So You Want to Be a Billionaire?

LeBron James and Warren Buffett

LeBron James and Warren Buffett

So, You want to be a Billionaire?

It’s no secret that Warren Buffett and LeBron James are friendly. In interviews each acknowledges the other respectfully. Buffett praises James’ maturity and restraint while James is humbled by Buffett’s wisdom and experience. They may seem an unlikely pair but the crowd thins dramatically on the road to your first billion.

James put it out there: he wants to join the ranks of this elite group. And, he probably will. He has two things working for him: time and discipline. At 29 years old James has made smart investment decisions that should pay him for years to come. Think bigger than mere endorsement deals. Like Michael Jordan and his majority stake in the Charlotte Bobcats, James opted for Liverpool FC. Together with his savvy handling of the Beats promotion (it is reported he made millions when Apple acquired the brand), investment decisions like these create a platform for his wealth to really expand. Jordan earned over $90 million last year and crossed the billionaire mark as a 50 year old. If James’ discipline sticks he could easily reach this goal before he says goodbye to his forties.

Out of curiosity, is there a female athlete with billionaire potential? Serena Williams, Li Na, or Maria Sharapova could be on Buffett’s mentoring short list. Sharapova is ranked number 34 on the Forbes 100 top paid athletes. At 27 she has time on her side, but her net worth is estimated at $90 million whereas James’ net worth is between $300 and $400 million. Sharapova needs to diversify and find a high return investment to catch up. Her endorsement money is respectable at $22 million, but this will likely fade as her ranking declines. Tennis fans have shorter advertising attention spans than basketball fans.

On the other hand, James’ endorsement money is second only to Tiger Woods according to Forbes’ ranking of the highest paid athletes. Regardless of where he finishes his career James will likely be an endorsement darling for advertisers long after he retires. Remember that catchy tune some of us were whistling when we were kids (….’want to be like Mike)? LeBron could very well inspire a whole new generation of kids and MBAs alike. @Kingjames indeed.

– Jill Harris

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