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Famous Franchisees: The Biggest Celebrity Franchise Successes

Franchise opportunities are an excellent way to diversify, safeguard, and grow one’s long-term financial portfolio.

We don’t all have the same amount to invest as the celebrities on this list. But the fact that they’ve put their faith in the franchise model—some long after the careers that made them famous are over—proves the merits of owning and running a successful franchise. Let’s dive in!

big shaq chicken

Shaquille O’Neal

Shaquille O’Neal, the former NBA superstar, has successfully transitioned into a savvy businessperson and entrepreneur, building a considerable franchise empire. Beyond his basketball career, Big Shaq has shown keen interest in franchising, including fast food, fitness, and car washes.

At one point, he owned 155 Five Guys Burgers restaurants, equating to 10% of the company’s franchise portfolio, though he has since sold his stake.

His portfolio didn’t stop there; he has also owned 17 Auntie Anne’s Pretzels outlets and was involved with nine Papa John’s franchise units, even joining the pizza chain’s board of directors in 2019.

O’Neal has also expressed a particular fondness for Krispy Kreme and is aiming to expand his involvement with the donut chain.

Beyond these ventures, he founded Big Chicken, a chicken sandwich brand that began franchising in 2021 and plans to expand.

Magic Johnson

magic johnson on how he built 125 starbucks franchises

Magic Johnson has leveraged his success from the basketball court to build a diversified portfolio of franchise investments and sports team ownership, demonstrating a strategic approach to entrepreneurship and investment.

His portfolio includes significant stakes in professional sports teams like the Los Angeles Dodgers, Los Angeles Lakers, and Washington Commanders. The latter became the most expensive franchise purchase in American sporting history, at $6.05 billion​​.

Beyond the sports arena, Johnson’s entrepreneurial ventures extend into the franchise domain, where he has owned over 100 units across several chains.

His franchise holdings have included 125 Starbucks stores, marking him as the most significant Starbucks franchisee at one point, 23 T.G.I. Fridays restaurants, and previously, 30 Jamba Juice locations before selling them in 2016​​.

Meghan Thee Stallion

meghan thee stallion's signature popeyes hottie sauce

Meghan Thee Stallion, known for her dynamic presence in the music industry, has ventured into the world of franchising with Popeyes.

She became a franchise owner as part of a comprehensive development deal with the fast-food chain. This partnership went beyond the typical celebrity endorsement, introducing a special menu item, the “Megan Thee Stallion Hottie Sauce,” alongside a dedicated merchandise collection.

The deal marks a significant step in Meghan’s entrepreneurial journey, showcasing her ability to leverage her brand beyond music and into the business arena, particularly in the food and beverage sector​​​​.

Rick Ross

rick ross holds a wingstop gift card up to the camera

Rick Ross, the renowned rapper and entrepreneur, has expanded his business ventures into the franchise world, particularly with Wingstop and Checkers.

His first Wingstop franchise was opened in Memphis, TN, in 2011, driven by his fondness for their Lemon Pepper-flavored wings. This investment began Ross’s journey into restaurant franchising, leading him to own nearly 30 Wingstop locations across the United States. These franchises have been lucrative for him, reportedly bringing in $200,000 annually​​.

Ross’s franchise endeavors don’t stop at Wingstop. He ventured further into the fast food industry with Checkers, opening multiple locations and actively involving himself in their operations. His engagement goes beyond mere ownership; Ross has been known to work the drive-thru window, showcasing his hands-on approach and commitment to his investment.

By tapping into the franchise model, Rick Ross has effectively diversified his portfolio, extending his influence from the music industry into the restaurant business. His investments reflect a quest for profitability, a deeper connection to his roots, and a desire to contribute to the communities that have shaped him.

Venus Williams

venus williams winning the game, set, and match with jamba juice

Venus Williams’s off-court business acumen is as impressive as her athletic achievements. She has had several successful ventures, including an interior design business, part ownership of the Miami Dolphins, authoring a New York Times Best Seller, franchise ownership with Jamba Juice, and her activewear clothing line EleVen.

Her diverse portfolio showcases her entrepreneurial spirit and commitment to health, wellness, and fashion​​.

Drew Brees

drew brees breezes through franchise success with dunkin

Drew Brees has significantly expanded his business portfolio beyond his illustrious NFL career by investing in various franchise businesses.

His investments include being an owner or equity partner in franchises such as Dunkin’, Jimmy John’s, Happy’s Irish Pub, and Walk-Ons Bistreaux & Bar, as well as the fitness franchise Stretch Zone, where he also serves on the board of directors.

LeBron James

lebron james training day at blaze pizza

LeBron James’s off-court endeavors have significantly contributed to his success as a businessman, positioning him among the wealthiest athletes globally.

He co-owns Fenway Sports Group, gaining stakes in major sports franchises like the Boston Red Sox and Liverpool Football Club, which marks a strategic expansion of his investment portfolio into the global sports arena.

SpringHill Entertainment, another venture, highlights his foray into the entertainment industry, producing notable works like “Survivor’s Remorse,” “The Wall,” and “Space Jam: A New Legacy.”

Additionally, James has invested in Blaze Pizza, turning a modest investment into a rapidly growing chain.

James has amassed a fortune, making him the first active NBA player to achieve billionaire status, and diversified his investments across various sectors, including entertainment, sports, and food industries​​​​​​.

Peyton Manning

peyton manning made a safe bet with krispy kreme franchises

Nationally renowned for his storied NFL career, Peyton Manning has also made significant strides in franchise ownership.

His portfolio includes 31 Papa John’s franchises in the Denver area, which he acquired in 2012, 7 Krispy Kreme franchises since 2006, and multiple Big O Tires franchises purchased in 2019 in Tennessee.

Manning expanded his franchising involvement into the fast-food sector by becoming a Five Guys franchisee and opening two locations in Knoxville, Tennessee, in 2020.

Despite Manning’s sale of his Papa John’s franchises in 2018, just before the NFL and the pizza chain ended their corporate sponsorship agreement, he continues to leverage his expertise and celebrity status in the franchise world, reflecting a strategic approach to investment and business development post his NFL career​​​​​​.

Mark Wahlberg

the wahlberg bros understandably grinning after founding wahlburgers

Mark Wahlberg, alongside his brothers, founded Wahlburgers, a fast-casual dining franchise.

Since its inception in 2011 in Massachusetts, Wahlburgers has expanded significantly domestically and internationally. This showcases Mark’s business versatility beyond his Hollywood career.

The initial investment for a Wahlburgers franchise ranges between $1.14 million and $2 million, reflecting the costs of starting and operating a location. Despite facing financial challenges, including a net loss in 2020, the brand continues growing, leveraging its celebrity connection to attract franchisees and customers​​.

Wahlberg also invested in fitness franchise F45 while it was still a private company—an investment that earned him a USD $200 million return when F45 first went public in 2021.

Phil Mickelson

phil mickelson disappointed with his stroke, not his investment

Phil Mickelson owns several Five Guys franchises in Orange County, California.

His investment in franchising is part of a broader trend among athletes who transition to business ownership, leveraging their leadership skills and high profile for mutual benefits with franchisors.

This move into franchising allows Mickelson to apply his team leadership and operational skills in a new domain, diversifying his portfolio while benefiting from a proven business model​​.

Jimmy Buffett

Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville, founded in 1985 in Key West, Florida, marks the beginning of his foray into franchising, combining his entertainment career with a burgeoning business empire.

Inspired by Buffett’s hit song, this brand has expanded globally, including in the Caribbean, Australia, and Mexico, with some franchise-owned locations. In 2002, Buffett also collaborated with Outback Steakhouse to launch the Cheeseburger in Paradise restaurant chain, further diversifying his portfolio within the hospitality industry​​.

Buffett is also a co-founder of the Krispy Kreme South Florida partnership, focusing on growth for all Krispy Kreme franchises in the region.

Kanye West

kanye west always his unimpressed self, even with a successful franchise investment

The fashion mogul and songwriter adds to his eccentricity by owning 10 Burger King locations throughout Europe.

Chris Brown

Chris Brown has expanded his portfolio into the fast-food industry by owning 14 Burger King franchises.

This investment adds to his diverse ventures outside of music and showcases his interest in the restaurant business. Brown, with an estimated net worth of $50 million, has also ventured into fashion with his clothing line, Black Pyramid, and has operated a record label, CBE, under Interscope since 2007​​.

These celebrities have leveraged their fame and capital to establish themselves in the business world through franchising. It’s a way for them to build wealth outside of their primary industries, and many use it as a platform to create job opportunities and contribute to their communities.

Celebrity franchise ownership is dynamic, with new figures entering the space and others continuously moving on to different ventures.

Fibrenew’s VIP treatment

Well, we may not have any household-name celebs in our franchise family, but we guarantee that we treat every single one as a VIP!

If you’re considering buying a franchise, download a free copy of our “Complete, No-B.S. Guide to Franchising in 2024” for all the info you’ll need.

Also, check out our Franchise Information Guide for everything you need to know about Fibrenew franchising. Until next time!

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Meet the author

Julian Foulds

Marketing Communications Specialist

A marketer first, a writer second, I enjoy finding unique, data-driven ways of demonstrating Fibrenew’s values while providing our community of franchisees with the resources they need to be consistently successful.

See other posts by Julian Foulds