By Steve Gelsi
Former heavyweight champion Mike Tyson became known as Iron Mike during his pro boxing years, but nowadays the sports figure and celebrity is known as the ganja god of cannabis.
As the namesake behind cannabis company Tyson 2.0, Tyson’s direct input into the product and its positioning helps set it apart from other celebrity brands, he said.
“This is what I do — I want to carry this company on my back,” Tyson told MarketWatch. “This is a great moment in my life – being involved in cannabis.…It’s just who I am.”
As chief brand officer and co-founder of the company, Tyson said Tyson 2.0 remains more of a focus for him than other business ventures under his name. Some of those include Mike Tyson’s Fight Nights mixed martial arts events, as well as various TV appearances.
Tyson 2.0 currently employs 25 people and aims to generate $100 million in revenue in 2023.
“This is my baby at this moment,” Tyson said. “It’s my objective to make it big. It’s in 24 states and hopefully the whole country. My one objective is to make cannabis a super food.”
Chad Bronstein, the co-founder, president and chairman of Tyson 2.0 who refers to Tyson as the ganja god of cannabis, said the company works with multi-state operator Columbia Care Inc. /zigman2/quotes/212177085/composite CCHWF -5.97% to produce premium retail cannabis products.
“You see celebrity brands and they end up failing because the celebrity doesn’t realize the level of input and work it needs,” Bronstein said. “Mike travels with us and does everything and treats us like equals.”
Tyson has input into the day-to-day operations of the company.
“He’s part of the process,” Bronstein said. “He goes out to the market. He knows what consumers are wanting…If they smoke Tyson 2.0 they’re getting good, premium products.”
The company’s offerings include one of the more unusual cannabis edibles ever created called Mike Bites. They’re made in the shape of an ear with a bite taken out of it. It’s a reference to Tyson biting off a piece of ear from rival champ Evander Holyfield in a widely-covered 1997 fight. Tyson paid a $3 million fine for it.
One of the company’s top-selling premium cannabis product is The Toad, derived from popular strains Chemdawg OG and Girl Scout Cookies and inspired by the practice of licking some breeds of toad to trigger hallucinations.
After closing a $9 million round of seed financing from JW Asset Management, K2, Ambria Capital, Tress Capital, and Patrick Carroll in July, Tyson 2.0 has been shopping for intellectual property to add to its distribution and manufacturing network.
In March, Tyson 2.0’s paid an undisclosed sum to acquire Ric Flair Drip Inc., the business umbrella for professional wrestler Ric Flair.
“Ric travels and likes to talk to his fans — he’s relatable,” Bronstein said. “He’s an iconic marketer. In marijuana, it’s not just about being a name, it’s more about who consumers will buy because that person is authentic.”
Tyson and Bronstein declined to comment on Tyson’s past cannabis business ventures including a resort called Tyson Ranch. Tyson 2.0 launched in late 2021 as a reboot of Tyson’s earlier efforts in the space.
Looking ahead, Tyson said he’s planning to avoid owning any cannabis lounges because the live venue business remains more risky than Tyson’s 2.0’s core practice of selling branded consumer products. Tyson 2.0 would consider a licensing deal to put its name on a night club or consumption lounge for cannabis, but that’s not in the works at the moment, Bronstein said.
Tyson’s career in cannabis comes after a life of extreme highs and lows. In 1986, Tyson became the youngest heavyweight champ ever at age 20. By the mid-1990s, he had served three years in prison on a rape charge conviction.
Other milestones include playing himself in the 2009 movie “The Hangover.” In 2013, he toured the country performing his one-man play, “Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth.”
Tyson takes his place among a bevy of celebrity brands including Highsman from ex-NFL player Ricky Williams, Houseplant from actor and screenwriter Seth Rogen, Willie’s Reserve from singer Willie Nelson, Leafs by Snoop from rapper Snoop Dog, Monogram from rapper Jay-Z, Martha Stewart CBD and Cookies from rapper Berner.
Comedian Tommy Chong, and Grateful dead guitarist Gerry Garcia also have cannabis brands, as well as legendary reggae singer/songwriter Bob Marley.
The AdvisorShares Pure US Cannabis ETF /zigman2/quotes/220307682/composite MSOS +1.18% has fallen 53% in the year to date, while the S&P 500 /zigman2/quotes/210599714/realtime SPX +3.06% has declined 11%.