Russell Westbrook is a professional basketball player who plays for the LA Clippers. He is a nine-time NBA All-Star, a two-time Olympic gold medalist, and a former NBA Most Valuable Player. In a recent interview with Forbes he declared he wanted to become a billionaire now sooner than later. But if history has its say, he might not get there. To date there are only three athletes that have crossed the billion dollar threshold.
Across 15 NBA seasons, he has earned more than $336 million in salary (before taxes and agent fees) and nearly $200 million from endorsements and other businesses off the court, according to Forbes estimates. This year, he is the 14th-highest-paid athlete in the world, having earned an estimated $82.1 million over the last 12 months, making up the bulk of his net worth which Forbes estimates to be $375 million.
He has also been making money moves for years, from starting a streetwear brand, Honor The Gift, to investing in a variety of consumer industries, and acquiring minority ownership stakes in five Southern California dealerships. After selling the dealerships for at least $15 million, he is now building up Russell Westbrook Enterprises, which includes digital advertising business RW Digital, and he is also looking to buy an auto parts maker. With the help of mentors and business partners, he is making investments in consumer, financial, healthcare and nutrition industries, and also investing in real estate. Despite the odds, Westbrook is determined to continue to make money moves, and make a positive difference in the community.
Thanks to his celebrity, Westbrook has been able to draw on the knowledge and experience of some of America's most successful business magnates, including billionaire investor and Legendary Entertainment founder Thomas Tull, Banc of California co-founder Chad Brownstein, former Starbucks president Arthur Rubinfeld and Mickey Segal, managing partner of NKSFB, one of Hollywood's leading wealth management firms. These mentors, investment advisors and business partners have been instrumental in helping Westbrook make smart investments, such as his $9 million stake in Tull's holding company, Tulco. The investment, which is now worth more than 10x its initial value, has earned him a $14.4 million payout after Tulco sold its stake in medical apparel maker FIGS during its IPO.
Thomas Tull, who is worth $2.8 billion according to Forbes estimates, has given Westbrook this advice:
“Just about anybody will take a meeting with you because of who you are. Use that so when you’re done playing, you’ve built a living, breathing network of people that you can call, rely on, do things with that don’t have anything to do with basketball.”
Leveraging the additional time available to him during the Covid-19 lockdowns, Russell Westbrook was able to devise a game plan for life after basketball. This led to the revamping of Russell Westbrook Enterprises, with the hiring of Donell Beverly, a former teammate from Leuzinger High School in L.A., as its President.
Subsequently, Westbrook made a large investment round in the digital financial platform Varo Bank, and even joined the company as an advisor to aid financial literacy in underserved communities. He further partnered with Acrisure to create Evolution Advisors, providing financial products for businesses owned by underrepresented entrepreneurs, and Brownstein to invest in healthcare and nutrition for at-risk communities.
With his investments in airlines, Varo Bank and A+E Networks, Westbrook anticipates that RW Digital will bring in an estimated $37 million in revenue this year and turn a profit. He has also made an undisclosed amount of investment in a real estate fund focused on urban development in South L.A., with the first project breaking ground in late 2022. “I want the first thing that pops into people’s minds when they think of Los Angeles and the underserved to be Russell Westbrook and the work we are doing in the community," he proclaims.
These flurry of business activity marks a new phase in Westbrook's career. After leaving the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2019, he has moved to four different teams, with the fifth, the Utah Jazz, acquiring him in a trade before he even played a single game. The 2022-23 season was his last under the “supermax” contract he signed after being named MVP in 2017, and as he moves into free agency this summer, his next deal is expected to be considerably smaller.
However, Westbrook is expecting to make more money in business than he ever did in basketball. He has expressed an ambition to become an auto parts mogul, and has already tapped into the potential of this prospect, as 32 automotive firms have pledged to do $1 billion of business with minority-owned companies each year. If Westbrook invests his capital in a car-parts manufacturer, he could easily access these opportunities.
Former NBA player Vinnie Johnson has already successfully utilized this strategy, having built his Piston Group enterprise into a production powerhouse worth nearly $3 billion in annual revenue, after securing contracts from major auto manufacturers. Westbrook could potentially follow in his footsteps and make his dream of becoming an auto parts mogul come true.
Russell Westbrook is determined to join the ranks of Michael Jordan and LeBron James and become a billionaire, which will require him to make twice as much money in his second career as he did in basketball. However, with the current market returns, it would take almost two decades to reach that mark, and even longer if he continues to make expensive purchases like his $37 million home in Brentwood. Despite the difficult financial road ahead of him, Westbrook remains steadfast on his goal. "It's what I want to be. In the business realm, that is a pinnacle that people where I come from don't make it to," he says.