Grant Hill, the former NBA superstar and Duke Blue Devils icon, has amassed over $100 million in career earnings. He has invested in several huge real estate projects, including a $5 billion development in Atlanta. He owns a stake in an NBA team and has a new partnership with multinational conglomerate Philips.
Now, he is estimated to have a net worth of $250 million.
But the Detroit Pistons’ 1994 first-round pick is still paranoid about money — a mindset that has persisted since his days on the NBA court.
“I was always thinking about the end of the game,” Hill said of his budget during his playing days, keeping an eye on life after retirement. “And I think that has served me well.”
Hill, 49, sat down with CNBC on Tuesday to discuss his new promotional deal with Philips Shaver Products around the 2022 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, which begins March 17. He also works as a basketball analyst for Turner Sports’ NBA and NCAA games.
The interview was only supposed to last 15 minutes, but ended up lasting over 45 minutes as Hill discussed his investments, his ongoing involvement in the NBA, and his endless curiosity about business in general.
Here’s how Hill managed his finances and built a promising business portfolio off the pitch.
Think like a CEO
After being drafted, one of Hill’s most notable decisions was not to hire a sports agent to broker deals. Hill said he doesn’t believe in paying an agent a percentage of his contracts to speak on his behalf. Basketball agents can charge players up to 4% to settle contracts and earn more if they entice customers with brand deals.
Hill, who played for four teams over 19 NBA seasons, recalled that his first contract was an eight-year, $45 million deal in 1994. This was brokered by attorney Lon Babby, who had l experience as general counsel for the Baltimore Orioles and became Phoenix. President of Suns basketball operations.
“Essentially, we’re the CEOs of our own companies,” Hill said, referring to professional athletes. “And CEOs don’t usually hire agents and pay them a percentage. They work with lawyers and they have lawyers who help them negotiate and verify offers for you. And to protect your interests in contracts. So, I took this path with the representation.
Babby, who billed Hill an hourly rate, helped negotiate a $93 million deal with the Orlando Magic in 2000 and set up a marketing division that struck deals with brands such as McDonald’s and Coke. Cola’s Sprite. Sportswear company FILA signed Hill to a lifetime contract in 2018.
Grant Hill #33 of the Detroit Pistons stands on the line to shoot a free kick against the Washington Bullets in an NBA basketball game circa 1994 at US Airways Arena in Landover, Maryland. Hill played for the Pistons from 1994 to 2000.
Focus on sports | Getty Images Sports | Getty Images
Taking control of his company early in his career, Hill said he learned by “sitting down with the management team, going over marketing campaigns – visiting ad agencies to develop a strategy”. He also studied the business section of newspapers to learn more about money and “kept it simple” when it came to spending.
“I haven’t changed my lifestyle,” Hill said. “I didn’t go shopping. I did not buy a car. I had a relationship with General Motors, and they gave me a few cars.
Hill, who played until age 40, was elected to the Pro Basketball Hall of Fame in 2018 and serves on the organization’s board of directors. He is also a board member of the NBA Retired Players Association. In January 2021, Hill was named the new general manager of the United States Men’s National Basketball Team.
Inside Hill’s Wallet
Hill said he became “paranoid about money and about losing money” after watching athletes struggle with money after their careers ended. Hill’s father – former Dallas Cowboys running back Calvin Hill – played in the NFL from 1969 to 1981, so he saw some players face financial problems up close.
Asked if he remains paranoid about similar financial results, Hill said: “There is constant paranoia. I think that’s kind of how I’m wired.
I haven’t changed my lifestyle. I didn’t go out shopping.
retired NBA star and businessman
This thinking is reflected in his involvement in real estate investing.
“I believe in durable assets, real assets,” Hill said.
Hill praised his parents for developing an interest in the industry. He remembers going into space in 2000, during his time with the Magic. Hill has invested in multi-family units and office properties in central Florida, an area he described as “prime for growth and has seen tremendous growth since then.”
Through his marketing and management company Hill Ventures, the former NBA All-Star has invested and developed more than $200 million in projects across Florida to North Carolina.
In his latest venture, Hill joined commercial real estate investment firm CIM Group to invest in Centennial Yards, a $5 billion mixed-use development in Atlanta. Hill said the downtown project would take seven to ten years. he compared it to LA Live, an entertainment and residential development outside Crypto.com Arena in Los Angeles.
Tetra Images | Mark X Pictures | Getty Images
Hill is one of many athletes to profit from real estate investing after his career.
Basketball Hall of Famer and Pistons legend Isiah Thomas owns a real estate company within his company ISIAH International. Former National Football League running back LeSean McCoy is building his portfolio through Vice Capital.
Several top athletes are getting into cryptocurrency investing, but Hill is skeptical of the sustainability of the asset class. Again, for Hill, it comes down to hard assets.
“There have been great fortunes that have developed through real estate, and that’s part of asset allocation,” he added. “I think it’s a safe bet, but I also think it’s a profitable bet, compared to some of these sorts of new digital currencies that are out there.”
The Ballboys wear gloves as they handle warm-up basketballs as a precaution before an NBA game between the Charlotte Hornets and the Atlanta Hawks at State Farm Arena on March 9, 2020 in Atlanta, Georgia.
Todd Kirkland | Getty Images
Investment in sports teams and black art
Hill also has sports properties in his portfolio. He is an investor in the NBA’s business in Africa, valued at $1 billion, and a minority shareholder in the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks.
Hill took an equity stake and a vice-chairmanship in 2015 when he joined businessman Tony Ressler in buying the team for more than $800 million. The Hawks are now worth $1.6 billion, according to Forbes.
Hill did not reveal his full NBA franchise ownership. “It’s an investment, and Tony Ressler may treat me like an investor, but he treats me like a partner,” he said. “It’s something that I really enjoy and enjoy.”
Previously, Hill and other investors offered $1.2 billion for the Los Angeles Clippers in 2014 and fell short of an offer from former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, who paid $2 billion for the team.
Another asset in Hill’s portfolio: black art.
Hill began collecting black art in the 1990s. Hill told CNBC he owned art by Romare Bearden, Elizabeth Catlett; painter Norman Lewis and Hank Willis Thomas. And with greater acceptance by the mainstream art community, black artwork has risen in value.
“I think if you buy good art, have a good eye, and know what you’re doing, you can make a lot of money,” Hill said.
Hill is still leveraging his NBA brand
Celebrity Net Worth, a website that tracks athletes and celebrities, estimates that Hill earned about $120 million from endorsements. Hill also gains experience in the consumer packaged goods industry as a board member of New Jersey-based Campbell Soup.
Hill is also helping Philips attract new shavers with its Norelco OneBlade line. The terms of Hill’s approval with Philips were not made available. Philips is listed on the New York Stock Exchange and has a market capitalization of $28 billion.
“You’re looking for credible companies,” Hill said of how he approaches endorsement deals with brands. “Companies with a history of success; ultimately embody the quality and characteristics that you represent.
“They (Phillips) to have a product that I believe identifies and serves young college basketball fans,” Hill added. “I’m aware of that because I was a young college basketball fan.”
Hill played for legendary Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski. The iconic coach is retiring from the program after 42 seasons and five NCAA Division I championships. Two of those title teams, 1991 and 1992, featured Hill.
The retired superstar attended Krzyzewski’s final home game at school last weekend and called the moment “bittersweet”.
“To celebrate him, to celebrate his legacy – to see players from decades back, it was special,” Hill said.
And he thinks the Blue Devils will go all the way this year. Duke won its last NCAA championship in 2015.
“We had to,” Hill said. “Hopefully we can fire Coach K with another championship.”