Success on the hard court is short-lived; only a few NBA players do well in business after retirement. Vinnie Johnson is one of those success stories. After 13 years of hardcourt battles, he hung up his jersey with $5 million in earnings.
The realization of his dreams did not come easy, and ordinary men would have given up with humps along the way, but not Vinnie Johnson. His tenacity on the court rubbed onto his entrepreneurial spirit and built Vinnie Johnson Piston Group from the ground up.
Know more of the colorful story of a man who built a business empire after his NBA career.
Who is Vinnie Johnson?
Vinnie Johnson was the seventh pick by the Seattle Supersonics in the NBA’s rookie draft in 1979. He played for three NBA teams (Seattle Supersonics, Detroit Pistons, and San Antonio Spurs) during his 13-year stint. Vinnie is a two-peat NBA champion donning the Detroit Pistons jersey in 1989 and 1990.
Vinnie played his final season with the San Antonio Spurs in 1992. His career average is 12 ppg, 3.2 RPG, 3.3 APG, and 0.9 SPG.
He got his nickname “the Microwave” from Boston Celtics point guard Danny Ainge for his ability to string points quickly and frequently when he’s in the game. Vinnie is the Pistons’ sixth man pinch-hitting for guards Isiah Thomas or Joe Dumars.
Vinnie hit a 14-foot buzzer-beater to beat the Portland Trailblazers 92-90 in the fifth game of the NBA Finals on June 14, 1990.
Before Vinnie’s NBA debut, he was a prolific college basketball player at Baylor University. He was a two-time member of the All-America team and holds the school’s record for most points per game average at 24.1.
Johnson’s 50 points is the highest scored by a Baylor player in a game against Texas Christian University in 1979.
How Vinnie Johnson Started His Business Empire
Vinnie Johnson earned about $5 million while playing ball in the NBA, which is paltry compared to the high-salaried players today. However, his earnings increased excessively during retirement. According to sources, Vinnie Johnson’s net worth is $400 million making him the fifth richest NBA player in 2022, alongside Shaquille O’Neil.
After retirement, he tried his hand at business; success took work. Johnson ventured into construction with some friends but folded up after their first project. Afterward, Johnson collaborated with his former teammate Bill Laimbeer in a company producing packaging supplies for automobile parts. The company struggled to stay afloat and needed to do better also.
You can’t keep a good man down. Johnson’s tenacity on the court rubbed onto his entrepreneurial spirit. He came across a newspaper item where the Vice President of General Motors (GM), Harold Kutner, will support businesses operating in Detroit that will employ residents.
Johnson called GM’s Kutner. Two months later, Kutner paid a visit to check out Johnson’s manufacturing facility. Kutner heard Johnson’s story and told him to switch to manufacturing auto supplies, and he’ll provide him with some opportunities. Johnson launched the Piston Group within a few months and had a contract with GM.
The Piston Group was established in 1995, and investments poured in in 1996, evolving from packing to a manufacturer of auto supplies.
Johnson has the knack of a good businessman but needs to gain experience in manufacturing auto supplies. Kutner recognized this weakness and sent a consultant to help Johnson. Bill Diehl assisted Johnson in learning the ropes in the financial and operational side of auto supplies manufacturing. Johnson had the drive and the entrepreneurial personality to build the company from the ground up.
From a $1 million company in 1996, the Piston Group grew, earning about $2.9 million in annual revenues in 2020. The Piston Group’s clients are Toyota, Honda, Nissan, and other big automakers in Detroit.
Some players make big bucks playing on the court, and Vinnie Johnson made his off the court. He looked beyond the dollar sign and wanted meaningful changes. Vinnie had in mind the people of Detroit; he wanted to provide jobs, financial security, and opportunity, which launched the Piston Group.
His dream was granted and more. The Piston Group is acknowledged as one of the largest vehicle parts manufacturers in the United States and is renowned worldwide.
What Companies Does Vinnie Johnson Own?
The Piston Group became so big that operations spilled over Illinois, Kentucky, Ohio, Missouri, and Michigan.
Piston Automotive, Irvin Products, Detroit Thermal Systems, and AIREA are affiliates that run under the corporate umbrella of the Piston Group. Each company is handled by different management teams operating independently and making business calls.
With Vinnie Johnson at the helm, there’s no other way the company is headed but up for years to come. So, how many business does Vinnie Johnson own and what are some of his businesses?
Piston Automotive assembles car electrification, cooling system, exterior, interior, and chassis. The company was awarded a contract for General Motors’ Colorado and Canyon trucks.
The company is in tune with the times providing excellent process engineering and technical expertise to support the new breed of electric vehicles and batteries. Piston Automotive built a reputation for developing interior and exterior systems that meet customers’ expectations of high-quality standards. Each chassis system is designed to deliver responsive cornering control and braking of vehicles: cars, SUVs, crossovers, and trucks. Superb climate control and cooling mechanisms are assembled using cutting-edge technology.
From its home at Redford, Michigan, Piston Automotive branched out to Detroit, Michigan; Belvidere, Illinois; Georgetown and Louisville, Kentucky; Marion and Toledo, Ohio; and Kansas City and Wentzville, Missouri.
Irvin Automotive Products
In 2016, the Piston Group expanded its reach by acquiring Irvin Automotive Products, owned by Takata, at an undisclosed amount. The company manufactures interior trimmings and seat materials with 8,300 employees in 15 locations in the U.S. and Mexico.
Irvin generates $500 million in annual sales from its customers, such as Delta and Southwest Airlines, Nissan, Black Diamond, and Golden technologies.
The acquisition completes the loop of the Piston Group in the automotive industry from ideation to completion and in other industries as well.
Johnson maintained Irvin’s management team with Joseph Finn as president. The company functions as a separate organization under the Piston Group.
Not all investments will turn into great results, as happened to Piston Group’s venture into AIREA Inc. The company closed shop effective October 6, 2021, with no reason given for the decision.
AIREA has been a furniture manufacturer under the Piston group since 2002.
Detroit Thermal System
The Piston Group, in partnership with Valeo, ventured to build a new company called Detroit Thermal System (DTS) in 2012. DTS bought Automotive Components Holdings (ACH) to start working in the climate control business. ACH handed over the transactions of Ford to DTS.
DTS moved to a new location to expand production and meet the customers’ changing demands. The facility has highly skilled personnel and cutting-edge equipment to fabricate control components for vehicles, heating, ventilation, and HVAC systems.
Valeo’s expertise in HVAC, A/C, and powertrain cooling systems augment the technical skills of DTS’s workforce.
3 Other Investments of Vinnie Johnson
For many players achieving a two-peat NBA championship is the pinnacle of success; for Vinnie Johnson, it was just the start. After retiring, he ventured into business, and Johnson was more successful off the court than on it. Johnson put up the Piston Group, which is continuously growing.
Vinnie Johnson is a wise entrepreneur; his umbrella company Piston Group spreads his businesses on many baskets.
1. Marion Industries
In 2019, Piston Automotive acquired Marion Industries, the best producer of Honda’s brake modules. The acquisition put Honda on the company’s list of customers and exploited process design and product assembly.
2. A. Lava & Son
In 2021, Irvin Automotive Products, a subsidiary of the Piston group, bought A. Lava & Son. A. Lava & Son supplies clothing, mattress, and furniture. The investment diversified Johnson’s business portfolio outside of the automotive industry.
3. Continental Teves Inc.
Piston Group partnered with Continental Teves Inc. to assemble brake corner modules for General Motors vehicles. The venture requires Piston Modules to supply 150,000 rear corner modules in the first year.
Wrapping Things Up: How Many Businesses Does Vinnie Johnson Own?
Vinnie Johnson was a good basketball player earning two NBA championships and was the sixth man of the Detroit Pistons squad. His success on the court is small compared to when Johnson was off it.
His $5 million earnings from playing 13 years in the NBA grew exponentially by creating the Vinnie Jonson Piston Group.
There were humps along the way, but Vinnie Johnson rose to the occasion and made him one of the wealthiest NBA players, with a net worth of $400 million.
We hope you enjoyed this post! If you did, be sure to check out our other basketball FAQ articles here.
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