Field to Fortune: Australian Athletes Making it Big in Business
For household names in sport, the transition to entrepreneurship can be a natural one. Here's our list of athletes who've made it big in business.
On the back of strong personal brands, big followings (fans and sponsors) and often a healthy amount of capital, top athletes are well positioned to switch their cleats for suits.
Australian athletes in business
There are numerous Australian athletes that have gone on from professional sport to own and run successful businesses.
Golfing great Greg Norman spent his former years dominating the golf scene before moving onto create his own company. He now focuses on golf-course design and turf management, real estate and other ventures. He is now worth an estimated $235 million.
Many AFL stars have gone on to run pubs, start fashion lines even enter the corporate world. Geelong premiership captain Cameron Ling is now involved with numerous bars and restaurants in Geelong, including the Edge on the Geelong waterfront and the Diggers Arms Hotel in Newtown. Following the trend of footballers and pubs Luke Darcy along with his father started up a chain of hotels dotted around Melbourne.
Another AFL success Andrew Welsh (Pictured right) started up Welsh Group, a property development company of which he is the managing director. He is developing a new suburb just north west of Melbourne and has numerous other property ventures on the go. He is now worth an estimated $40 million.
Former Hawk Chris Langford co-founded Newmark Property Group and now works in property funds management and development.
Former Western Bulldogs player Craig Ellis and his partner started up the internationally acclaimed bikini brand Triangl and turned their bankruptcy into over $40 million.
Fremantle Dockers legend Matthew Pavlich is the co-founder of PickStar, the marketplace to book sports stars for commercial opportunities. He is also a director of PMY Consulting, has various business relationships and is completing an MBA.
Fergus Watts is the founder of $25 million agency Bastion (we interviewed Fergus here) while his former team mate, ex Crow and Tiger Chris Knights, founded digital marketing company Zib Media while still playing footy (listen to our interview with Chris here).
Former Hawthorn player Steve Greene and former West Coast and Carlton star Chris Judd started up the sports clothing company “Jaggad”, which has become hugely successful.
AFLW star with the Adelaide Crows, Abbey Holmes is also founder of activewear apparel brand Esnetica, a real estate agent and author.
Olympic swimmer Hayley Lewis won five gold medals for Australia before retiring and opening her own swimming centre in Brisbane, and then going on to open and run a gift and homewares shop.
Former Wallaby Ben Darwin founded analytics company Gain Line, using data to uncover amazing revelations about the importance of team cohesion for the performance of sporting and corporate teams (listen to our interview with Ben here).
Australian Rugby legend John Eales founded leadership development company Mettle. Many athletes have built careers in leadership and team building, with groups such as Leading Teams and their own consultancies.
Before trying his hand at Rugby, Wallabies Coach Michael Cheika worked for dress designer Collette Dinnigan before branching out and creating a multi-million dollar label, Live Fashion.
Michael Klim spent his former years chasing the black line in the pool, winning numerous medals for Australia. He then ventured into largely untapped market of male skincare. Milk & Co was launched for men but then expanded with a women’s line and then baby products.
Ironman legend Guy Leech has built his own health and fitness empire, through gym equipment deals, apps and more.
Many athletes have also built companies around skills training and coaching, including Liz Ellis (netball), Jason Gillespie (cricket) and John Newcombe (tennis).
Global athletes in business
Michael Jordan, one of the biggest names in basketball, played for the Chicago Bulls for 14 years before transitioning to business. He bought the Charlotte Bobcats and is the face of Nike’s Air Jordan Sneakers among other endorsements like Coca-Cola, Gatorade and more.
World number three in tennis, Venus Williams, started her own interior design firm “V Starr Interiors” and launched her own fashion line in 2007. All while still competing in the major tournaments.
And pro skater and industry pioneer Tony Hawk, who won 73 of the 100 pro contests he competed in. He branched out to open his own skateboarding company “Birdhouse”, one of the largest skate brands in the world. He reinvented the skateboarding brand with the Tony Hawk series of video games, and has also dabbled with clothing lines, various endorsements and investments, and has written an autobiography.
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