely invested $70,000.
Unfortunately, as Hunter told Sports Illustrated, the so-called inventor was nothing more than a thick-skulled charlatan. He chose to cheat Hunter out of chump change, when he could have mass-produced furniture rafts and made millions.
To this day, an operable furniture raft has not reached market.
Rollie Fingers, Would-Be Pistachio Magnate
Like Rollie Fingers’s mustache, his investment choices have an inner beauty radically dismissive of the conventional.
Funneling his assets into pistachio farms, Arabian horses and wind turbines, he went bankrupt in 1992.
But like the waxed handlebar mustache on Fingers’s face, his fantastic zest for life never wavered.
Raghib “Rocket” Ismail, Rock N’ Roll Café
Accustomed to dashing recklessly and gallantly across a football field to catch improbable passes, Ismail also refuses to play it safe in his financial dealings.
He told Sports Illustrated he lost $300,000 investing in the Rock N’ Roll Café, a music-themed restaurant that failed to match the popularity of the Hard Rock Cafe. Other investments that turned sour for Ismail include a religious movie, a music label, a phone-card dispensing operation, a chain of calligraphy tourist shops called “It’s in the Name” and a cosmetics procedure that caused skin to absorb oxygen.
Ismail’s work on the forefront of cutting-edge technologies and business models is an inspiration.
Curt Schilling, Video Game Studio
Renowned for throwing baseballs past bats, Schilling hoped to pitch another strikeout with a video game company inspired by his passion for World of Warcraft.
Named after the number on the back of his jersey, 38 Studios bought employees laptop computers, top-of-the-line benefits packages and, in one case, a puppy. That’s a business fastball!
But as Schilling told Boston Magazine, the company collapsed under management dysfunction and the slow output of its video-game developers. Rhode Island taxpayers lost $75 million and employees were laid off without being paid for their last month’s work. Plus, the one game the company released, “Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning,” suffers from a dumb name with an annoying colon.
Schilling showed a willingness to follow his dreams. And he didn’t go bankrupt!
Art Monk, Shoes
Monk, a bafflingly talented catcher of footballs, is also bafflingly talented at catching good business opportunities. He’s founded Alliant Merchant Services and the Art Monk Football Camp — both praiseworthy. Monk’s business acumen is so sharp that only another professional athlete would be capable of deceiving him.
Alas, Terry Orr was such a man, hoodwinking Monk, and three other of his former Redskins teammates, into investing $50,000 each in his non-existent shoe company. Though “Orrs” would be a great brand name for cheap walking shoes, Orr used the money to pay off personal debts unrelated to footwear.
The shrewdly competitive natures of professional athletes must be confined to the arenas of sport lest chaos ensue.