George Foreman is one of boxing’s most popular and enduring icons.
After winning the Olympic gold medal in 1968, Foreman turned pro and quickly made a name for himself by winning boxing’s ultimate prize after knocking out Joe Frazier in 1973. A couple of successful title defenses later, Foreman lost the heavyweight title to Muhammad Ali in the legendary Rumble in the Jungle in 1974. After being unable to secure another title shot, he retired in 1977 after a loss to Jimmy Young.
Foreman would become an ordained minister in his native Texas before returning to the ring a decade later. He would not just have one of the best boxing comeback stories ever but he achieved the improbable by reclaiming the heavyweight title two decades after he lost it and against a man almost twenty years his junior.
Today, Foreman sits pretty on a gated 45 acre home outside Houston. When asked why he needed such a large property, Foreman jokingly said because he didn’t want to annoy his neighbors with the barks of his growing German Shepherd kennel. Yes, the former heavyweight champion is a German Shepherd enthusiast. He doesn’t just enter his dogs to shows, he also breeds them. Foreman also has a stable of 50 horses and a garage that sits 38 cars. Porsche, Ferrari, Maybach or Tesla. Name it , he’s got it. Foreman even has a tennis court he says he’s never used yet.
So how was Foreman able to afford these luxuries? Read on.
Making More Outside The Ring
In 1995, Forbes ranked Foreman as the 6th highest earning athlete of the year with earnings of $18M. During that year, basketball superstar Michael Jordan topped the list with an income of $43.9M. The highest earning boxer that year was Mike Tyson who came in at #2 with his $40M income. Other than that and the $12.5M he made for challenging Evander Holyfield in April 1991, George Foreman really didn’t make big money inside the ring as did the likes of Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Oscar De La Hoya.
But Foreman’s foray into several endorsements and businesses kept his bank account full. Big George had deals with McDonalds, Doritos, KFC, Meineke mufflers,Thompson’s sealant and Nike Tennis shoes. But none of these deals matched the huge amount of money which he made in one unlikely deal. It’s a deal which sealed George Foreman’s success as an entrepreneur and the one that sent him made for the rest of his life.
George Foreman Grill
Big George’s most successful business venture was one that he didn’t have an interest in when it was first presented. During the 1990’s Foreman inked a deal with Salton Inc. to put his name on a fat-reducing grill that would later be called the George Foreman Lean Mean Fat Reducing Grill Machine. The deal was for Big George to receive royalties equivalent to 45% of the profits after expenses were deducted. But cute as that sounds, there were no guaranteed payments upfront, making the deal not monetarily compelling - until Foreman received his first check from Salton.
On November 22, 1997, George Foreman lost via close majority decision to Shannon Briggs. That would turn out to be his last fight. While George went to his locker room a loser for the final time in his boxing career, his lawyer came to him and showed him his initial royalty check for the George Foreman grill. It was for $1M.
"That was one of the happiest days of my business life," Foreman said. "I lost my last professional boxing match, I'd received a check for $1 million for the grill."
Best Sports Marketing Deal Ever
The rest as they say is history. By 1998 Salton sold over $200M worth of the grills and George Foreman was making a handsome money from royalties that Salton thought that it might be financially sound to buy out Foreman. So they did, to the tune of $137.5M in cash and stock, making the George Foreman Grill one of the best sports marketing deal of all-time.
Following the buyout, Salton paid some $11M for Foreman to appear in advertisements. IF we add that to the 45% royalties he previously earned and the $237.5M buyout money, Big George easily earned $200M from the Salton deal. Not bad for something that was totally unexpected to make a splash. As for the product, Salton ended up selling over 100M units of the George Foreman Grill, making it the company’s most successful product ever.
Other Business Ventures
The success of the George Foreman grill led Foreman to establish the George Foreman Enterprises, a company established to ‘leverage the assets of one of the most powerful celebrity athlete brands ever.’ The company ventured into the George Foreman Knockout cleaning system and to Foreman’s Lean Mean Grillers ( a poultry line ) but by 2007 they only had $200K in sales and $3M in losses. In 2014, the George Foreman Enterprises went down without a rumble and was suspended from trading by the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Foreman also tried his hands on several other businesses. He trained his son George ‘Monk’ Foreman III and became an investor in Monk’s successful Boston gym called ‘Everybody Fights’. Together with another son, George Jr., he established a boxing promotional company called Foreman Boys which partnered with Top Rank’s Bob Arum for bouts overseas. In 2015, he opened an online meat ordering business called the George Foreman’s Butcher Shop.
Given the success of his business empire, it’s safe to say that George Foreman earned more outside the ring that inside it. Over two boxing careers and everything in between both, Big George has amassed an estimated net worth of $300M. Not bad for someone who was on the verge of bankruptcy when he made his boxing comeback.
When Foreman retired from the sport, he he moved back to his hometown in Texas to become a preacher. There, he founded a youth center for troubled kids but soon found himself with his pockets almost empty. Foreman was advised to close the center but he insisted on keeping it, deciding to return to boxing to help pay the bills.
Foreman would go on to win 23 straight bouts, all but one via knockout. That led to his title shot against Evander Holyfield. Foreman lost that bout as well as a second title shot against WBO champion Tommy Morrison. But in his third attempt against the then unbeaten Michael Moorer, George Foreman defied the odds and became the oldest boxing heavyweight champion of all-time at age 45.
Trailing on all scorecards in the 10th round, George Foreman did the impossible. After landing several scoring shots on the champion, Former clipped Moorer on the chin with short right hand. The champion went down and was literally counted out by the referee. The fight was over, George Foreman made history, 20 years after losing the heavyweight title for Muhammad Ali.
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