top of page
  • Writer's pictureFNBC

Football Star Odell Beckham Jr. On What It Means to Be An Athlete-Turned-Entrepreneur

Image Credit: Bobby Fisher

Before Odell Beckham Jr. made the largest investment decision of his life, he had dinner with his business partner Ajay Sangha.

“If you’re happy, and you think this is going to grow, then I’m doing it,” Beckham said at the table. “You tell me yes or no.”

Sangha said yes. They closed the deal in March of 2021 — an investment in Jaxxon, a fast-growing men’s jewelry company, that dwarfed any other investment Beckham had done. How much money are we talking here? He won’t say, but it’s at least double any other investment they’ve made, and they’ve done around 25 of them. And it was enough to keep Sangha up at night.

“I mean, it’s not my money,” Sangha says now, reflecting on the moment. “It’s a lot of money, right? It’s a lot of fucking money. And it’s a venture investment. It could go down the drain. I didn’t sleep for a month and a half.”

But Beckham? He slept fine. “I’m okay with taking this risk in hopes that it pays off,” Beckham says now. “And if it didn’t, I was going to beat him up and then we’d move on to the next one.”

Yes, of course, Beckham has some major advantages to help him feel this way. As one of the largest stars in football — with a new Super Bowl ring, a history of lucrative NFL contracts, a Nike deal, and myriad other arrangements we’ll get into later — this man has some cash to play with. He’s also grown comfortable in high-stakes situations, where hesitation is the difference between catching or missing a one-handed, career-defining touchdown.

But the question that really matters is: How did he come to feel that way? Not about the money, but about trusting someone else to make large decisions with him, and to start thinking about what might come later instead of what must come now. Because that’s not how he used to think. And getting there was about more than business or football.

It was about reshaping the way he thought about risk and trust.

This is why, when I ask Beckham how he approached that Jaxxon deal, he answers it by jumping years into the past. He talks about being a star college football player, going out and having fun dancing, and how people would take videos of him on their phones. “I used to always be happy and having a good time,” he says, “until those videos started to be used as a downfall.”

He talks about trying to be open and authentic with people and feeling it backfire — when “kindness is taken for weakness,” he says. He responded by closing himself off. “It’s hard to live in a lens where I’m going to be judged for these moments,” he says.

He talks about starting out in the NFL, as the son of a hardworking single mother who did not earn much money. In those early days, he grabbed at endorsement dollars. “I was taking checks, checks, checks,” he says. “Living young, wild, and free. It’s like, the money’s coming in, the money’s going out. The money’s coming in, the money’s going out.”

In summary, he was in a cycle of short-term thinking — and building a world around himself that wasn’t designed to expand. But about six years ago, he started to take stock of his mortality. “I started to get older and realize, there’s just no way that this is going to be sustainable,” he says. An NFL career is unpredictable, as Beckham, with his two torn ACLs, knows all too well. He realized he needed another mindset. He needed long-term thinking. That meant taking different kinds of risks — expanding who he trusted, and creating the space to learn, to grow, and to make mistakes.

After all, the greatest financial investments pay nothing upfront. The same is true for people: The greatest relationships require an investment of time and trust. They become strong because they were given the time to solidify.

This is why, about five years ago, Beckham restructured the old team that ran his business, which included family members. Then he put Sangha in charge — even though Sangha has never run a business, did not go to business school, and had no proven track record of helping anyone like Beckham, which explains why the investment in Jaxxon kept Sangha sleepless for so long. But Beckham saw something in Sangha that mattered more than all of that.

And this transformation is why, Beckham says, he is now talking to me. He’s never spoken in depth about his business deals before — of which there are many, most operating far out of view. But he is a father now; he and his girlfriend, Lauren Wood, welcomed their son, Zydn, in February. He’s thinking long term.

“I’ve told you how my mindset has shifted,” he tells me. “For me to be here, I’m trusting that you are going to write and create something special for people to see, instead of the dark and fucked-up side of the world. So even just being able to be here, and have an open and honest conversation, I’m trusting that someone’s going to read this, or my mother could read this, and be like, damn, I’m really fucking proud of my son — you know what I mean?”

Beckham is 29; Sangha is 30. The way they see it, they’ve spent the past few years learning how to take smart risks together. Now, it’s time to build.

Image Credit: Bobby Fisher

It all started at a Drake concert.

Sangha was there for a last hurrah. He was raised in India, and then, just like his father, went to England for a top-tier education: first Eton College for boarding school, then Durham University for undergrad. He played professional cricket for one year after graduation, and then planned to move back to India to work at his family’s company, where they own real estate and other holdings. “But before that, I told my dad, I need to party a little bit,” Sangha says. He’s friends with Drake’s DJ, who had invited Sangha to join the entourage that would follow their European tour.

“It was a blast. Parties every night,” Sangha remembers. “And there was this guy in the group that everyone loved. Everything gravitated toward him.” Sangha and this guy hit it off. Two days into it, someone tells him: Hey, that guy is Odell Beckham Jr. He just won rookie of the year. That meant nothing to Sangha. “I didn’t even know what football was,” he says. “Football to me was soccer.”

Between shows, Beckham and Sangha started walking around European cities and talking life and business. After that, Sangha moved back to India to work with his family and Beckham continued his rise in the NFL. They kept in touch. About a year later, Beckham invited Sangha to move into his house — a weird offer in any other world but common among top-tier pro athletes, who are too recognizable and busy to go out for a normal social life, so they often bring a social life to them.

Sangha said yes. How could he not? It was 2017, they were in their mid-20s, and Beckham started introducing Sangha to his high-powered orbit — managers and agents and athletes and CEOs. Sangha became close with Maverick Carter, who is LeBron James’s childhood friend, business partner, and CEO of his and James’s joint company SpringHill. And as Sangha watched guys like that, who had built multiple brands and invested in many more, he started to think more deeply about what Beckham was doing with his own finances.

Back then, Beckham was just signing endorsement deals. They were nice, sizable checks — stuff like $400,000 to show up at a photo shoot. But they were also a limited-time opportunity: There was no guarantee that they’d keep coming after Beckham’s playing days. “So my theory to him was, ‘Look, I suggest you really look at yourself as a business,’” Sangha says, “’rather than just an endorsement or a check, and try and build yourself to become something after football.’”

Sangha insists this was just two friends talking. “I wasn’t suggesting myself,” he says, because that would have been crazy. Beckham knows everyone; he could have easily hired a high-powered manager to build his brand. But the guys kept talking. Kept gaming out options. And a year and a half after Sangha moved in, in 2018, Beckham decided to reorganize his existing management team and put Sangha in charge.

Why’d he do it? Simple, Beckham says: “Yeah, there could have been someone more qualified, but I lean on my gut and on my instincts.” And his instincts told him this: To other people, Beckham might have been a major business opportunity. But to Sangha, Beckham was a mission with no option to fail. “We were very young, and this was going to be risky,” Beckham says. “He’d shown me that he doesn’t want to fail for himself, but more so, I think failing me would have killed him even more. It’s just knowing that he’s like, ‘Worst comes to worst, I’m not going to fail O. Like, in my mind, there’s no chance I’m going to fail him.’”

Beckham was right. “I had this fear of failure a lot,” Sangha says.

The way Sangha saw it, Beckham had much more to lose in the arrangement. “I can go get a job somewhere, right?” Sangha says. “But this man has one shot at this — to really go to the levels that he could go to, with the position he has put himself in.”

They made a goal: “We wanted to set up all our families,” Sangha says. To capitalize on Beckham’s current success, and to build something that lasts beyond their lifetimes. He told Beckham that he initially wouldn’t take money from the deals they put together—an agreement that would last for three years — as a show of faith in his long-term thinking.

Then he got to work. There was a lot to learn.

Image Credit: Bobby Fisher

In the beginning, Sangha had three big questions: Who can I trust? Who can I learn from? And, Who’s doing it right?

He started with a trusted source — WME, one of the world’s largest talent agencies, which he encouraged Beckham to sign with. Then, WME started bringing in endorsement deals; these were straightforward cash offers, like the ones Beckham was already doing, and like the ones Sangha had already told Beckham he thought they should move away from. But the money was enticing. “I was, like, ‘Hey, we should take this, we should take this,’” Sangha recalls. “I was hot off the rocket.”

Then Beckham took a million-dollar endorsement deal (they won’t name the brand), and it gave Sangha pause. Yes, a million dollars sounded great — until he started breaking it down. “You pay 10% to the agent, then you’ve got $900,000 left,” he says. “Pay taxes, you have $450,000 left. Right? We’ve really just given away his name and likeness to a brand that’s growing and selling so much for $450,000.”

That’s good money, but it’s not lasting money. So how could they think bigger? Sangha went back to those questions he asked earlier. Who else could he trust and learn from? He started to look at Silicon Valley, where many other athletes had started to invest. Sangha reached out to partners at major firms, including Andreessen Horowitz, and struck co-investment deals with them. Beckham’s name was a value add for VCs and their portfolio companies, and it offered Sangha a chance to learn the space from the inside.

Then Sangha started to think even bigger — by combining Beckham’s old model (endorsements) with this new model (investments). “These companies are getting bigger,” he says. “Let’s go do a marketing deal, but let’s take it half in money, half in options.” Many brands were happy to do this, including Pedialyte and Shaun Neff and Kendall Jenner’s Moon Oral Care.

But as all this was happening, Sangha was wearing himself thin. He wasn’t just booking meetings with big-time investors; he was also booking Beckham’s travel, coordinating with his drivers, and sweating every detail. That fear of failure, which had given Beckham so much confidence, was translating into a fear of delegation. “Because it’s like, if someone else fucks it up for me, then I’m fucking it up,” Sangha says.

Beckham spotted it. He told Sangha he needed to build a team. At first, Sangha dismissed this. “I’m a bit stubborn in my own ways,” he says. “And respectfully, I’m thinking, this man is a football player — he’s not taking all these meetings, he’s not meeting these people, so how the fuck does he know?” But Beckham has seen what successful teams look like, and they don’t look like people hoarding responsibility. “’Bro, what are you doing here?’” Sangha recalls Beckham saying to him. “’Get someone else to do it.’”

Eventually, Sangha listened. He hired an assistant for himself, a chief of staff for Beckham, and then kept assembling a team — to evaluate opportunities, to execute tasks. Today, he laughs about how he once dismissed Beckham’s advice, and the many other times that Beckham has counterbalanced him. “I’ve become this monster to myself because I can’t switch off,” Sangha says. He thinks nonstop about business. Beckham must tell him, even today, “Just be here. Be in this moment.”

“He knew!” Sangha says.

This, to Beckham, is exactly what success should look like. It’s exactly how risks pay off. The point isn’t to be perfect out of the gate; it’s to find the people open to course correction.

“I try and instill it in other people, and I think I get frustrated if I can’t,” Beckham says. “It’s like, ‘Bro, why don’t you want that for yourself?’ That’s just how my mind is. I’ve always known that I was put on this earth to uplift and empower people and make them feel what I feel inside. Right, wrong, or indifferent, even if that’s not what they want to do, I still make that push until I realize, ‘Okay, well that’s their life and this is what they want to do.’”

But Sangha gets it, he says. Even if there were kinks to work out.

Image Credit: Bobby Fisher

Today, Sangha likes to divide his work with Beckham into two parts: There were the learning years and the execution years. That second part has a distinct starting point: It was in 2019, when Sangha was talking with a sleep-tracking startup called Oura Ring.

The company had assembled a list of high-profile athletes as brand ambassadors — Lindsey Vonn, Chris Paul, and Olympic gold medalists Katie Ledecky and Carissa Moore — and wanted Beckham to join. Beckham was already an investor in the company, but Oura Ring couldn’t afford his seven-figure price tag for an endorsement role. In the past, that might have been the end of the conversation. But by this point, Sangha was thinking differently. He’d begun looking for creative, long-term investments. So he proposed a deal to Oura Ring’s then-CEO Harpreet Rai: They’d split the fee up in cash and equity, and then add another relationship on top. “I have a creative team,” Sangha recalls saying. “Instead of paying anybody else, pay our creative team a monthly fee to help create all Odell’s campaigns, but also to advise on other talent’s creative for Oura Ring campaigns.”

Oura Ring said yes. When it announced the deal, the company wrote that “Beckham Jr. stars in, and will serve as creative director for, his upcoming campaign with Oura.”

“And I was like, shit, we should do this for every deal,” Sangha says.

So Sangha and Beckham created a production company called INIT Entertainment. Today, it executes campaigns that star Beckham, which it has done for Xbox, Oura Ring, Pedialyte, Cash App, and more. Now, Sangha is looking for an established entertainment partner, so that, much like LeBron James’s SpringHill Company, INIT can start creating TV, movies, and other projects that don’t necessarily feature Beckham.

Sangha then also sought a way to supersize their venture deals. Sure, they had one-off deals that he’d vetted himself, or that were co-invested with a large VC firm, but Sangha wanted something more substantial: He wanted to have an entire fund. He looked around at what other celebrities do, such as Serena Williams and Kevin Hart, and saw them raising small funds from other investors themselves. But Sangha worried he didn’t have the cachet for that, let alone the bandwidth. “Who the hell is going to invest large amounts of money with me, just purely on the track record of what I’ve done with O’s money?” he says.

That’s why, much like the production company, he began looking for a partner. He found one in Tribe Capital, a closely watched investment firm with $1.7 billion in assets. It has built quantitative tools to capture and process billions of data points from private companies, and then uses that analysis to drive its investment decisions. Tribe, Beckham, and Sangha collaborated on a few projects, including a SPAC, and Sangha eventually proposed a deal: What if he and Beckham started a fund with them, raised $150 million, had Tribe manage it, and they’d split the returns?

“You’d probably think there’s no fucking way a VC would split it with a celebrity, right? They said yes,” Sangha says. (Here’s why, according to Tribe Capital CEO Arjun Sethi: “Ajay and OBJ have access to a tremendous amount of deal flow, particularly across consumer brands worldwide. Combining their networks with Tribe Capital’s investment engine and venture expertise will result in better outcomes for investors.”) Beckham and Sangha will start raising that money this August. The fund is called 2463 Ventures — 2463 being the address of the house that Beckham and Sangha first started working together in.

They’re now preparing to launch the fund this summer, but Sangha is already thinking beyond it. This deal comes with a 10-year lockup. “But after nailing the first, the plan is to go do two, three of these things,” he says.

Image Credit: Bobby Fisher

Today, Beckham and Sangha call each other best friends and brothers. They are partners in various holding companies that they have built. But they don’t live together anymore. Beckham now lives with his girlfriend and son between Miami and Scottsdale, Arizona, and Sangha splits his time between Miami and Los Angeles. Sangha says this has been good for his mental health; it gives their relationship more of a rhythm. “When I visit,” Sangha says, “he’s like, ‘Hey man, you’re here for the weekend. Stop thinking, stop talking, just relax, enjoy a beer.’”

This is their relationship in a nutshell: Sangha pushed Beckham to take a longer-term view on his business. Now Beckham pushes Sangha to pace himself for the long haul.

Beckham has a lot of experience thinking this way. For example, when we speak in May, he’s still rigorously recovering from the ACL tear that took him out of February’s Super Bowl LVI. “I’m just now starting to come back to life and come out of this dark place,” he says. I ask how he did that, and he becomes fatalistic. “I feel like the world that we live in is fake. It’s that kind of simulation feel. And you have to cling on to the things that are real in this world, which is your family, which is love, which is relationships.”

What will change, and what will not? What is lasting, and what goes away? These are the distinctions that guide Beckham. He remembers first thinking about this when he was maybe six years old, after his great-grandfather died. “It was just the hardest thing ever,” he says. The man was maybe 6′10″, which intimidated little Beckham. Then this large, imposing, important man was in a casket. As a child, Beckham tried to process how one thing can come to an end, but other things do not. “I was carrying that in my heart for years,” he says. “I was learning that I was going to be okay, and that life was going to continue to go on.”

This reminds me of something I’d been thinking a lot lately, so I tell Beckham. It’s the difference between a moment and the moment. What is a part of our longer journey, and what is the defining part that changes everything, and how can we tell the difference? This can apply to personal loss, of course, but also in business: Something will change, or not go our way, and we may struggle to imagine what comes next. But something always does.

That resonates with Beckham. It’s a version of what he tells friends who are struggling. “I’ve said this so many times — I’m like, bro, just remember the other time where you thought you weren’t going to be able to keep going, and the worst fucking possible thing happened, and then you got over it,” he says. “And then it happened again, and this one was worse than the last. And it’s like, you just have to know that is going to happen. It is. And that’s kind of what you’re saying about a moment, not the moment. I don’t really know if there is the moment. There might be that once-in-a-lifetime thing, but I feel like if you’re waiting for that, you’re not being present, and you’re not living in a bunch of moments that are happening right in front of you.”

Which brings us back to that investment he and Sangha made in Jaxxon, the men’s jewelry company. It’s still his biggest to date. “Ajay stayed up every single night after that and I’m the one who’s chilling way more,” Beckham says. “And you know, money came out of my account. Like, a lot of money came out of my account! But it goes back to that feeling of, like, take it on the chin and keep going.”

Because it’s a lot easier to keep going when you know who’s going with you.

2 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All

Biden announces cap on rent prices

Biden announces cap on rent prices The Biden administration has announced a plan to impose a cap on rent prices in an effort to address the ongoing housing crisis in the United States. Under the prop


Rated 0 out of 5 stars.
No ratings yet

Add a rating
bottom of page