Antetokounmpo, Giannis

NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo Makes First Startup Investment In Ready Nutrition – Forbes



May 29, 2020
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Milwaukee Bucks v New Orleans Pelicans NBA

The NBA’s reigning MVP, Giannis Antetokounmpo, is upping his investment game.

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Giannis Antetokounmpo arrived in the U.S. from Greece in 2013 as an 18-year-old, 190-pound beanpole. The Milwaukee Bucks’ first-round pick got pushed around his rookie season, averaging less than 7 points per game, but the raw talent was evident for Antetokounmpo, who didn’t pick up a basketball until he was 12 years old.

His body and his game developed by leaps and bounds over the next six seasons. He packed on 50 pounds of muscle, and his scoring average increased each year. Last season’s NBA MVP was a crowning achievement, and with the Bucks again owning the league’s top record, he was the award favorite this year when the season was halted March 11 because of the coronavirus pandemic.

As Antetokounmpo’s on-court game has evolved, he’s also worked to improve his off-court investment game. The four-time All-Star has made his first brand investment in emerging nutrition company Ready Nutrition, whose primary product is its Ready Sports Drink, which competes with Gatorade, Powerade and BodyArmor. Going up against beverage giants Coca-Cola
KO
and PepsiCo
PEP
doesn’t faze Antetokounmpo. “We want to get that No. 1 spot,” he says.

Antetokounmpo was drawn to Ready Nutrition founder Pat Cavanaugh, who was also an underdog who defied the odds. Cavanaugh was an undersized, walk-on basketball player in the late 1980s at the University of Pittsburgh who later earned a scholarship and was named team captain. He launched Ready Nutrition in 2012 and posted sales of more than $100 million last year on double-digit growth. “What I love about Giannis, we both started from nothing and built ourselves up,” says Cavanaugh.

He originally connected with the “Greek Freak” through another Greek basketball player, Sotiris Aggelou, who followed Cavanaugh at Pitt. Antetokounmpo and Cavanaugh talk about having a “shared mentality,” and their partnership evolved over 18 months, leading to today’s announcement by Ready Nutrition of its superstar investor. There is an endorsement component in the agreement, but Giannis downplays that part of their pact. “This is not just an endorsement deal; it’s something I believe in,” he says. “I love working with Pat.”

Neither Cavanaugh nor Antetokounmpo would comment on the terms of the deal, but it is expected to be “significant” for someone who, at 25 years old, has already made more than $150 million in his career from salary and endorsements. “The best partnerships are ones that don’t necessarily need each other,” says Antetokounmpo’s agent at Octagon, Alex Saratsis.

The products of Ready Nutrition, which is based outside Pittsburgh, are currently available in more than 8,000 retail outlets across North America and were recently added to Walmart
WMT
locations in 20 states. Two-time NFL defensive player of the year Aaron Donald, who also attended Pitt, was thefirst pro athletelast year to join the company as an investor.

Antetokounmpo will have the bankroll to make more investments. He earned more than $40 million over the last 12 months from his salary and endorsements and ranks in the top 20 ofForbes’ annual look at the world’s highest-paid athletes, set for publication on Friday.

Nike
NKE
released the Zoom Freak 1 in 2019, and it was the largest initial signature shoe launch in Nike basketball history. In addition, Disney secured a deal this year to develop a movie around Antetokounmpo’s life, along the lines ofThe Blind Side. It is targeted for a 2022 release.

Sports stars using their massive platforms, connections and wallets to hunt and leverage investment opportunities is as much a part of the athlete playbook as the action on the field these days.Serena WilliamsandKevin Duranthave hit the venture capital world while LeBron James and Stephen Curry have launched their own media companies. “I’m not an expert on investments, but I have a good team around me to help me learn about them,” says Antetokounmpo.

Antetokounmpo has been extremely conservative with his NBA money to this point, only dipping his toe into the stock market last year for the first time, but he has been absorbing lessons on investing from those around him.

In addition to Octagon’s Saratsis, Antetokounmpo says he’s leaned on retired French NBA All-Star Tony Parker, as well as Kobe Bryant before his death, to help navigate off-court investments. He picks the brain of the Bucks’ ownership suite, Wes Edens, Marc Lasry and Jamie Dinan, who are all products of the hedge fund world. But his older brother Thanasis Antetokounmpo, a fellow NBA player, remains his go-to resource. “He always keeps me grounded and gives me investment advice,” says Giannis.

The Ready Nutrition investment has Antetokounmpo following the path of Bryant, who backed BodyArmor in 2014with a roughly $6 million investmentfor 10% of the company. The value of the stake jumped to $200 million in 2018 when Coca-Cola invested in the brand. Bryant built a$600 million net worthbefore his tragic death in January.

Antetokounmpo is itching to get back on the court as the Bucks have a chance to win the franchise’s first NBA title since 1971. “The NBA is going to do a great job prioritizing our health and keeping us and our families safe,” he says. “But I am a basketball player, and I want to play basketball. I can’t live without basketball. I hope we can get playing again and kick some butt.”

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