In today’s sport landscape, we see various athletes diversifying their portfolio with plenty of different investment ventures. Kobe Bryant and BodyArmor, Lebron James and Blaze Pizza, and Derek Jeter and the Players’ Tribune are just a few that come to mind.
Roughly sixty years ago, we saw Mark McCormack initiate this investment trend with a far less glamorous industry – laundromats. This seemingly insignificant venture began in 1958 with a small chain of laundromats in Atlanta.
From the McCormack Archives, we find an August letter to Mr. Richard Sayford, where we can see McCormack’s trust in his new enterprise, “In addition to my regular job here, I have an interest in a couple coin-operated, unattended, self-service laundromats in Atlanta, Georgia…they are doing quite well. If you are interested in further details, I would be glad to send them on to you as I think there is a good amount of money to be made in this field in the next several years before the country gets too over-saturated with them.”
The Archives also provides a look into one of his modest first shops in Atlanta, appropriately named, “Launderama.” The black and white photo boasts of the humble beginnings of this McCormack business venture.
The laundry business must have treated McCormack well, because when he signed his first athlete-client – Arnold Palmer – he suggested he add it to his portfolio as well. And thus, Arnold Palmer Cleaning Services was born. In addition to laundromats, Palmer also dipped his toes into the dry cleaning and maid service industries.
The Archives also provide a 1965 earnings report for the AP Cleaning Services, showcasing that this investment padded the golfer’s pockets with an extra $100,000 a year. While this may seem trivial next to Kobe’s $200 million BodyArmor investment or Lebron’s $35 million Blaze Pizza profit – in today’s terms, Palmer was raking in roughly $800,000 annually, just from cleaning services.
The business model utilized franchisees who were interested in partnering with Palmer to create cleaning shops that are “very distinctive, with a warm country club atmosphere. The great savings in equipment and installation permit luxury touches in the lobby area, with carpeting, hand-carved oak furniture, paneled walls, a shoeshine machine, a full-length mirror, etc.” We get this insight directly from a promotional packet featured in the Archives, used to entice local franchise partners.
In addition, promotional materials were also provided to the business owners, as seen from the attached window poster and newspaper ad.