LeBron James Drops McDonald's, Adds Pizza Chain

McDonald's decision to serve breakfast all day is not enough to keep LeBron James. The NBA star is ending his long-time business partnership with the Golden Arches.

James' fast food endeavors will continue. James announced Thursday he will become a marketing partner of Blaze Pizza. The restaurant functions Chipotle-style, meaning patrons choose their specific ingredients in an assembly-line counter.

James was an original investor in Blaze when it was launched in 2011 by Elise and Rick Wetzel of Wetzel's Pretzels. He owns franchise rights in Miami and Chicago and separately has a 10 percent stake in Blaze. To beef up his marketing relationship with the franchise, James needs to cut ties with McDonald's.

"Blaze Pizza isn't your typical pizza chain," James said in a news release. "Their model is literally changing the future of the fast casual industry altogether. I initially invested in this company because I knew it was a special idea that offered something people would want. Now I'm excited to go all in with Blaze Pizza in this new role and continue to give people a whole new experience."

Blaze was ranked second on the 2015 Fast Casual Top 100 behind Panera Bread. Like many Americans, James has publicly come around to healthier fast food options. In February, James condemned the health of his younger self by saying, "I ate McDonald's my first couple years in the NBA."

Face palm, Ronald McDonald.

James quickly jumped on his social media game Thursday, tweeting Darren Rovell's ESPN story to his 24 million followers.

James' business manger, Maverick Carter, told Rovell: "This move aligns with LeBron's brand and his history of helping companies grow faster and bigger as an equity partner."

Blaze has 88 locations but it's only in two Ohio cities, Mason and Columbus, where the Cavaliers will play a preseason game Monday against the Grizzlies.

Blaze now says it will open up one restaurant ever four days, meaning it will have 200 locations in a year. Many of those are destined for Cleveland.

"This deal is extremely meaningful to us because LeBron has been by our side since the day we started, and we're excited to continue to change the industry with his help," Rick Wetzel says. "LeBron is the perfect ambassador for our brand because he embodies everything Blaze Pizza stands for. In everything he does, he is authentic and totally unique."

Meanwhile, McDonald's spokeswoman Lisa McComb said the following on the "mutual" breakup:

"We have enjoyed watching LeBron James grow from a McDonald's All-American to a world-class champion and businessman. We greatly appreciate the exciting experiences and engagement he's provided McDonald's customers and his support of Ronald McDonald House Charities over the past several years. While the parties mutually decided to end the relationship, we wish him the best in his future endeavors."

James' other endorsement deals include Nike, Coca-Cola, Samsung, Audemar Piguet and Upper Deck. He continues to be a spokesman with Beats By Dre since Apple bought the brand. James made $30 million off the sale.

Written by Jeffrey Eisenband 


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