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Former Laker O'Neal Starts Real Estate Firm

September 20, 2006|From Bloomberg News

Basketball star Shaquille O'Neal said Tuesday that he had started a real estate company to invest in projects including a $1-billion residential, hotel and retail complex in Miami, where he plays for the Heat.

O'Neal, 34, has purchased about 75 properties valued at more than $50 million, primarily in California, Florida, New Jersey and Texas, during his 14-year career with the National Basketball Assn. His new company, O'Neal Group, will be based in Miami.

"I've been in real estate now for 10 to 12 years," O'Neal said in a telephone interview. "This right here furthers my interest and lets people know I'm in the game and in the game for good."

O'Neal follows athletes such as tennis stars Andre Agassi and his wife Steffi Graf, who this month announced plans to invest in a ski resort in Idaho. Earvin "Magic" Johnson, like O'Neal a Los Angeles Lakers veteran, has a company that finances developments in urban areas.

O'Neal, who has a five-year, $100-million contract with the Heat through the 2009-10 season, has been involved in numerous off-court projects, recording five rap albums, launching his own clothing line, starring in three movies and working for police departments in Los Angeles and Miami during the NBA off season.

O'Neal Group's first project will be Metropolitan Miami, also known as the Met, which is being built by Miami-based MDM Development Group. The Met will have 1,100 residential units, including the 866-foot Met 3, the tallest residential tower south of New York, as well as an office tower, a hotel and the area's first Whole Foods Market Inc. store. O'Neal plans to open a 24-Hour Fitness/Shaq Ultra Sport gym at the Met.

"It's refreshing to see these athletes getting involved in real estate beyond the traditional bar and nightclub, where athletes have lost as much money as they've made," said David M. Carter, executive director of the Sports Business Institute at USC.

O'Neal wouldn't disclose the financial terms of his company's involvement in the Met.

O'Neal Group plans to focus on mixed-use developments that integrate residential units with such amenities as fitness centers and supermarkets.

The Met is likely to get its first residents in mid-2007, and the project will probably be completed by the end of 2009, said Luis Pulenta, principal of MDM Development.

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