Shaq’s first round pick

Magic Johnson isn't the only one moving from the basketball court to the boardroom. In September, Miami Heat center Shaquille O'Neal announced the formation of The O'Neal Group.

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The O’Neal Group, a real estate and development company, plans to acquire, develop and promote select projects across the nation.

The firm’s first project is a partnership with Miami-based MDM Development Group called Metropolitan Miami. It’s a $1 billion mixed- use development located on Biscayne Boulevard that will anchor downtown Miami’s urban renewal. The project includes over 1,100 condominiums, an office tower, luxury hotel, entertainment complex and the area’s first Whole Foods store. O�’Neal also plans to bring a 24-Hour Fitness/Shaq Ultra Sport fitness club to the project.

“Downtown is already gorgeous–we want to make it elaborate,” said O’Neal after a news conference announcing the deal. “We scoured the country to find an appropriate venue through which we could launch the O’Neal Group, and ultimately we decided that the best place to start was in our own backyard with Metropolitan Miami.”

The first phase of Metropolitan Miami is Met 1, a 40-story tower with 447 condominiums that topped off in December. It is 95 percent sold out.

Met 2 is a 47-story office tower featuring ground-floor retail as well as The Marquis, a JW Marriott Collection hotel. It is currently under construction.

Met 3, a 76-story tower with 696 condos that will be the tallest residential tower south of New York, is set to break ground in the first quarter of 2007. Units there range from 571 to 3,414 square feet, and prices start in the mid-$300,000s.

The project will also include a four-story, 120,000-square-foot lifestyle center with restaurant and entertainment options and a movie theatre.

While The O’Neal Group formalizes his interest in real estate, O’Neal has already amassed a portfolio of residential and commercial property valued at more than $50 million. Areas of interest for the new company include New Jersey, O’Neal’s native state, as well as South Florida, Los Angeles and Louisiana.

Although financial terms were not disclosed, O’Neal did invest in the project. As part of the deal he will also purchase a Sky Loft in the project’s third tower, Met 3. O’Neal will not, however, sell his $18 million home on Miami Beach’s Star Island.

O’Neal, who has a five-year, $100 million contract with the Heat, wants to do more than just create buildings with his new business. He also hopes to impact the way people live. “This is not only a real estate deal,” he said of the Metropolitan Miami project at the news conference. “We want people to live how they want to live.”

Author: Robyn A. Friedman