Yesterday’s Sports Stars, Today’s Sports Businessmen!

sports-speakers-bureau-wayne-gretzkyTiming is proving to truly be everything for Ranzy Jewelers and luxury Swiss watch manufacturer Breitling, as they recently spent an evening celebrating the newest collection of Breitling watches with legendary athlete and long time supporter of the brand, Wayne Gretzky, just in time for the NHL playoffs. Gretzky is among a long list of celebrity endorsers of the brand, including soccer star David Beckham, pro basketball star Chris Paul and Olympic Gold medalist Ryan Lochte. A Breitling ambassador since 2011, Gretzky had the chance to celebrate the expanded collection of timepieces, while meeting many of his own fans, who were anxiously awaiting the start of the finals. As the Los Angeles Kings and the New York Rangers faced off in Game 1 of the 2014 Stanley Cup Final, it was only fitting that Gretzky drop the ceremonial first puck, as he spent 10 of his 19 NHL seasons playing for both of these teams.

‘The Great One’ is said to be the greatest hockey player of all time and his career was rife with record breaking achievements, including four Stanley Cup Championships, 61 NHL records, and being named to the All-Star teams 18 times. He famously wore the number 99, which was retired by all NHL teams, as a testament to his truly unmatched talent. Post-retirement, Gretzky has carried on his continued popularity not only with his relationship with Breitling and other products that he has endorsed or launched, but also with business ventures including the Wayne Gretzky’s restaurant in Toronto and partnerships with businesses such as Worldwide Roller Hockey Inc. and sports equipment maker First Team Sports. Proving to be just as philanthropic as he is talented, Gretzky also founded the Wayne Gretzky Foundation to provide the less fortunate youth with the opportunity to experience the sport of hockey.

For most of the greatest Hall of Famer’s and athletes out there like Gretzky, they spend their entire life perfecting the craft that made them famous. However, it is during the sunset of their careers that they are finding other pursuits and proving to be as affluent as ever. Another prime example is Mike Schmidt, Hall of Fame Phillies third baseman, who became a huge supporter of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, raising over $1.5 million for research with his charity efforts. Various other athletes have put an emphasis on philanthropy after retirement, including Steve Young, former pro football quarterback and Hall of Famer, who has aided third world countries and provided underprivileged children with various opportunities with his Forever Young Foundation, and recent Hall of Famer Magic Johnson, who established the Magic Johnson Foundation to support HIV/Aids research efforts and awareness programs, and is taking part in the White House project called “My Brother’s Keeper,” to keep young people out of the criminal justice system and improve their access to higher education.

Besides his humanitarian efforts, Johnson has dominated the entrepreneurial world as well, creating Magic Johnson Enterprises with various subsidiaries including movie theaters, a promotional company, and a movie studio. Following this same business path post retirement is heavyweight champion George Foreman, who sold over 100 million George Foreman Grills, pro basketball star LeBron James, who has his own marketing agency, former pro quarterback Roger Staubach, who founded his own real estate firm and served as CEO for many years, and the face of modern skateboarding Tony Hawk, who is the owner of the largest skateboarding company in the world and the creator of his own videogame and clothing line. Living legend Michael Jordan has also taken the business world by storm, with his ownership of the Charlotte Hornets, his various endorsements, and most notably, being the face of Nike’s Air Jordan sneakers. Wayne Gretzky and these other sports stars might be Hall of Famer’s, MVP’s, the athletic elite, but time and time again, they are proving to be just as philanthropic and business savvy as they are legendary.

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