well as a mystery shopping program where “hired shoppers” go in and grade the experience. It’s that type of attention to detail that makes Aaron successful with every new business entity. To add to the auto and food-service empires, Aaron also owns 755 Real Estate Corp., a holding company for all of the properties of his companies.
For other black athletes, Aaron drives home the point that you have to do more with your millions besides spend them. “I was fortunate enough to play well beyond the years when people say that you’re finished, but not too many people can do that,” says Aaron, who retired from baseball at 42. “When you reach a certain age, most star athletes will notice they are starting to [go] backward, and you have to prepare yourself by looking at someone who is not in that same picture with you, not playing sports.” Early on, Aaron patterned himself and his approach to business after Joseph Black, a former executive at Greyhound Transportation Co. “Joe was not a token,” says Aaron. “He was there making decisions, and I would talk to him for a long time [about how he made business decisions].” Colleagues see that tenacity in Aaron. “He approaches business the same way he approached baseball,” says Allan Tanenbaum, general counsel for AFC Enterprises, as well as adviser and former attorney for Aaron. “He studies and understands the environment around him and the people that impact his business, and then he goes about his business with a quiet elegance.”
OPPORTUNITY TO GROW
As he begins to enjoy his twilight years, playing with his grandchildren at his retreat house in Florida, Aaron realizes that he has to slow down, although it may not be in the near future. “I could easily get two or three more dealerships, but I don’t see myself, at my age, getting too deeply involved in more businesses.”
What he does envision, however, is helping younger folks with the opportunity to break into business as managers, directors, and owners. He’s been talking with a couple of black athletes about getting into the dealership game; his sons Larry (a full-time talent scout for the Braves who works at the BMW dealership in the off-season) and Hank Jr. (who does detail work at Honda/Toyota and is beginning to sell), and his grandson Reynal (a college student who does administrative work at BMW), all work at the dealerships, but they are very much still learning the business he says. “They are on the ground floor level; they wash cars, check cars in, etc.,” Aaron says. “You can’t just give them a multimillion-dollar business. Running this [automobile] business is like playing [chess,] every move is a little bit different.”
Despite his accomplishments in sports and business, Aaron maintains that what he’s done is nothing special. He would rather be remembered as a great man than a great baseball player. For die-hard fans, the distinction might be a bit much, but for most us, it is clear that Aaron is