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Meet the sports stars, musicians, and celebrity investors of U.S. franchising

Meet the sports stars, musicians, and celebrity  investors of U.S. franchising

Franchises are no stranger to celebrity endorsement, with everything from fast-casual restaurants to vegetarian schools being backed by some of America’s most well-known figures

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Perhaps it’s the desire to diversify a portfolio, or maybe their cause is altogether altruistic. Regardless of why celebrities jump into the franchising game, there’s certainly a whole heap of them doing so. Over the next few pages, we’ll highlight some of the biggest names joining entrepreneurs in launching new concepts or providing star status to existing brands.



Known for: Lengthy career in the music industry, and Margaritaville Cafe restaurant chain

A strong proponent for the ‘island getaway’ lifestyle, musician Jimmy Buffett is also no stranger to the food and beverage industry. Founding the Margaritaville Cafe in 1977, Buffett then went on to open his own Krispy Kreme franchise location in Florida, at the turn of the Century.

In 2002, his investment became more significant, when the parent company, Buffett, and other franchisees combined their operations to create the South Florida Partnership; an agreement that governs all Krispy Kreme growth in the area.


Known for: Multiple Grammy Award-nominated rap artist

At the height of a successful rap career, William Leonard Roberts II, more commonly known as Rick Ross, decided to diversify his rapidly increasing earnings. This led to his 2010 partnership with popular chicken wing franchise Wing Stop, when Ross franchised his first restaurant in Memphis, Tennessee.

Since that original location, Ross has gone on to open more than 25 Wing Stop restaurants across the U.S. – with five of those being in Memphis. “The business just grew. It really grew,” said Ross, speaking with Forbes. “The community really came out, supported it, and showed us a lot of love.”



Known for: The Departed, Boogie Nights, The Fighter

Mark Wahlberg is often seen playing a fast-talking, no-nonsense tough guy. Whether he’s an ex-assassin in Shooter, or questionable bodybuilder in Pain & Gain, Wahlberg’s physical image is typically a large part of his characterization.

It’s no surprise, then, that the rapper turned actor jumped into the fitness franchising scene earlier this year, with a huge investment in F45 Training (valued at roughly $450m). The Australian gym franchise concept, now with over 1,500 locations across 50 countries, had been looking for a celebrity partner for a while – and saw Wahlberg as a natural fit.

The Wahlberg family themselves are also deeply involved with the franchising world, on account of their popular Wahlburgers restaurant franchise, founded by Mark and his brothers, Donnie and Paul. Wahlburgers recently continued its international expansion with a new London location being opened earlier this year.


Known for: Charlie’s Angels, There’s Something About Mary, The Mask

Multiple Golden Globe Award nominee, political activist, and (now) a proponent for the franchising model, Cameron Diaz has had a lengthy and dynamic career both inside the Hollywood bubble, and out.

News of her involvement with franchising came when Strand Equity founder Seth Rodsky announced he had bought a stake in the up-and-coming beauty franchise concept, Modern Acupuncture, and was keen to bring Diaz in on the deal.

Launched in 2016, Modern Acupuncture offers memberships that “encourage patients to include acupuncture in their regular health, beauty, and wellness routines”, according to the brand. Diaz released a book about aging that same year – The Longevity Book: The Science of Aging, the Biology of Strength, and the Privilege of Time – so she’s more than familiar with embracing a natural approach to physical wellbeing.


Known for: Pulp Fiction, Snakes on a Plane, Jackie Brown

The highest-grossing actor of all time, Samuel L. Jackson has a cinematic portfolio to rival most. Rising to prominence in the early nineties, Jackson has since been a part of almost every revered film franchise.

It seems the iconic actor is also keen to bolster his business acumen, as he’s one of several high-profile investors in Dave’s Hot Chicken; a burgeoning fast-casual chicken franchise that started as a parking lot pop-up in 2017, before garnering considerable interest from the investment group that expanded the footprint of Wetzel’s Pretzels and Blaze Pizza.

The brand’s second location – and its first franchised outlet – opened in September 2019, and is owned by the concept’s four original founders.


Known for: Titantic, The Terminator, Avatar

James Cameron’s cinematic offerings have always made unbelievable waves in Hollywood – with Titanic grossing $2.2bn in theatres, and Avatar topping even that with $2.8bn – and now the legendary director has turned his hand to education franchising, with the innovative MUSE Global.

Founded in 2004 by Cameron’s wife Suzy Amis Cameron and her sister, Rebecca Amis, MUSE offers a sustainability-focused education based on eco-friendly values and exceptional teaching. Jeff King, CEO of the franchise, said: “James has been a supporter of his wife, of the philosophy of the school, and is a big supporter of our sustainability pillar.”

Interview: Jeff King of MUSE Global



Known for: Winning four Olympic Gold Medals and multiple Grand Slam winnner

Making her professional tennis debut in 1994 aged just 14, Venus Williams has had a lifetime in the spotlight. Along with her sister Serena, she is said to have ushered in a new era of women’s tennis and has always sought only the very best.

And to be the best, you need to keep your body in peak condition; something Williams took into account when partnering with specialty food and beverage franchise, Jamba Juice. As of 2014, Williams owns five Jamba Juice franchises throughout the D.C. area.

“I share Jamba’s mission to inspire and simplify healthy living, and promote an active, healthy lifestyle,” said Williams, at the opening of her fourth location.


Known for: Considered one of the greatest NBA players of all time

An estimated 60 per cent of former NBA players end up broke following their retirement, according to insiders from the sport and numerous financial advisers. This is far from the case for basketball icon Shaquille O’Neal, who since retiring in 2011, now earns even more from his investments than the $30m salary he was on while playing in the NBA.

At one stage, Shaq reportedly owned 115 Five Guys Burgers and Fries restaurants, which was equivalent to 10 per cent of the company’s entire franchise portfolio. He also recently joined the board of directors at popular pizza franchise Papa John’s, and is set to invest in nine locations near Atlanta.

These investments are on top of the already 40 24 Hour Fitness franchises he owns, as well as 17 Auntie Anne’s Pretzels restaurants. It’s almost like Shaq is holding up the franchising industry single-handedly, on his towering seven-foot-tall shoulders.


Known for: Former NFL linebacker for Indianapolis Colts, winners of Super Bowl XLI

Since his retirement from football in 2012, defensive captain and Super Bowl Champion Gary Brackett has transitioned into a successful franchisor, helming the growth of sports bar brand, Stacked Pickle.

“I held back a few years because I wanted to make sure everything was ironed out,” said Bracket, of Stacked Pickle’s gradual national launch. “I wanted to be sure that we were going above and beyond for our franchisees.”

In the years since, Brackett has gone on to own 10 corporate locations, and has four franchises, with the most recent location being built at Indianapolis airport.

Q&A with Gary Brackett, former NFL player turned CEO of Stacked Pickle

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