With $31 million in career earnings, three times that — maybe more — in career endorsement earnings, plus monies from a variety of smart business dealings (to name just one, Agassi was a member of the group that bought, refurbished, and, within a year, resold Vegas’s famed Golden Nugget casino for a reported $150 million profit), a man could do a lot for himself. But Agassi has no plans to just sit on his windfall. In addition to the charity work, he and his wife, tennis champ Stefanie Graf (no one who knows her calls her Steffi) are actively involved in a medley of businesses — resorts, restaurants, fitness clubs, furniture design, fragrances. (Sure, why not?) These are not investments that have been made passively. As with the foundation and Agassi Prep, Agassi doesn’t just drop his money off in a bag somewhere and head for the golf course. “Everything we’re doing in business now is something that grabs me,” he says. “That’s why I’m involved. I’ve said no to a thousand things over the years. For me, saying yes isn’t easy, because once I do, I know what that means for me. That means really caring about it in a significant way.”
His business partners agree. They say the Agassi you saw on the court in his most formidable years — the guy who carefully measured his opponents, broke down their strategy, and then methodically took them apart with his own grinding game — is the same guy you end up doing business with. Except he hits stuff far less frequently. “When Andre commits to something, he really gets involved,” says his friend and business partner Michael Mina, a celebrated chef. He and Agassi own Seablue and Nobhill in Vegas’s MGM Grand, as well as six other restaurants and five more that are under construction in places everywhere from Detroit to Mexico City. “Andre gets really interested in the kind of minute details that most other people of his caliber don’t care about.”
To evidence how Agassi’s thirst for details extends even outside the conference room, Mina recounts the time he personally taught Agassi how to make a versatile base for soups. “He and Stefanie eat a lot of vegetable soups,” Mina says, proving that people do call her Stefanie. “So as I taught him the base, he wanted to know, every step of the way, the exact — exact — details. Not just the measurements of the recipe but everything down to exactly how many minutes you had to blend the soup.”
So that’s funny. And, sure, the ways Agassi does business and learns to make soup do parallel the way he played tennis — more or less. But soup, and especially business, is not a game; tennis is. Tennis is fun. It’s a winner down the line. A service break. Game. Set. Match. Championship. And the crowd goes wild! Business is boring. Can you imagine Rafael Nadal grunting over the design of a settee?
Well, imagine this: One of Agassi’s many business partners, Mike Kreiss, president of Kreiss, a San Diego–based high-end furniture maker, swears he’s seen Agassi do something similar. “Andre is very animated when he likes something,” says Kreiss, who has worked with Agassi and Graf to develop AGK, the Agassi Graf Collection by Kreiss. “When we decide on something, he’s very gung ho. He’ll put his fist up in the air and say, ‘Come on!’ He’s an irresistible force.”