Ndamukong Suh is building an investment empire with a little help from Warren Buffett

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Most young investors would love the chance to sit down with Warren Buffett. Most never get it. But most young investors aren’t 6 feet 4 inches tall. They don’t weigh 300 pounds. These aren’t football stars coming out of an All-American season at the University of Nebraska, where Buffett is an alumnus and donor.

So when Ndamukong Suh inquired about a meeting in the spring of 2010: the legendary football coach Cornhusker Tom osborne acted as an intermediary — Buffett agreed. And so began an unlikely but enduring friendship between the octogenarian Oracle of Omaha and the 20-something football star. .

“We sat for a couple of hours and hit it off,” Suh recalls of that first encounter with Buffett. “And since then we’ve been able to have a very, very close relationship. I usually talk to him about once or twice a quarter.

On Thursday, Suh and his Tampa Bay Buccaneers kicked off the new NFL season with a 31-29 victory over the Dallas Cowboys. A day earlier the 12 year old pro joined me Zoom to talk about his other love.

Suh’s roots as an investor run deep. Growing up in Portland, Oregon, his parents believed in the power of real estate. They maintained a small portfolio of residential properties, Suh says, mostly duplexes and triplexes. In the 1990s, you may have found a young Ndamukong outside one of these houses, pacing in the grass behind a lawn mower.

“It’s definitely a family affair to want to be in the real estate game and to want to understand it,” Suh said.

After being drafted by the Detroit Lions in 2010, Suh signed a five-year contract worth more than $ 60 million. Suddenly, he had capital to invest. And the real estate space always had its attention. To help her find her place, Suh turned to another local mentor: Gary Shiffman, the founder and CEO of Communities of the Sun, a REIT based near Detroit. With Shiffman’s guidance, he began to build his own portfolio.

Already a theme in Suh’s career as an investor was beginning: never underestimate the power of working with the right people. You can take this as a lesson from Buffett.

“One of the things I’ll never forget he mentioned to me is just the ability to find great people who want to do their jobs and love their jobs, and they really would do it for free,” Suh said. .

Over the following years, Suh built a diversified and balanced portfolio. With a named partner Joel andersen, he is co-founder of HMS developments, which develops residential, mixed and commercial real estate. He is co-owner of two hotels. He has restaurants in several towns. It invests in venture capital and private equity, including funds managed by Andreessen Horowitz and General Atlantic. He invests in stocks. He is even the advisor of a PSPC, called FAST Acquisition Corp., which raised $ 200 million in an IPO in March.

This can be a lot for someone who, of course, is also a professional athlete. But Suh likes balance. The offseason offers a lot of time to manage your investments. It gets more difficult at this time of year. His weekends, of course, are taken into account. Wednesdays and Thursdays are devoted to preparing for matches. But Suh tries to set aside time earlier in the week to keep tabs on her other interests.

“The most important thing is to compartmentalize,” he said. “I think it makes me even better when I can focus on business on Mondays and Tuesdays in my free time, it makes me all the more precise focusing on football.”

Suh is part of a generation of athletes who have embraced investing like no one before. For decades, former professional stars have used their fame and connections to find deals upon retirement. But now more than ever, a career as an investor can go hand in hand with a career as an athlete. James lebron, Patrick muhammad, Naomi Osaka, Megan Rapinoe and Michael phelps are just a very small sample of other sports superstars who have embarked on staking startups.

Part of the reason, certainly, is that these top athletes are making more money than ever before and therefore have more capital at their disposal. The startup ecosystem continues to grow, creating more investment opportunities. But another factor, Suh thinks, is increased awareness. When athletes see teammates like Suh or those in the NBA André Iguodala pop-up on CNBC, this can spark new ideas about what is possible with their money.

All of these athletes take different approaches. Some, like Kevin Durant and Serena williams, have formed their own venture capital funds. For now, at least, that’s not part of Suh’s plans.

“When it comes to pure venture capital and private equity investing, I will probably stay where I am now, as an LP and venture capital partner,” Suh said. “But maybe on the real estate side, I’ll consider setting up a fund. ”

Wherever life takes him, one thing seems certain: Whether he’s on the soccer field or leaning into slide games, looking for his next big investment, Ndamukong Suh is here to win.

“I never wanted to be seen as an athlete who just spray and pray,” Suh said. “I don’t want to have zeros. I can understand that it’s not all going to be a home run, but at the same time, I want to be part of successful companies. “

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