David Beckham Discusses Business Strategy At The 27th Milken Institute Global Conference

Milken Institute chairman Michael Milken, Authentic Brands Group CEO Jamie Salter, and David Beckham discuss brand strategy at the 27th Milken Institute Global Conference.

Known for his prowess as a soccer star, since retiring David Beckham has executed a winning business strategy. Recently, Beckham discussed his business strategy at the 27th Milken Institute Global Conference in front of the world’s top business leaders.

During the height of his 21 year playing career, Beckham not only planned to beat opponents, but to win at business. In fact, he began planning to enter business ten years before retiring from soccer.

“I knew I wanted to go into business, build brands and invest into brands after I stopped playing,” Beckham said.

Joking that he has been the “face of a few brands,” Beckham built an impressive endorsement portfolio with brands like Adidas, Maserati, Sands and Diageo. However, as an endorser, Beckham was unique in that after he stopped playing his brand power grew. In fact, he earned more endorsements income in the year following his retirement than in any of his playing career!

Beckham’s brand staying power was thus attractive to a company built on licensing. Founded in 2010, Authentic Brands Group manages the brand licensing portfolios for the estates of Elvis Presley, Muhammad Ali, Marilyn Monroe and other iconic figures.

As Beckham was pondering his business pathway while his playing career soared, he met the Authentic Brands Group’s founder and CEO, Jamie Salter.

“David was thinking about partnering with a company and selling part of his brand,” Salter recalled. “He said he wasn’t willing to divest of the whole brand [at the time]. I told him, ‘David, we would love to do a deal with you, but we’d like to do a deal where we are 50-50 partners, sort of like a marriage. We don’t want it to be about just endorsements or merchandise; we want it to be about everything.'”

At the time, the deal wasn’t right for Beckham. Yet, Salter held strong to his wish for a 50-50 partnership. The two remained friendly and got to know each other on a more personal level. Over time, they each saw the others’ values and approach to business.

“I knew that I wanted to go into business with people that have the same values as I do,” Beckham explained. “That’s what it’s all about. It’s about building my business up to a certain point and then being able to partner with someone that can take it to a different level.”

Following his playing career, Beckham attained meaningful business momentum. Purchasing Inter Miami FC helped attain a life-long dream to own a soccer club. With Studio 99, he gains control over storytelling and branding through its global production company and content studio, which produced his highly revered self-titled Netflix biopic.

Beckham’s biggest business win, though, came in 2022 when after nearly a decade, he and Salter finally reached a co-ownership and management deal. For a reported $269 million, Authentic Brands Group secured a 55 percent stake in Beckham’s DB Ventures.

Despite the wait, Salter’s hardball negotiation strategy ultimately paid off. As part of the deal, Authentic Brands Group opened a European headquarters in London. The company’s business has also tripled “because of the Beckham team,” according to Salter. Reports indicate that Beckham’s endorsements generated $92.2 million in 2023.

For Beckham, business was a natural transition from sport. He believes that athletes are uniquely primed for business success.

“In all honesty, business is very much like sport,” Beckham said. “You have to be dedicated. You have to have courage to go into different investments and different deals and make big decisions. And you have to work hard.”

Likewise, Salter advises traditional business owners that working with athletes requires them to bring their A-game.

“When it comes to a living legend like David, you have to be incredibly careful because you’re partnering up with someone who has to go to work the next day,” Salter said. “When you’re doing that, it’s like a marriage. You need to understand what their goals are in life and where they’re going, not only with their brand but as a person. You’re writing this big check and then you wake up the next morning and hope they are going to work.”

Alicia Jessop

Founder of Ruling Sports


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