LeBron James is proving to be a business mogul in the financial investing arena. James’ Blaze Pizza is the fastest growing restaurant franchise in history. On July 11, 2017, Blaze Pizza opened their 200th restaurant in Mentor, Ohio. James is a franchisee, investor, and paid brand ambassador for Blaze Pizza. Just five years ago, Blaze Pizza had two respective locations in Irvine and Pasadena, California. According to restaurant consultancy firm Technomic, the expeditious growth makes Blaze Pizza the fastest-growing restaurant of all time.
Blaze Pizza CEO Jim Mizes stated, “LeBron helps us punch in terms of our brand awareness well above our weight.” James walked away from $15 million in guaranteed endorsement money in 2015 to put his full marketing might behind Blaze Pizza. It has proven to be a shrewd investment in a relatively short span of time. Blaze Pizza totaled $6 million in sales in 2013, $185 million in 2016, projects $285 million in sales in 2017, and $1.1 billion in sales in 2022.
Blaze Pizza plans to expand by an additional 100-150 locations per year, beginning in the year 2018. Currently in 32 U.S. states and Canada, Blaze Pizza is also expected to announce an international expansion in the near future. In a recent Harris Poll, Blaze Pizza finished second to Papa John’s as the best pizza chain brand in America.
James’ longtime financial adviser Paul Wachter of Mainstreet Advisors helped orchestrate the Blaze Pizza venture along with James’ business manager, Maverick Carter.
Uninterrupted is a digital media company founded by James and Carter. The series hosted by Carter focuses on the financial dynamics professional athletes confront in their daily lives. In the episode titled “Kneading Dough,” James elaborates on the decision to leave McDonald’s to hedge his financial bet on the now-successful Blaze Pizza investment. Reflecting on the choice, James said, “We get to build this. If it doesn’t become successful, I can only blame myself.”
James regularly promotes Blaze Pizza across the span of his Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter social media profiles to his estimated 91 million followers. His portrayal of a Blaze Pizza team member named Ron working the counter has been viewed over 2 million times on YouTube.
In light of James thrusting his social capital and marketing weight behind Blaze Pizza in 2015, Carter was quoted as saying, “This move aligns with LeBron’s brand and his history of helping companies grow faster and bigger as an equity partner.”
James, Larry Levy of Levy Family Partners, and Carter presently own 17 Blaze Pizza franchises in the South Florida and Chicago markets.
[Featured Image by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images]