NBA legend Earvin “Magic” Johnson has built an extensive business and investment portfolio, including major franchise holdings. Here is an overview of the many national brands fuelled by the Magic Johnson Effect.

Magic Johnson’s Franchise Investments

Magic Johnson owns over 100 franchise units across these chains:

  • Starbucks – His investment group owns 105 Starbucks stores, the most Starbucks operated by any franchisee.
  • T.G.I Fridays – As of 2022, Johnson has 23 T.G.I. Friday’s franchises under his ownership.
  • Jamba Juice – Previously owned 30 Jamba Juice locations before selling in 2016. Helped grow their presence in underserved areas.
  • 24 Hour Fitness – Served as a franchisee for the gym chain in the 1990s and 2000s with multiple locations.

Additionally, he holds partnership and minority stakes in brands like Best Buy, JCPenney, Sodexo, Vibe Holdings and many more.

How Magic Johnson Became a Franchise Mogul

After retiring from the NBA, Johnson strategically grew his business profile:

  • 1994 – Opens first Magic Johnson Theatres in Los Angeles, partnering with Sony Pictures Entertainment.
  • 1998 – Partners with Starbucks to become franchisor of stores in underserved urban communities.
  • 2010 – Uses partnership with SodexoMAGIC to expand airport retail franchise holdings.
  • 2012 – His investment group purchases ownership stake in EquiTrust to boost T.G.I. Fridays franchises.
  • 2016 – Sells ownership share of Jamba Juice after growing to 30 franchised locations.

Leveraging his global profile and corporate connections, Johnson built an empire location by location via partnerships and acquisitions.

Why Franchising Works for Johnson

In interviews, Johnson has offered insights into why franchising became a cornerstone of his investments:

  • Turnkey business model – Franchises allow famous founders to avoid building systems completely from scratch.
  • Passive ownership – At scale with managers, franchising enables mostly hands-off ownership for busy celebrities and investors.
  • Investment diversification – Franchises provide income streams outside more intensive operating companies.
  • Underserved communities – Franchises fueled growth in urban locations neglected by brands.
  • Enhanced access – Fame and influence helps open doors to attractive franchise opportunities.

For high-profile founders like Johnson, franchising enables scalable business growth without requiring full-time management.

Johnson’s Approach to Managing Franchises

Johnson has noted that he avoids micromanaging franchise operations:

  • He relies on partners and professional managers to oversee day-to-day franchise activities.
  • Johnson focuses more on high-level guidance and community engagement.
  • He may periodically visit locations or consult on marketing and awareness campaigns.
  • But overall, Johnson operates his franchises in an absentee ownership capacity.

This detached style allows Johnson to maintain many franchised units across different industries while handling his numerous other ventures and obligations.

Why Starbucks Alignment Works

Johnson’s partnership with Starbucks illustrates an ideal brand pairing:

  • Starbucks provides turnkey operations systems requiring minimal oversight.
  • Coffee is a daily essential product generating steady demand.
  • The Starbucks brand has aspirational appeal that Johnson’s profile amplifies further.
  • Cafes serve as community gathering spots that Johnson leverages for outreach.
  • Focusing growth in underserved areas expands access while building trust.

When passions align between influencer and brand vision, franchising partnerships flourish on shared values and community centricity.

FAQ About Magic Johnson’s Franchises

Here are some common questions:

What was the first franchise Magic Johnson invested in?

His first franchised business was a partnership with Sony Pictures Entertainment to open Magic Johnson movie theater multiplexes starting in 1994.

Does Johnson own Jamba Juice?

He previously was a major Jamba Juice franchisee but sold his ownership share in the chain in 2016 after growing to 30 locations.

Is Magic Johnson still involved with Starbucks?

Yes, while absentee, he remains a major franchisee through his investment group with 105 Starbucks stores as of 2022.

How did Johnson have the capital to invest in so many franchises?

Johnson earned over $100 million in NBA salary over his career. Combined with business ventures during and after basketball, he accrued the funds to become a prolific franchise investor.

Does Magic Johnson own McDonald’s franchises?

No. Despite sponsoring the McJordan burger in the 1990s, Johnson does not appear to have ever owned any McDonald’s franchises.

Does Magic Johnson own TGI Fridays?

Yes, as of 2022 Johnson owns 23 TGI Friday’s franchise locations through his major investment in EquiTrust Life Insurance Company.

Franchising Fuels Celebrity Empires

Magic Johnson provides the prime case study of how elite sports and entertainment stars can transform fleeting fame into diversified, self-perpetuating business empires. With his strategic vision, Johnson turned global prominence into enduring influence via franchising and partnerships.


  • Gio Watts

    Gio Watts brings over 10 years of digital marketing experience to his role as marketing manager at Walletminded. In his current position, Gio oversees brand marketing, campaign management, and audience growth initiatives. Prior to joining Walletminded, Gio held marketing roles at several ecommerce and SaaS startups, most recently serving as senior marketing manager at CloudTable Inc. There, he specialized in paid social advertising and content marketing. Gio holds a bachelor’s degree in business marketing from the University of Oregon. He is a certified content marketing specialist and frequently guest lectures at his alma mater. When he's not devising omni-channel marketing campaigns, you can find Gio coaching youth basketball and indulging his passion for live music.

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