What does a 31-year-old, 7-foot 6-inch guy in China do for an encore after a nine-year NBA career that made him his country's most famous athlete? Become a tech investor, of course.
Yao Ming, the former Houston Rockets center who has reportedly amassed a $150 million-plus fortune in salary and endorsement deals, is reinventing himself in China as a venture capitalist, philanthropist, vintner, and student. But thus far, his second act is proving more challenging -- and far less lucrative -- than his sports career.
He's pumped his own money into various businesses, including nearly $6 million into Top100.cn, an ad-supported digital-music partnership between Beijing-based Orca Digital and Google (GOOG, Fortune 500). The site for Chinese consumers has struggled to compete with pirated online music services, and in 2010 traffic fell dramatically when Google rerouted China traffic to its Hong Kong site over censorship concerns. Still, Orca CEO Gary Chen says that Yao has been supportive: He stopped by Top100.cn's offices last summer, met with management about the company's strategy, and even offered to take individual photos with its 35 employees.
此外，姚明还收购了CBA球队上海大鲨鱼篮球俱乐部（Shanghai Sharks），这里正是姚明成长起来的地方。很显然，这次投资完全是出于他对老东家的感情：2009年姚明收购上海队时，俱乐部因为资金短缺一度面临无法参加新赛季的窘境。据预测，大鲨鱼俱乐部每年的运营成本超过310万美元。《姚明传》（Operation Yao Ming）的作者布鲁克•拉尔默称：“我想他认为自己有义务挺身而出，拯救这家俱乐部。”拉尔默认为，大鲨鱼俱乐部将使姚明重新回归CBA联赛，并影响中国篮球的发展之路。他表示：“我认为此举更大的好处是将NBA标准带给中国篮球。”
He's also purchased the Shanghai Sharks, the Chinese Basketball Association squad where he spent his formative years. The move is clearly a labor of love: When Yao bought the team in 2009, it was in danger of failing to start the new season because it lacked the financial resources; by some estimates, the annual cost of running the Sharks is more than $3.1 million. "I think he felt an obligation in swooping in and trying to save the club," says Brook Larmer, author of the biography Operation Yao Ming. Larmer sees the Sharks as a way for Yao to get back into the CBA and influence the way basketball is developed in China. "I think it's more about bringing NBA standards to Chinese basketball," Larmer says.
虽然姚明拒绝对他的技术或体育投资过多评论，不过在接受《财富》杂志（Fortune）采访时，他却同意谈论姚家族葡萄酒公司（Yao Family Wines）。公司位于美国加州纳帕谷，主要从附近葡萄园收购葡萄。酒庄于去年11月成立，出产的首瓶葡萄酒是纳帕谷赤霞珠干红葡萄酒（Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon），每支定价1,775元，约合170美元。目前，姚明正在计划扩张：公司打算在明年购买属于自己的土地。该葡萄酒已在中国香港上市，今年秋天将登陆美国市场。姚明是公司大老板，但他并未透露具体投资金额。有专家表示，新开一家酒庄的前期资本投资通常在200-500万美元左右。
While Yao declined to comment extensively on his tech or sports investments, he did agree to talk with Fortune about Yao Family Wines, a winery in California's Napa Valley that sources grapes from nearby vineyards. The winery was founded in November, and its first bottle was a Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon priced at 1,775 yuan, or $170. Yao is already planning an expansion: The company aims to buy its own land in the coming years. The wines are now available in Hong Kong, and they should hit U.S. shelves this fall. Yao is the principal owner, and although he would not disclose how much he has invested, experts say a new winery usually requires $2 million to $5 million in capital upfront.
Yao says he first learned to appreciate wine from watching ex-teammate Dikembe Mutombo swirl and sniff his wineglass, often during steak dinners, sparking a curiosity in him to learn more. "When you drink a glass of wine, you sit at home, listen to some music, or read a book," he says. "It really makes me feel comfortable and peaceful." With a bustling post-basketball empire, Yao may be happy to have one business in his portfolio that gives him comfort and peace.