The fast-casual pizza chain has turned into a productive food business after National Basketball Association superstar LeBron James, his business partner Maverick Carter, and financial advisor Paul Wachter of Main Street Advisor, invested less than $1 million in a pizza chain startup called Blaze Pizza in 2012. The chain is now valued at $35 million, according to a report.

ESPN reported that Brentwood Associates, the private equity firm, has acquired an undisclosed percentage of the ownership sold by Blaze Pizza.

James and his partners now possess approximately 10 percent.

In 2014, the Cleveland Cavaliers forward netted a $30 million profit when Apple acquired the headphones company Beats by Dre for $3 billion. Later in 2015, James entered a marketing deal with the pizza franchise as a brand ambassador.

"LeBron and I have always been about finding companies that we truly believe in and putting real money into them," Carter told ESPN about looking for the next big thing. "We're not talking putting in $15,000 or $20,000.

It's real money plus the expertise, understanding and knowledge that we bring, as well as bringing LeBron's name and likeness to the product."

James departed McDonald's for Blaze Pizza

In February 2015, James and Carter ceased a $14 million partnership contract with McDonald's. James admitted that he ate McDonald's every day and realized that he did not take care of his body during his early career in the NBA.

In 2012, James began to invest in Blaze Pizza, but he was not able to endorse its product when he still had a deal with McDonald's at the time.

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LeBron James

Thanks to the marketing knowledge of James, who has 91 million followers on social media sites (Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram), the pizza business has grown into becoming a market leader. Blaze Pizza is eager to promote the star through marketing campaigns across advertising, social media, and in-store appearances.

In addition to James as an investor, the franchise has investors, including former California first lady Maria Shriver, her son Patrick Schwarzenegger, and movie producer John Davis.

Blaze Pizza: a fast-growing company in North America

Blaze Pizza, which was launched in 2011 by Elise and Rick Wetzel, the co-founder of Wetzel's Pretzels, has been recognized as one of the fastest-growing companies in North America by research and consulting firm Technomic. Forbes posted the company's sales growth, climbing from $6 million in 2013 to $185 million in 2016.

Blaze Pizza has opened 200 stores across the United States. The company aims to open 1,000 stores in hopes of reaching $285 million in sales this year and $1 billion by 2022.

The company faces fierce competition from pizza brands including Domino's, Pizza Hut, and Papa John's. Blaze Pizza's fast-casual pizza rivals also contain MOD Pizza, Pieology, and Pie Five. Harris Poll cited that Blaze listed as one of the best pizza chain brands in the United States.

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