Caron The Businessman Butler
The All-Star forward dishes on his side hustle.
by Kyle Stack / @KyleStack
This blog is meant to address off-court issues in basketball, including any topic related to business in the sport. While reading Caron Butler’s latest blog post on HoopsHype.com, I learned that he owns six Burger King franchises throughout the country, with his first investment coming in 2007. I thought it might be interesting to speak with him about what led him to become a business investor, to show him as an example of the pro athlete who’s already looking for security beyond his playing career. Here’s what he had to say.
SLAM: Have you been watching Team USA?
Caron Butler: Yeah.
SLAM: What do you think of the team?
CB: You got a lot of young talent out there. Guys are really holding down the fort. No matter what the situation, close games, they’ve been able to squeak them out. There was that close game against Spain and, obviously, Brazil. They still squeaked it out and did what they had to do.
SLAM: Let’s turn to your business career. What was the moment when you knew you wanted to start investing in businesses?
CB: Just working at Burger King for two years, I learned the ins and outs of the game, from the ground up. This will be something great to have, something that I wanted to look into. Fortunately, a deal came across the table where I was able to be a franchise owner and I just took advantage of the opportunity. It’s a blessing to be in this situation and looking forward to expanding to another six franchises in the near future.
SLAM: Was this strictly for financial reasons or is there a competitive aspect to embracing that challenge of running a successful business?
CB: I mean, it was a combination of both. What I learned from running a franchise, I learned a lot about work ethic, I learned a lot about time management. Obviously, you got to deal with people on a day-to-day basis because you’re interacting with people so much. I learned a lot about growing up, after that job [at Burger King]. I thought it was a great, life-changing experience for me. I thought it’d be a great investment for all those reasons, for up-and-coming kids and those people trying to better themselves in life. I just thought it’s a great franchise to invest in. So it wasn’t just financially at first; it was a passion of mine and I wanted to do it. Obviously there’s a financial twist to it as well but it works out in the end.
SLAM: Have you seen other NBA players struggle with their finances?
CB: You do see some guys struggle while they’re playing; some who live check-to-check in some situations. For the most part, now that you’ve seen those situations, I thank God they’re getting better about it. Learning the lessons through Rookie Transition and with the speakers that come in and talk to you about how you can improve your situation. (Ed note: The NBA holds an annual orientation week for its rookies called the Rookie Transition Program.) So you’re learning from them in certain situations and taking their feedback and guys are doing better with their money these days.
SLAM: I’ve read that Magic Johnson, from your time on the Lakers, and Mark Cuban, obviously with the Mavericks, have been big influences for you business-wise. What have you learned from each of them?
CB: Man, I mean, Magic is like…I don’t want to say poster child…poster man. The way he transcended the game with his smile and charisma from the court, taking it off the court and diversifying it in all types of different avenues with Burger King, Starbucks, Magic Johnson Theatres, L.A. Fitness. You name it, he’s doing it; then part-owner of the Lakers. He’s just doing everything. That’s a big goal, a lofty goal and a dream. If you can be somewhat similar to that—that’s what you strive for.
The same thing with Mark Cuban. He’s got his hands in a little bit of everything. He offered me to have a couple days to shadow him this summer so as soon as I’m done training at the end of the month I’m gonna come prepared to shadow him. I’m gonna see behind the scenes, board meetings and whatever else he does. He’s a billionaire so it’s gonna be a great experience.
SLAM: You’re just going to follow him in board meetings and on conference calls, stuff like that?
CB: Yeah, I just want to shadow him, just pick his mind and see what’s behind the scenes of everything. Just ask questions.
SLAM: You invested in Burger King partly because you had previously worked there. Are there some types of businesses you would invest in that you had no prior experience with?
CB: Well, there has to be an adjustment. With franchising, like Burger King, McDonald’s, even Subway and an up-and-coming food chain, like Five Guys, those are definitely winning situations. Because the economy is so bad right now, everybody is thinking ahead and things are not the same for everybody. But with those franchises, those guys are going to be fine no matter what the situation may be. They’re deeply rooted in America. It’s got to be a definite gain if you just want to invest in it. It can’t be a long process. But when I invested in [Burger King] I knew it would be a winning situation in the long haul. And my passion was to do that anyway. As far as other things, like movies and things like that, it has to be a definite gain right out the gate.
SLAM: What other kinds of businesses interest you?
CB: I mean, I’m really intrigued by film. Two years ago, I was able to be on the set in the production of [the movie] Hurricane Season. My agent was actually a producer in the movie. I saw it in production and that just really grabbed me. It’s something I would love to be apart of one day, producing, things like that, because I love movies.
SLAM: Anything else you want to add about your inspirations, advice, future goals?
CB: I would say this: Anybody who’s successful, just continue to be a pillar in your community. Seeing is believing for a lot of kids. Us as athletes, us as successful people, we’ve all got to come out and be visible so these kids can see it. Because right now, in America, it’s trying times, especially in inner cities. People just need to see positive things right now.