Former boxing champ George Foreman is expanding from countertop grilling to something all his own — a signature line of products.
The former heavyweight champ and grillmaster hopes that by partnering with publicly traded MM Companies Inc. to create George Foreman Enterprises Inc., he can expand on his previous business success with a range of products.
Foreman has already branded himself through his successful George Foreman Lean Mean Grilling Machine. Revenue for Salton Inc., which manufactures the grill, shot from $77 million to more than $792 million in the first four years of Foreman’s association with the Lake Forest, Ill.-based appliance maker.
But Foreman thinks he can press further by making and marketing items bearing his name.
“Put your name on something, it better be the best,” Foreman said this week from his palatial home near Lake Houston. “You only get one shot.”
In his newest venture, Foreman is teaming with MM Companies Chairman and Chief Executive Seymour Holtzman, also chairman of Casual Male Retail Group. Foreman became a spokesman for Casual Male Big & Tall in 2003 and launched a clothing line for the company last year.
“It has been unbelievably successful for us,” Holtzman, a 30-year retail veteran, said of the company’s association with Foreman. “This is a guy who has gone from I think a classic case of rags to riches, down again and then up bigger than ever.”
Holtzman says Foreman can overcome the biggest challenge in business: creating a lasting relationship and connection with consumers.
“He’s likable,” Holtzman says. “He goes across all kinds of lines. ... To be very succinct, there is nobody better. He is the best.”
Health, fitness, quality
Foreman remains tightlipped about what products he’ll make and what retailers he’ll use to sell his wares. He said he will focus on items that involve “health, fitness, quality, and of course, comfort.”
Foreman, who won an Olympic gold medal in 1968 and was named the heavyweight champion during a rumble with Joe Frazier in 1973, has long been a pitchman.
Shortly after losing his heavyweight title to Muhammad Ali in 1974, he went to work swaying people to eat McDonald’s and Kentucky Fried Chicken. He also sold Doritos and became synonymous with Meineke Car Care during a period in which he occasionally returned to the ring.
His final heavyweight fight came in 1994 when he regained his title at age 45 from a much younger Michael Moore, who was 26.
"And then a friend convinced me, 'George, you are making all these companies wealthy, why don’t you get your own product?'" Foreman said. "I said, 'OK, I’ll do it.'"
Foreman linked up with Salton in 1995 to promote the George Foreman Lean Mean Grilling Machine — a redesigned product that had already been on the market without his name.
He didn’t expect much out of it other than 20 free grills for his various houses and one for his mother.
Within four years, 10 million grills had left store shelves, and Salton paid Foreman $127.5 million and $10 million in stock to use his name for its product’s duration.
Like his athletic prowess, Foreman’s marketing power shouldn’t be underestimated, business experts say.
“People have positive associations with George Foreman,” said Edward Fox, a marketing professor at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. “Part of the value of having a good, positive brand image, like George Foreman does, is you can take that brand and you can put it on new products.”
Betsy Gelb, a marketing professor at the University of Houston, says Foreman’s name will get consumers to the store, but won’t necessarily get “the charge card out of their wallet.”
Foreman, however, remains confident.
“People pull for you and if you give them a good product, they will buy it,” he said.