Andy Murray has lost millions doing things his own way

The tennis star is turning to investing in startups and other business ventures over potential endorsement deals

By Bloomberg News

Jul 6, 2015 @ 10:49 am EST

I did it my way Clive Brunskill/Getty Images via Bloomberg

Tennis superstar Andy Murray likes to do things his own way, and it's costing him millions.

Mr. Murray was expected to make as much as $75 million in endorsements after becoming the first British man to win the Wimbledon singles title since Fred Perry in 1936. Two years after his victory over top-ranked Novak Djokovic, No. 3 Mr. Murray still trails his rivals at the bank as the seventh-highest paid tennis player. He wouldn't have it any other way.

The righthander has turned down “multimillions” in potential endorsements since 2013, Matt Gentry, managing director of Mr. Murray's management company 77, said in an interview at Wimbledon.

“If it affects his training schedule, or he doesn't believe in the product, he won't do it, regardless of the money,” Mr. Gentry said. “He's quite principled. He doesn't need the money.”

The 28-year-old took on Croatia's Ivo Karlovic Monday on Centre Court, with Mr. Murray prevailing 7-6, 6-4, 5-7, 6-4, while Mr. Djokovic meets Kevin Anderson of South Africa. Top seeded Serena Williams beat her sister Venus 6-4, 6-3 in the last 16 at the grass-court tournament.

Mr. Murray makes $19.2 million a year from prize money and endorsements, according to a Forbes estimate from August. Roger Federer, a 17-time major singles champion, leads with annual earnings of $56 million from prize money and long-term deals with companies including Nike, Rolex and Credit Suisse. Nine-time French Open champion Rafael Nadal is second with $44.5 million, followed by Mr. Djokovic with $33.1 million.

Mr. Murray, who has earned $38 million in career prize money, has deals with sportswear company Under Armour, Scottish insurer Standard Life and racket manufacturer Head.

“It's best for the player and for the sponsor if you perform your best in the major competitions,” Mr. Murray said in a news conference at Queen's Club the week before Wimbledon. “I have tried the last few years to limit the amount of time I spend doing those things the week before a slam. I feel like it's helped my performances.”

Mr. Murray has reached at least the quarterfinals of each of the four majors since he won Wimbledon. He'll earn at least 127,000 pounds ($198,000) for reaching the fourth round of Wimbledon.

Mr. Murray has invested in property in the U.K. and U.S. and projects closer to home. He bought a hotel outside his hometown of Dunblane for 2.5 million pounds in 2013 and turned it into a luxury venue.


Last month, he joined the advisory board of Seedrs, a three-year-old crowdfunding site that has financed about 200 businesses in health, sport and wearable technology. Mr. Murray's team approached Seedrs a year ago, chief investment officer Tom Davies said in an interview.

So far Mr. Murray has invested in two companies, including a health-drinks maker whose products impressed his nutritionist.

“The beauty of it is, if he invests in a company, he can use their product and then endorse it,” Mr. Davies said.

The player plans to buy stakes in as many as 40 companies over the next five years, according to Mr. Gentry. There are also plans to set up a small management agency that looks after other sports stars, with Mr. Murray in a mentor role.

“The idea behind it was to create a set of businesses in different areas, to capitalize while he's still hot,” Mr. Gentry said. “He's got about four to five years left playing.”


Mr. Murray's business approach isn't the only thing that makes him stand out from the rest of the field. He's the only player in the top 50 with a female coach, Frenchwoman Amelie Mauresmo. He was also one of the first to build a team around him consisting of a coach, physiotherapist, conditioning trainer and press agent.

The day after his historic Wimbledon triumph, Mr. Murray told Bloomberg television tennis players get paid “probably too much.”

The relationship between athletes and brands goes both ways, according to Carsten Thode, chief strategy officer at Synergy in London, a sponsorship consultancy which has worked on Olympic programs for two decades. Its clients include BMW, Emirates and MasterCard.

“Brands aren't interested in him because he's not interested in them,” Mr. Thode said in an interview. “You have to give yourself over to a lot of these brands. Do you feel comfortable talking about a brand, when you actually don't care? It takes a special person to do that.”

Mr. Murray may look to add one or two brands, possibly in the automobile sector or formal wear, Mr. Gentry said. Any new deals will be focused on image rights and content so it won't take up too much of Mr. Murray's time, he added.

Although most startups fail, Mr. Murray is enjoying his new role.

“It's a little bit different, investing in companies that you actually may take an interest in,” he said at Queen's. “If it's something that's involving sports, technology, things I'm actually interested in, then it could be good fun for me.”

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