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A Second Wind

Every professional athlete faces retirement. But after these four bowed out, they found success in new careers, applying the same talent and work ethic that made them sports stars.
Bruce Schoenfeld
From the Print Edition:
Michael Jordan, July/August 2005

(continued from page 1)

"I bought a hotel after I fought Randy Cobb," he says, referring to a property over the New Jersey line that he renovated and sold at a large profit. "They wanted a million and a half for the hotel, so I fought Cobb, got the million and a half, bought the hotel." The five-story building? Holmes considers for a moment. "Mike Tyson," he says. The two-story building he's sitting in? "Oliver McCall." Other investments came from fights against Gerry Cooney, Carl "The Truth" Williams and Evander Holyfield.

It added up. Along with a 69-6 career record, he amassed a sporting goods store, two nightclubs, a restaurant, a parking lot, two gyms, a hotel and two office buildings. "I set an example for young people," he says. "If Larry Holmes can do that with a seventh-grade education, what could you do?"

 

Boxing made Holmes rich, just as he'd hoped, but a surprising thing happened along the way. He grew to love the sport—continuing to fight deep into his forties—but he grew tired of hustling to succeed as a businessman. People would approach with one deal after another, but he liked nothing better than holding court at his restaurant, moving his sizable frame around its dance floor and swapping stories. It wasn't so different from what past ex-champions had done, trading on their fame because they were left with little else. The difference was that Holmes had the money to foot the bill at the end of the night.

So he started selling his investments. He sold the hotel several years ago, the vacant land and everything that wasn't within sight of his office complex. He took some of the money for fun, threw parties for friends and brought some to the gaming tables at Atlantic City. He saved the rest, adding to a retirement account that should keep him living well for decades to come. "Business don't mean shit to me," he says now. "How much money do I need to live on? I have no new ventures or investments lined up. Any money I make is to stay where I'm at."

What's left of his empire is this two-building complex that holds his office suite, his restaurant, a bingo hall, a Bank of America branch, lawyers' offices, a judge's chambers, a Smith Barney outlet and other rent-paying clients. He collects $60,000 in monthly rent from the office tower alone. "Sometimes I go over there just to look at it," he says. "It's mine."

He heads off now to pay a visit. First he stops at the restaurant, on the ground floor of the smaller building, overlooking the river. On the walls are framed magazine covers featuring Holmes. Sports Illustrated. Ebony. The Ring. "This is my hangout," he says.

He walks back outside and crosses the parking lot to the other side of Larry Holmes Drive, to the shiny, five-story building with his initials etched into the wall. He steps inside the Bank of America branch and is greeted warmly. He's a celebrity, a local hero and the landlord, all in one. He walks into Smith Barney wearing a huge grin. "I need some help, Christmas is coming!" he says. Everyone laughs.

A message is sent in to Mike Glovas, the senior vice president, that Holmes is visiting. Glovas is occupied with a client, but comes dashing out. He remembers seeing Holmes during morning runs along Route 611—the Easton Road, which extends all the way to Philadelphia—when they were both young, out there day after day, chugging along. "Now he owns the building," Glovas says, widening his eyes and throwing a thumb in Holmes's direction. "It's amazing. He has basically put Easton on the map. He's very outgoing. You can go to his restaurant and meet him. It's no accident how well he's done. We all start with nothing, and look what he has achieved." Holmes breaks into another grin. "You don't have to pay the rent next month," he says.

But as he's walking back across the parking lot, Holmes talks of selling the real estate and putting the money in the bank. "You don't get calls in the middle of the night from an interest check," he explains. "My dad died at 52, my brother died at 55, another died at 5, my mom just died. I'm 55. I want to enjoy my life, whatever time I've got."


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