Athletes are making more than ever thanks to money pouring into sports. Media companies have fueled much of the growth thanks to the public’s insatiable appetite for live sporting events. There are 36 MLB players who will make at least $20 million in 2016. Baseball is alive and well. Same goes for basketball, football, golf and soccer. Sports have come a long way since Cowboys QB Roger Staubach worked as a real estate broker in the offseason.
Arnold Palmer made $1.8 million in winnings during his PGA career. He earned 22 times that in 2015 thanks to the strength of the Palmer brand. Michael Jordan banked more than $4 million in salary only twice during his 15 NBA seasons. This year he’ll earn more than any other athlete on the planet, retired or active. Here are a 14 athletes of yesteryear who are still shining in their second careers.
Sales of Nike’s Jordan brand rose 14% in the U.S. last year, pushing MJ’s royalty check to an estimated $100 million. He also maintains relationships with Hanes, Gatorade, Five Star Fragrances and Upper Deck. Nike wants to double Jordan brand revenue by 2020. Michael Jordan is worth an estimated $1.1 billion.
(AP Photo/Daniel Ochoa de Olza)
2015 Earnings: $65M
Brand Beckham is as strong as ever with a 5-year pact with British fashion brand Kent & Curwen worth $8 million annually, plus royalties for the collection being launched in the second half of 2016. Chinese real estate firm Luneng inked the British footballer to a pact worth more than $5 million a year. Beckham is getting closer to securing an MLS franchise in Miami with the team starting play in 2018.
2015 Earnings: $40M
Palmer’s health has declined in recent years and he’ll skip his traditional ceremonial tee shot at the 2016 Masters tournament. But Palmer still sells big in Asia, where there are 500 Arnold Palmer-branded stores. His eponymous line of drinks represents roughly one-quarter of revenue for AriZona Beverage Co. Palmer has owned the Bay Hill golf resort for more than 40 years.
(Photo: Dick Raphael/NBAE via Getty Images)
2015 Earnings: $32M
Bridgeman had a solid 12-year NBA career, averaging 13.6 points per game, mostly as a sixth man for the Milwaukee Bucks. He’s been a Hall of Famer in the restaurant franchise business, though. He built Bridgeman Foods into an empire, with more than 450 franchises, including Wendy’s, Chili’s and Fazoli’s locations. Bridgeman added Blaze pizza to his franchise arsenal last year.
(Photo: Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
2015 Earnings: $30M
Richardson played two seasons in the NFL, with his shining moment a TD catch from Johnny Unitas in the 1959 NFL title game. Richardson made a fortune in the restaurant business before bringing football to Charlotte in 1993 when he was awarded an expansion team. Richardson’s estimated earnings are a result of distributions from the Panthers and the Bojangles franchises he still owns.
(Photo: Central Press/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
2015 Earnings: $26M
Nicklaus built the leading golf course design company with 398 courses open for play in 41 countries and 39 states. Coming in 2016: the first two Jack Nicklaus Golden Bear Grills. Nicklaus’ partner in the venture, Delaware North, expects to open 10 restaurants in the next 5 years. Nicklaus has been focused heavily on philanthropy with the Nicklaus Children’s Health Care Foundation raising $50 million.
(AP Photo/Ann Heisenfelt)
2015 Earnings: $22M
O’Neal sold a stake in the business of Shaq in December to Authentic Brands Group, which already manages the licensing of Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson and Muhammad Ali. ABG gets roughly half of O’Neal’s future licensing and endorsement revenue in return for a lump sum payment. The popular pitchman is working on his sixth contract renewal with Icy Hot since they partnered more than a decade ago.
2015 Earnings: $20M
The former race car driver left the track in the 1960s to focus on his auto dealership. Smart move. Penske Corp. now generates north of $26 billion in revenue. His comp at the publicly-traded Penske Automotive Group is $5 million a year and his shares generate dividends of $11 million. Penske is the richest former athlete at $1.5 billion. Penske has won 28 national titles as a race team owner.
(AP Photo/Rob Carr)
2015 Earnings: $19M
The 80-year-old Player keeps a hectic schedule as he crosses the globe for his golf course design business and endorsement commitments. He has designed nearly 400 golf courses in 38 countries across 5 continents. Player became only the third golfer to win the coveted career Grand Slam in 1965, and he remains the only non-American to accomplish the feat.
(AP Photo/Kevork Djansezian)
Ervin “Magic” Johnson
2015 Earnings: $18M
Magic Johnson Enterprises has gotten away from its real estate and theater businesses for new ventures focused on television (Aspire), insurance (EquiTrust) and staffing services (Magic Workforce Solutions). Magic keeps his hand in sports through his ownership stakes in the Los Angeles Dodgers, Los Angeles Sparks and new L.A. MLS franchise.
(Photo: Joseph Labolito/NFLPhotoLibrary)
2015 Earnings: $17M
Strahan is the gold standard for making the transition from the playing field into the media. He joined Fox’s NFL pregame show before replacing Regis Philbin in the renamed morning showLive with Kelly and Michael. The single-season record holder for sacks started contributing toGood Morning Americalast year and will add hosting duties in 2016 on the reboot of game show$100,000 Pyramid.
(AP Photo/Laurent Rebours)
2015 Earnings: $15M
Norman’s Great White Shark Enterprises is undergoing a transformation away from sports marketing to B2B after selling its event management business to Wasserman Media last year. His course design business is still thriving with its 100th opening in October with the Easter Golf Club in Australia. The firm currently has 42 more courses under contract with a Norman signature design costing $1.5 million.
(AP Photo/Ray Stubblebine)
2015 Earnings: $14M
Corrective hip surgery has slowed the global crisscrossing schedule of the soccer legend, but he is still greeted like a rock star wherever he goes and will capitalize on the Brazil Olympics this year. His October visit to India was his first to the country since 1977 and 5,000 greeted him at the airport. The Brazilian idol’s story comes to the big screen with the release in May ofPele: Birth of a Legend.
(AP Photo/Lionel Cironneau)
2015 Earnings: $14M
Li Na’s run as the greatest tennis player in China’s history has made her a living legend in the country. She has maintained most of her endorsement deals since her sudden retirement from the game 2 years ago. Reality TV is booming in China and Li capitalized last year with multiple appearances on shows in the genre.
* This is Forbes’ third annual look at the highest-paid retired athletes. Our estimates include income from salaries, endorsements, licensing, speaking and appearances, golf course design, book deals and partner distributions during 2015. The top 14 former athletes earned $444 million cumulatively by our count. They hail from 6 different countries and played 6 different sports with ages that range from 34 to 86.