Industry News | October 9, 2017 | By Danny Klein | QSR Exclusive Brief

NBA Icon Kevin Durant Joins the Fast Casual Pizza Game

Pieology Pizzeria
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The fast casual pizza wars isn’t turning into another saga of the NBA Finals. At least that’s the take from superstar Kevin Durant, whose Durant Co. recently told ESPN it was purchasing a stake in Pieology.

The Golden State Warriors’ forward joins LeBron James, a four-time MVP from the Cleveland Cavaliers, in the industry. James, who lost to Durant and the Warriors in the Finals this past year—a series Durant was named MVP—has an ownership and franchise stake in Blaze Fast-Fire’d Pizza. He signed an endorsement deal with the brand in October 2015 and has been an investor since 2012. ESPN reported that sources said James put less than $1 million into the franchise in 2012 and his piece is now at least $35 million. Blaze announced in March that it has a $1 billion sales target for 2022.

While it’s easy to contrast the deals, Durant told ESPN senior writer Darren Rovell that James’ move had little to do with his.

“This isn't about me versus LeBron," Durant said in the story. "I think we do have different interests and we handle things differently, but the respect for each other is there. I do think we, as athletes, have realized the value of our stock these days, of the control that we have over what makes us valuable, including our social media accounts."

Durant’s company is owned with his manager and business partner Rich Kleiman, who will also own a stake in Blaze. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Durant said the decision was influenced by his experience eating at Pieology, which has more than 140 franchise locations. “I went to a one of them and saw how quickly they did it and was really impressed with the quality," Durant told ESPN.

Pieology CEO Carl Chang said to Rovell that while “still at the early stage of our business,” the brand understood what “KD can bring to us as a partner and investor and through the brand equity he adds, especially with his social following.” Durant has more than 17 million followers on Twitter.

The Durant Co. has invested between $50,000 and $2 million into more than 30 companies, ESPN added.

On October 3, Pieology announced its newest addition to the company portfolio, Pieology Pizzeria R&D. Located in Aliso Viejo, California, the restaurant will serve as the brand’s epicenter for research and development for Pieology restaurants across the country. The restaurant concept will aid the brand in its pursuit to stay on the cutting edge of product innovation and consumer preferences within the fast-casual pizza market, Pieology said.