Kevin Durant’s company, the Durant Co., has made its next major investment — this time in pizza.
The company, owned by Durant and his manager/business partner, Rich Kleiman, will own both a stake in the assembly-line style, on-the-spot pizza brand Pieology and own some of its franchises. Terms were not disclosed.
“I went to a one of them and saw how quickly they did it and was really impressed with the quality,” Durant told ESPN of Pieology, which has more than 140 franchises to date. “I just felt like, given how fast our lives our these days, we don’t want to wait for our pizza anymore.”
Durant follows LeBron James into the space. James has an ownership and franchise stake in Blaze, another pizza brand that has adopted the assembly-line style made famous by Chipotle. Sources said James put less than $1 million into the franchise in 2012. It became the fastest-growing chain in history, and James’ piece is now at least $35 million, sources told ESPN.
“This isn’t about me versus LeBron,” Durant said. “I think we do have different interests and we handle things differently, but the respect for each other is there. I do think we, as athletes, have realized the value of our stock these days, of the control that we have over what makes us valuable, including our social media accounts.”
Durant has 17 million followers on Twitter and 8.8 million followers on Instagram.
All the new fast and casual pizza businesses combined don’t even add up to one percent of the total U.S. pizza market, meaning having a heavy hitter like Durant has the potential to make a major difference.
“We’re still at the early stage of our business,” said Pieology CEO Carl Chang, perhaps recognized by sports fans as the brother and former coach to tennis player Michael Chang. “We recognize what KD can bring to us as a partner and investor and through the brand equity he adds, especially with his social following.”
The move is another step away from traditional endorsements for Durant. Just three years ago, Durant had more endorsements than any other NBA player. They included deals with Skullcandy headphones, NBA2K, BBVA Compass bank, Neff, Orange Leaf Yogurt, KIND, Sparkling Ice and Sonic.
All those deals are now gone, and Kleiman has paired it down to just Beats by Dre, which is more of a content deal, Nike, American Family Insurance and Alaska Airlines.
Enter the Durant Co., which was started up before his final year in Oklahoma City. The company has invested between $50,000 and $2 million into more than 30 companies, including microlender Acorns and delivery service Postmates.
How much Durant is actually involved in the deal, besides the funding capital, varies.
“Just because there’s a deal with the Durant Co. doesn’t mean you get automatically get Kevin Durant, the spokesperson, but you do get Kevin Durant, the businessman,” Kleiman said.
With Durant and the Warriors on top of the NBA world, Kleiman said he and Durant are seeing incredible deal flow, vetted by Silicon Valley’s best, but at least on this investment, it’s about two different types of dough.