Before him there were Jean-Claude Killy, René Lacoste, Franck Mesnel. Sports stars who have reinvested their earnings in business. They have created their brands or injected millions into companies to be taken over or relaunched. Tony Parker chose a completely different business for him. He retired from sports competition in 2019 and is now developing his own philosophy of capitalism.
The money he earned during his career, he knew how to place it in unexpected sectors. And that’s what caught my attention when I met Tony Parker for Entreprendre. It is no longer just a matter of investing in high yielding assets, but of developing the benevolent economy.
It is his project, which he wants to initiate in several very specific areas: the Art of Living, education and sport.
His group is called Infinity Nine. During this interview, you will understand what a mission-driven company is with its noblest purposes. The former champion appeals to entrepreneurs to help young people get started in life. This is what he says to the bosses: Give them the desire to win, run fast, dare and take on the challenge.
Tony Parker is an entrepreneur who dribbles with the values of sport. He reveals to us during this interview his philosophy on the new economy. He talks about his company Smart Good Things, which is already listed on Euronext, and part of the profit is donated to solidarity action. He also explains why he invested in a ski resort and how he plans to revolutionize access to mountain sports 10 months a year. Change the world with more generosity. Tony Parker has made it his philosophy.
Undertake: You are an ambassador for the concept of charitable finance: what exactly is it?
Tony Parker: It is a project that must have a positive impact on our society, which puts solidarity at the center of the future economy. It may seem a little naive, but our society needs generosity and mutual help. Smart Good Things is the first company listed on Euronext that has fully integrated the principle of caring economy into its core areas. Our ambition is to contribute to changing the world by placing well-being and generosity at the heart of the economic model of the future. We donate 25% of our net revenue from the sale of our beverages to basic social causes. Equality and youth training. Through our SmartAlliance.fr platform, we are also committed to seniors.
Do young people seem “lost” to you?
In some cases yes. Our school system provides nothing because the young have often lost all motivation. However, we can motivate them and make them positive. It is the mind that counts in school and in business. And sports are a good way to stay in the game. My priority is to motivate all those who drop out of school. I have to awaken a passion in them. Tony Parker Adéquat Academy brings what the French school cannot provide.
Yes, it is not enough to give scholarships. Companies must also offer jobs so that young people are at the heart of the company as soon as possible. I give the example of Adidas, where young people are referred to marketing departments, to finance or even to stores. Very quickly these young people find themselves in the field, satisfied and motivated… Likewise, you have 8,000 professions at LVMH. There is a know-how to transfer and therefore opportunities for the young people at our Tony Parker Adéquat Academy. They come for the sport, but not all will succeed. They need an outlet for the business. This is our mission against school dropouts.
Children, seniors, equality: Is your fight very broad?
Yes, and all my activities are involved. We talk more and more about companies with a mission, I want to show what that means. With Smart Good Things, founded by Serge Bueno and of which I am a shareholder and ambassador, we sell drinks in pharmacies that are good for you and good for others. With part of the profit obtained, we will act on solidarity actions or commitments intended for the education of young people and equality. So with SmartAlliance.fr we provide access to a home service platform for seniors. Why did I do that? Because I see my parents getting old and I want them to stay at home as long as possible. This is a concern for many of us, but it comes at a price. It needs to be funded, which is why our consumption = protection model is innovative because these services are funded through ongoing consumption.
Are you aiming for profit?
It is too early to take stock. It’s been less than a year since we started. But it is in our interest to make a lot of numbers, because that is how we want to implement our solidarity actions. We commit to donating ¼ of our net revenue to causes of general interest, while combining profit and generosity. The more profit we make, the more useful our matches will be!
Does notoriety help you?
Yes, it allows us to open the doors. But for the rest, you have to work hard. The launch of our range of drinks required 13 years of work and research and development. I do everything as a business owner. I connect the teams around me because I believe that only unity is strength.
Is it enough to sell in pharmacies?
For years I was an ambassador for the Puressentiel brand. And I can see how this brand has become a reference. I wanted to do the same for our “wellness” drinks. The network of pharmacies provides a guarantee of seriousness. That’s not how we get in! We already have 150 points of sale and that gives legitimacy to the product.
Is entrepreneurship your passion after sports?
Yes, entrepreneurs invent the world of the future. They create value, they create jobs, they don’t count their hours. I believe in business. And I like to see these entrepreneurs who dream big because they have ideas. We become great when we take on and no one can make fun of those who have ideas. Entrepreneurship is audacity.
Being American and French, does that contribute to your vision of entrepreneurship?
I am lucky to have a dual culture. I have an American father who gave me the positive vision that nothing is ever impossible. American leadership is about pushing mountains and dreaming big. French management, I have that with my mother. It’s keeping our feet on the ground, it’s the happy medium and forces us not to get fired up when things are going well. And don’t be too hard on yourself when things go wrong. And never give up in either case.
Aren’t the French a bit of a complainer?
Yes, I regret it. Our country is great, but unfortunately we tend to emphasize the negative here, and that’s a shame because we have huge potential. I have a huge love for this country, which I showed when I was in charge of the French team.
How do you go from sport to entrepreneurship?
There are many similarities between the two. Sports profiles are very popular with managers. We athletes are passionate and disciplined people. We train all the time. We like hard work. Yes, sport and entrepreneurship are two words that go very well together. There are great similarities.
Do we need more athletes in the industry?TP: I don’t know if we need more, but if we’re all in, we’re effective. This is the choice I made.
Everyone does what they want! If athletes want to rest after their career, I understand them too!
Are you a good businessman?
I focus on my passions. It is the only thing that guides my choices. You can’t pretend in business. For it to work, you have to believe in it and move forward. I only invest in areas that fascinate me: I develop three poles and limit myself to that. Sport, education and lifestyle. All under the name Infinity Nine Group.
What do you think of capitalism today? Do we need more sharing? More redistribution?
I will not go into these considerations. I focus on my group and as long as it can have an impact on the social actions we take. If we can change people’s lives, we have won. That is why I believe in the principle of the company with missions. In the form that we develop in my group. And also to share as much as possible.
Do you want to continue your investments?
I’m a builder, that’s my DNA, but at the moment I’m in a consolidation phase. After sowing, we will harvest the fruits.
You are a shareholder and president of ASVEL, the Lyon Villeurbanne basketball club. So many victories, so many titles, 21 times champion in France. How to explain this barraca?
These are the same recipes as for business. We got there through work and the winning culture! I apply these principles in my two worlds, the sport and the management of my group.
But you earn money with the club?
That is not the goal at the moment. We are looking for balance and we need to grow the club. It really is like a business. We have a vision of 5 or 7 years and we know exactly where we are going. I also like to surround myself with good people and I don’t mind having smarter people around the table. Unity is strength, I remind you!
And football, taking over the Olympics is a possibility?
I am on the board of the Olympic (Olympic Lyonnais) and I do not close any doors. Jean Michel Aulas took me under his wing, he is my friend, I learn by his side. See you later.
4 years ago you invested in a ski resort, Villard-de-Lans in the Vercors. Are we far from the ball?
I did it on a whim. I love this resort, I love the area, and I love the people who run the property. I bought the shares of the Huillier brothers, who are mountain dwellers. We took over the ski area when the Covid crisis slowed down our plans. But attendance has already increased dramatically. We are at +30% in turnover and we see the price of real estate rising by 20% according to figures from the daily newspaper Le Dauphiné.
Less snow in the future, does that worry you?
No, because we must develop a project to achieve filling of the station 10 months out of 12. We want to improve the degree of filling and combat cold beds. It is these unoccupied beds outside school hours, and it endangers the management of stations, even the most legendary.
Is this the “Ananda Resort” project?
Yes, we just presented it on September 29. It’s still very fresh if I do say so myself! We will have a 4-star hotel residence with 132 apartments. And our ambition is to fill them four seasons in a row. It is a new turn for the station that suffered, which has to reinvent itself in “after ski”. We will have shops, exhibitions, cultural events and an indoor sports center with an opening planned for 2025. (Editor’s note: the local press estimates the investment at €96 million).
Do you have a pattern template?
My role models are in sports and I am lucky to be well surrounded. I am thinking of Jean-Michel Aulas, president of the Olympics, and Laurent de La Clergerie, president of the high-tech group LDLC, our sponsor at ASVEL. His group employs 1,000 people and has a turnover of 500 million euros.
Your father was an American basketball player… You who are French-American: USA or France?
My two countries are France and USA, I love both countries. Double culture is my life. I take the best of both.
Interview by Eric de Riedmatten