Many of us aspire to retire so we can play more golf. But what about somebody who plays golf for a living and has won just about every trophy in the game? What are they going to do for the next phase of their life?
Greg Norman made the decision a few years ago to “retire” from golf and ramp up his business career instead. In a recent conversation, he told me, “In golf, you have a player that dominates over about a fifteen-year cycle. I was there from the mid-80s to the late 90s.” When he reached the end of that period, he says, he had to make a decision. “I was not going to be a ceremonial golfer and I wanted to move on in life, so I made a decision to focus on building a business away from the game.”
Today that business, Great White Shark Enterprises, is a multi-national private corporation with 20 separate operating companies engaged in everything from real estate development to importing gourmet beef. Is Norman still involved in golf? Of course, but he doesn’t make his money holing out birdie putts. Now, he spends much more time in the boardroom than on the practice tee.
“I am lucky enough to establish a business off the back of my professional golf career and develop a logo and brand that’s very recognizable,” Norman explains. “Now that I am not between the ropes on the golf course playing tournaments, I’ve taken the business in a different direction away from purely sports marketing.”
The colorful Great White Shark logo (which will soon undergo an overhaul) can be found on wines from Greg Norman Estates, an international collection of 14 varietals from Australia, California, and Argentina. It’s also on eyewear, clothing, and Greg Norman Australian Prime, a branded line of premium Wagyu steak and beef products. What you won’t find are Greg Norman golf clubs, golf balls, or golf instruction DVDs.
That’s not to say Norman has turned his back on the golf business–far from it. Last year, he says, “We partnered with Kohlberg & Company to acquire Troon Golf.” Norman invested in the company and serves on its board. Troon bills itself as the world’s largest golf management company, with more than 250 golf courses in its portfolio in 27 countries. Locally, Troon manages Brynwood G & CC, Westchester Hills CC, Mansion Ridge, and Centennial.
The golf course design business and the synergistic real estate development company are two major drivers of Norman’s enterprise. Design was one of his original endeavors and his firm is credited with over 90 courses on six continents. Among his real estate projects is Medalist Village in Jupiter, Florida. He recently announced an investment in the Adirondack Club and Resort project, a 6200-acre development in Tupper Lake, NY.
Of course, Norman recognizes that his golf career (including two British Open championships, 91 professional wins around the world, and 331 weeks ranked number one in the world) fuels the engine of his business. It not only creates a point of contact with many potential partners, but he can generate a lot of media exposure that helps with consumers, too.
Ergo the move to TV golf analyst for Fox TV. When we talked, he said he enjoyed the US Open but perhaps got more satisfaction from the US Women’s Open a few weeks later. “I got the greatest pleasure calling the US Women’s Open,” he told me. “There were no egos. The women were so open and were such a breath of fresh air. They impressed me so much.” The next event on his TV schedule is the US Amateur Championship, August 17-23. “I’m going to be having a great view of all these great young talented kids from around the world to see who’s going to be the next superstar.”
Norman points out that golf and business are a lot alike. “You make mistakes in business, but you bounce back and say you’re not going to make those same mistakes again. I made mistakes on the golf course, too, but I kept coming back for a bigger deal the next year.”