While promoting his new biopic “Big George Foreman,” George Foreman shared precious jewels about entrepreneurship.
The two-time former world heavyweight champion boxer joined former football players Brandon Marshall and DeSean “Djax” Jackson on their podcast “I Am Athlete,” the history of his lucrative “George Foreman Grill,” a product that changed not only his life but the trajectory of athlete endorsement deals.
The Darling of Madison Avenue
During the April 16 interview, Jackson asked him about how the “lean, mean, fat-reducing grilling machine” deal fell into his lap.
According to Foreman, he had become “The Darling of Madison Avenue,” hocking everything from Doritos to Pepsi to McDonald’s in commercials. That was when Sam Perlmutter, his then-attorney, encouraged him to produce his own product that he could sell.
“You’re making all these other people rich!” the friend told him, according to the boxing legend.
When the grill was presented to him, he didn’t think much of it, calling it ugly. But then his wife told him that it was an excellent product, unbeknownst to him echoing the voices of millions.
“I had no idea,” he recalled marveling at its success. “I looked up one day really 120 million of those things sold worldwide.”
Joint Venture Deal Made Him a Boss
Foreman had a joint venture deal with the grill and owned the lion’s share of the company.
A joint venture is a business arrangement in which two or more parties agree to pool their resources for the purpose of accomplishing a specific task, according to Investopedia.
By setting up this kind of deal, Foreman was no longer merely endorsing a product but participating in the profits.
Marshall noted that the success of other entertainers in both the sports and music industry like 50 Cent and his Vitamin water deal, Jay-Z, and LeBron James, was due to the example Foreman made with this product.
The first step in becoming successful in a joint venture is being secure in what one brings to the table, according to Foreman.
“I had done good campaigns for all of these other companies like Doritos and Oscar Mayer wieners. Their sales jumped when I became involved,” he stated. “I wasn’t afraid to take on a joint venture where I’m the partner, I’d have to sell, I’d have to bear the expense. I wasn’t afraid at all.”
He knew betting on him was a sure bet.
The Mystery Behind The Grill’s Earnings
The deal was set up by Perlmutter.
His first profit check from the grill in 1997 was for $1 million. The next year, he and his partners sold $200 million worth of grills, and Foreman took home about 40 percent of the profits.
He says in all he made about $138 million from the grill deal. When the company was sold, he walked away with $137.5 million in cash and stock in 1999.
When talking about the sale, he said, “I was in the business of selling grills, so why not sell them all.”
In exchange, his former partners would have the right to use his name in perpetuity and he would never be able to endorse another cookware product. The deal also had him being paid to shoot more commercials and TV appearances for at least $11 million.
A complete breakdown of how much he earned from the grill deal has never been revealed. The boxer remains cheeky about those earnings, saying, “If you know how much money you’ve earned, you haven’t earned much, right?”
But he did give a hint into the current value of the kitchen appliance that carries his name.
“I sold the grill and I decided I was going to buy it back maybe a year or so ago,” he shared. “It was way over a billion bucks … almost $2 billion.”
More to Come
While he might not go back to selling grills, Foreman is not through. He said in addition to the new movie, which debuted in theaters across the country on Friday, April 28, he has other ventures he believes he can make happen.
Foreman said, “I’m still trying to do other things. You never quit wake up, put my feet on the floor and say, ‘Now what’s next?’ I got to do something else.”