The previous NBA MVP isn’t ready till retirement to start out constructing an empire. With a staff of billionaire advisors, the 14th-highest-paid athlete on this planet is already scoring along with his style model, promoting company and different profitable investments. Subsequent up, his un-sexiest enterprise enterprise but.

By Matt Craig, Forbes Workers

IN his workplace excessive above Avenue of the Stars in Los Angeles, Russell Westbrook makes an govt resolution. Ditching his white costume shirt, he walks into his Forbes photograph shoot along with his naked chest peeking out from beneath his tan linen go well with, accessorized with thick black boots and a gold necklace.

It’s onerous to think about too many different aspiring enterprise moguls making an analogous style selection, however then once more, most don’t have the physique of a nine-time NBA All-Star, or the aptitude for style. It’s a becoming search for the 34-year-old Los Angeles Clippers level guard, who’s straddling two worlds, enjoying out the ultimate years of his NBA profession whereas working tirelessly to construct a enterprise empire that he hopes will ultimately eclipse his triple-double data on the courtroom. “I wish to be a billionaire,” he says. “Prior to later.”

“It’s not a horny enterprise by any means,” Westbrook says, “but it surely’s a really profitable enterprise. It clicked for me in my mind. It’s like, non-sexy is horny for me.”

Historical past says he gained’t get there. Solely three athletes have achieved billionaire standing in accordance with Forbes—Michael Jordan, LeBron James and Tiger Woods—and Westbrook has made it solely a few third of the best way. Throughout 15 NBA seasons, he has earned greater than $336 million in wage (earlier than taxes and agent charges) and almost $200 million from endorsements and different companies off the courtroom, in accordance with Forbes estimates. This yr, he’s the 14th-highest-paid athlete on this planet, having earned an estimated $82.1 million during the last 12 months. These earnings make up the majority of his internet price, which Forbes estimates to be $375 million. However the probably Corridor of Famer has been earning money strikes for years.

His ardour for style led him to start out a streetwear model in 2017, Honor The Present. The label is now in additional than 300 retail areas all over the world and opened a flagship retailer in L.A. final fall. Income was a really modest $5.7 million final yr, however gross sales have been up 75% from 2021.

Like many sports activities stars, Westbrook has additionally been investing a few of his earnings—he declines to say how a lot—into a wide range of shopper industries, together with meals (Magic Spoon, Luvo, Pizzana), drinks (Move, Poppi), muscle restoration (Hyperice) and social media (Triller). And an early curiosity in vehicles led him to amass minority possession stakes in 5 Southern California dealerships. “Since I’ve been within the league, I’ve been looking for my area of interest,” he says.

However Westbrook is finished dabbling. He offered his stakes within the auto dealerships in late 2022 for at the very least $15 million and is now increase his three-year-old Russell Westbrook Enterprises (RWE), which features a not too long ago launched digital promoting enterprise known as RW Digital that focuses on serving to manufacturers attain various audiences.

“My mantra is ‘Why not?’ I dwell by that. It took 75 years for someone to common a triple-double. Nicely, I did it 4 instances.”

Subsequent up, Westbrook is trying to purchase an auto elements maker. “It is not a horny enterprise by any means, but it surely’s a really profitable enterprise that grows exponentially,” he says. “It clicked for me in my mind. It’s like, non-sexy is horny for me.”

After changing his linen go well with coat with a black Air Jordan T-shirt, he retreats to a convention room carrying a thick stack of printed notes and begins to stipulate his enterprise ambitions. His consideration to element borders on obsessive. Texts after video games at midnight or earlier than exercises at 5 a.m. are widespread, say those that work with him, and the staff aircraft typically acts as a second workplace. “He’s intimately concerned in each transaction,” says one enterprise associate. “I’m amazed at how a lot he participates in all selections.”

It’s a piece ethic he brings from basketball, the place the percentages have been equally stacked towards him as he grew up in a poor neighborhood in southwestern Los Angeles, 15 miles and a world away from Area, the place he now stars. “My mantra is ‘Why not?’ I dwell by that,” he says. “It took 75 years for someone to common a triple-double. Nicely, I did it 4 instances.”

Westbrook’s celeb has additionally afforded him the chance to study from an elite roster of American enterprise magnates comparable to billionaire investor and Legendary Leisure founder Thomas Tull, Banc of California cofounder Chad Brownstein, former Starbucks president Arthur Rubenfeld and Mickey Segal, managing associate of NKSFB, one of many Hollywood’s main wealth administration companies. In flip they’ve grow to be mentors, funding advisors and enterprise companions.

Westbrook’s most profitable funding thus far was a $9 million stake in Tull’s holding firm, Tulco—the biggest stakeholder in insurance coverage large Acrisure—which is now price greater than 10x its preliminary worth and has already earned him a $14.4 million payday after Tulco offered its stake in medical attire maker FIGS through the firm’s IPO.

“What I’ve at all times advised him is, look, man, nearly anyone will take a gathering with you due to who you’re,” says Tull, who’s price $2.8 billion, in accordance with Forbes estimates. “Use that so while you’re finished enjoying, you’ve constructed a dwelling, respiration community of individuals you could name, depend on, do issues with that don’t have something to do with basketball.”

Through the Covid-19 lockdowns, the perennially busy Westbrook had loads of time to plot a recreation plan about life after basketball, and he employed Donell Beverly, a former teammate at Leuzinger Excessive Faculty in L.A., as president of the revamped Russell Westbrook Enterprises.

In speedy succession, RWE led a big funding spherical within the digital monetary platform Varo Financial institution, with Westbrook becoming a member of the corporate as an advisor to spice up monetary literacy in underserved communities. He additionally partnered with Acrisure to discovered Evolution Advisors, which gives monetary merchandise for companies owned by underrepresented entrepreneurs, and with Brownstein to make investments in healthcare and vitamin for at-risk communities.

With shoppers like AT&T, Nike, PepsiCo, American Airways, Varo Financial institution and A+E Networks, Westbrook expects RW Digital to usher in $37 million in income this yr and switch a revenue. He’s additionally invested an undisclosed quantity in an actual property fund targeted on city growth in South L.A., which broke floor on its first mission in late 2022. “When folks consider Los Angeles and consider the underserved, the inside metropolis,” Westbrook says, “I would like the very first thing that pops as much as be Russell Westbrook and the issues we’re doing locally.”

This flurry of enterprise exercise comes as Westbrook enters a brand new part of his NBA profession. Since leaving the Oklahoma Metropolis Thunder in 2019, he has performed for 4 totally different franchises (a fifth staff, the Utah Jazz, acquired him in a commerce after which waived him earlier than he suited up for a single recreation). The 2022-23 season was his final below the “supermax” contract he signed shortly after being named MVP in 2017, and as he hits free company this summer time, his subsequent deal will nearly definitely be considerably smaller.

Then once more, Westbrook expects to make more cash in enterprise than he ever did in basketball. Contemplate his unsexy dream to grow to be an auto elements mogul. Not less than 32 automotive companies have already pledged to do $1 billion of enterprise with minority-owned firms every year. If Westbrook invests his capital in a car-parts producer, he can immediately unlock a few of these alternatives.

The idea has additionally already been confirmed. One other former NBA participant, Vinnie Johnson—who performed for the “Dangerous Boys” Detroit Pistons groups within the Eighties—used the identical playbook to construct his Piston Group enterprise right into a manufacturing juggernaut, scoring contracts with main auto producers en route to just about $3 billion in annual income.

Presently, Beverly says RWE is evaluating 4 potential choices for an acquisition or three way partnership deal within the automotive business, which Forbes has realized are between $50 million and $100 million every. By underwriting a deal and bringing on extra buyers—as Vinnie Johnson did—Beverly is assured RWE may increase its attain rapidly.

Leamon Sowell, a mergers and acquisitions lawyer who makes a speciality of minority enterprise enterprises (MBE) throughout the automotive business, says scaling up is essential as a result of it’s tough for enormous companies to do enterprise with small suppliers. Getting there requires two issues: entry to capital, which Westbrook has, and persistence, which Westbrook admits he’s nonetheless engaged on. A profitable acquisition may take a decade or extra to achieve maturity, however after speaking with Westbrook and Beverly about varied tasks, Sowell believes they’re in it for the long term.

“I can inform you that Russell is extraordinarily uncommon,” Sowell says. “I’ve labored with lots of athletes, and fairly often in the event that they’re not prepared—and by that I imply targeted with a technique—I like to recommend that they don’t do a majority of these transactions as a result of it’s a great way to lose some huge cash.”

Westbrook plans to dedicate himself to this second profession, one which must be roughly twice as profitable financially as basketball if he’s going to hitch LeBron and Michael as NBA billionaires.

Given common market charge returns, even when he didn’t spend a single greenback, a portfolio of Westbrook’s present dimension would take nearly 20 years to achieve the $1 billion mark. Contemplating the $37 million house in Brentwood he bought final October and his predilection for costly vehicles and excessive style, Westbrook has an excellent steeper hill to climb. It’s truthful to marvel why he would wish to spend the approaching years (and probably many years) grinding towards the Three Comma Membership in solely new industries, however he says that changing into a billionaire is certainly the aim.

“It’s what I wish to be,” Westbrook says. “Within the enterprise realm, that may be a pinnacle that folks the place I come from don’t make it to.”


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