Norman's toys is a 61-foot sportfishing boat that hauls, to use a nautical
term, some serious ass. One morning a few years ago, Norman and some pals were
running west-southwest out of the Turks and Caicos Islands, heading for an
atoll a hundred or so miles north of Cuba. Shortly after sunrise, Captain
Norman noticed something on his radar.
"There's a blip behind us," he recalled recently, reclining in an
upholstered chair in the clubhouse at Medalist, an exclusive golf club he
developed in Hobe Sound, Fla., about five miles from his Jupiter Island home.
"Now, I'm doing 30 knots, and this thing's catching up to us."
Norman's boat (Medallist, with two l's) had drawn the attention of the U.S.
Coast Guard. "Since we were going at a high rate of speed down toward
Cuba," says Norman, "they thought maybe there was something funny going
Norman was instructed to bring his boat to a stop. Once the cutter arrived, an
interrogation ensued over the radio. "They wanted to know, 'Who are you?
Who's the owner of the vessel? What's the I.D. number?'" says Norman, who
patiently answered all questions.
At one point, he recalls, a woman came on and said, " Greg Norman, huh?
You're the wine guy."
"And I went, 'Yesssss!'"
For most ex-jocks, guys signing memorabilia at card shows or shaking hands at
casinos, the idea of losing their identity as a "former great" would be
a catastrophe. For Norman, it is reason to celebrate. While the Shark may be
best remembered for the misfortunes that befell him on Sundays at major
tournaments (he's the only player to lose each of golf's four majors in a
playoff), he has more than his share of victories. His 20 PGA Tour wins and 68
wins worldwide include the British Open in 1986 and '93. Arguably the greatest
player after Jack and before Tiger, Norman now lords over a business empire so
vast--reports put his personal net worth at $200 million--that its annual
revenue dwarfs the prize money he made in three decades as a golfer.
To make the leap
from athlete to mogul, says Norman, "you need to cross over a kind of
threshold--from being one person to being another person." That is, the
ruggedly handsome golfer has given way to the ruggedly handsome entrepreneur.
The Greg Norman Collection, which markets sportswear, golf apparel and
accessories bearing Norman's distinctive, multicolored shark logo, enjoyed 14
straight quarters of double-digit growth from 2002 through 2005 and is still
"trucking along very nicely," he says. His Greg Norman Golf Course
Design has 102 layouts, completed and in development, on five continents. While
allowing that his company wanted to cash in on Norman's name, Ed Weinlein of
Crescent Resources, for whom the Shark has designed four courses, says, "We
found out quickly he had a great, great eye for the land."
In the mid-'90s,
with his course-design business thriving, Norman began casting sidelong glances
at the developers who could afford his seven-figure fee. He thought, I'm
working for developers. Maybe I should be a developer. He partnered with
Macquarie Bank of Australia, and created Medallist Development, described on
shark.com as "an international developer of award-winning, master-planned
communities." So far, Medallist has constructed $3 billion worth of
high-end homes whose occupants, Norman hopes, are partial to wines with a shark
on the bottle. Greg Norman Estates, established in 1998, produces wine in
Australia and, more recently, California, and sells some 240,000 cases a
"He's got a
great palate," says Ron Schrieve, a former opera singer who is Norman's
winemaker in California. "It's been kind of neat to sit and break bread
with him, kick around ideas about wine. He's a hell of a good guy, but, you
know, when he looks at you with those shark eyes--his focus is like a laser.
This is a guy with a vision."
He's always had
an eye for the future too. In the '80s, "when I was playing probably my
best golf," says Norman, "I observed which way Arnold went and which
way Jack went." Though Palmer pioneered modern sports marketing, parlaying
his fame into numerous endorsements, Norman felt Arnie diluted his
"brand" by pitching everything from snow tires to motor oil. Nicklaus
was more selective and more entrepreneurial, and that approach appealed to the
While Norman is
not above plugging products--his deals with Land Rover and Qantas Airlines
spring to mind--he is slow to say yes and unwilling to endorse products that
aren't a comfortable fit with his brand. "I enjoy golf course design, I
enjoy developments, I enjoy the clothing and the wines," declares Norman,
who turned 51 in February. "All the relationships I've been involved with
concern things that I'm passionate about. I won't do a fake
Apparently not. A
fortnight before SI's interview with him, Norman announced that he and his wife
of 25 years, Laura, would divorce. (They have a daughter, Morgan-Leigh, 23, and
a son, Gregory, 20.) "We both want to do it amicably," he told the
Sydney Morning Herald. "We've had 27 years together and, absolutely, we
will remain friends."
According to a
story in the Herald Sun, another Australian daily, Laura "is a president,
vice president or director of 20 separate companies that control the bulk of
Norman's wealth." If she contests the divorce, she likely would be entitled
to half of her husband's assets under Florida law. Little wonder, then, that
Norman wants to keep things amicable.
The seed of
Norman's Croesus-like net worth was planted in 1993, when he arrived at a
crossroads in his career. His contract to be managed by IMG was about to
expire. He still had some competitive years left at 38, but his gaze, as usual,
was directed toward the horizon. "I didn't want to be dependent on golf to
make my living for the rest of my life," he recalls. It was around this
time he decided, according to Bart Collins, president of his holding company
Great White Shark Enterprises, that "instead of building deals around
himself, he would rather build businesses around himself."
Striking out on
his own, Norman sat down to renegotiate his deal with Reebok, which puts out
the Greg Norman Collection. "Why are we locking ourselves into a three- to
five-year contract?" he recalls asking Paul Fireman, then the company's
CEO. "You've spent millions of dollars on advertising, promotion,
establishing the brand. Why don't you and I do a lifetime deal?"