LeBron James.Ezra Shaw/Getty
LeBron James’ investment in Blaze Pizza, a fast-casual, assembly-line pizza company, is paying off.
According to Forbes, Blaze has become the fastest-growing chain ever after opening its 200th location in Mentor, Ohio, on Tuesday.
According to Forbes, going from two to 200 franchises in four years gives Blaze the fastest start ever in restaurant history, confirmed by industry consultancy Technomic.
James was an initial investor in Blaze in 2012, according to ESPN’s Darren Rovell, but in 2015, James actually left McDonald’s to become part of Blaze’s marketing campaigns.
In April, James sat down with his business manager Maverick Carter on Uninterrupted’s “Kneading Dough” and explained why he made the decision, leaving $14-15 million, according to Carter, on the table with McDonald’s.
“I believed in the actual product, first,” James said. “I remember going to UC Irvine, the first-ever Blaze, and we tasted the product and the product was phenomenal … And you came to me with the proposition that we actually own our own and be franchisees of a couple cities in America. And the numbers that you were showing me, the numbers that we could make if we just put the time in effort into it, would be exceeding what McDonald’s would be giving me guaranteed over the next four years.
“But more importantly, I think for me, it was like, ‘Oh wow, we get to actually build this.’ Forget the money, we could actually build something. And if it doesn’t become successful, then I can only blame myself.”
James also had an astute observation about the industry.
“I was like, ‘Who doesn’t like pizza?’ I don’t know a person in the world who doesn’t like pizza, I don’t care what kind of diet you’re on!”
According to Forbes, Blaze plans to go international soon and hopes to go public with a billion-dollar valuation in the next three to five years.
While James took a risk by leaving guaranteed money with McDonald’s, it appears his dedication to helping build Blaze is only starting to be rewarding.