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How Shaquille O’Neal Pushed Authentic Brands Group to Buy Reebok

Shaquille O’Neal once had his sights set on owning Reebok. Now, with the news of the brand’s sale to Authentic Brands Group (ABG), the former NBA athlete is one step closer to that dream.

O’Neal has owned shares in ABG since 2015, when he sold the rights to his name brand to the company. On Thursday, the company behind dozens of brand and retailer acquisitions, including Forever 21, Barneys New York and J.C. Penney, entered into an agreement to buy the Reebok brand from Adidas. The mostly cash deal is worth 2.1 billion euro, or about $2.5 billion at current exchange, and is set to close in Q1 of 2022.

“As a longtime partner of Reebok and an owner of ABG, it’s a dream come true to welcome this legendary brand to the family,” O’Neal said in a statement.

Adidas acquired Reebok in 2006 for $3.8 billion and laid out a turnaround plan for the brand in 2016. Through the years, Reebok’s revenues declined and in December of 2020, Adidas announced it would sell the business.

O’Neal’s own history with Reebok began in 1992, when he signed a multiyear year deal with the brand worth $15 million. Through this partnership, he launched a series of sneakers, including the popular Reebok Shaq Attaq.

In recent years, O’Neal has vocalized his desire to purchase Reebok through his partnership with ABG.

In June 2019, amid rumors of Adidas’ plans to divest the Reebok brand, O’Neal said that he felt that Adidas had “diluted [the brand] so much to where it’s almost gone.”

“If they don’t want it, let me have it,” O’Neal told CNBC at a Carnival Cruise event at the time. “I want to bring [Reebok] back to basketball and to fitness.”

According to ABG president and CMO Nick Woodhouse, O’Neal was a crucial part of helping push ABG through the acquisition process. In his recent weekly business conversations with the former athlete, Woodhouse related that “most conversations, start[ed] off with, ‘Have you bought Reebok yet?'”

“Shaq is very involved in our business and very involved in his business with us,” Woodhouse said. “So it’s super gratifying for him, too. [Reebok] is the company that helped, with his athletic prowess, vault him to fame and teach him how to be a businessman.”

With Reebok now under the ABG umbrella, O’Neal is a partial owner of Reebok, along with the other brands in the ABG portfolio of more than 30 brands, including Juicy Couture, Brooks Brothers, and Barneys New York.

Woodhouse said the team plans to work with O’Neal to offer more retro styles from his Reebok line to a new generation of consumers.

ABG did not have an update regarding which company will license footwear and apparel for Reebok, though Woodhouse said there was definite interest.

“Not surprising, the phone’s been ringing off the hook for us,” he said.

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