How Magic Johnson’s Atlanta business footprint is growing

The new American Express Centurion Lounge at Hartsfield-Jackson is one of a few new or expanded business ventures for the basketball Hall of Famer and mogul

Magic Johnson made his name on the basketball court with a Hall of Fame career with the NBA’s Los Angeles Lakers. But in his post-playing days, he’s forged a business empire that’s made him a billionaire, and many people might not know that Atlanta is a central part of that portfolio.

Last week, Johnson celebrated the opening of the American Express Centurion Lounge at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, where one of his companies operates dining services.

SodexoMagic, an 18-year-old joint venture between food services giant Sodexo and Johnson, is a major player in dining at the world’s busiest airport.

Two of SodexoMagic’s executives are based in Atlanta and overall it has about 1,000 local employees, 900 of which staff airline lounges. Along with the Centurion Lounge, the company recently took over dining services for the American Airlines Admirals Club in Concourse T.

SodexoMagic also has longstanding relationships with Delta Air Lines and the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta. The company first entered the city in 2011, when it got a contract to run the food services for Delta’s Sky Clubs at Hartsfield-Jackson. It operates most of the airline’s clubs in Atlanta, except in Concourses E and F. The company also operates the dining services for Delta’s headquarters and the Atlanta Fed.

The 26,000-square-foot Centurion Lounge in Atlanta — the largest in the world — is just one of a handful of new or expanded business ventures that Johnson has recently set up in the city.

“I like doing business in Atlanta,” Johnson told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. His presence in the city goes back decades, but has ramped up in the past few months.

“[Mayor Andre Dickens is] looking for people to come and invest in Atlanta and I’m going to be one of those people,” he said.

In October, Forbes Magazine reported that Johnson had officially become a billionaire, joining Tiger Woods, Michael Jordan and LeBron James as just the fourth athlete to reach the milestone. His largest business venture is insurance firm EquiTrust.

That same month, Johnson announced he was part of a new ownership group of the storied Atlanta Life Insurance Company, one of the city’s landmark Black-owned businesses. At the time, he said EquiTrust, which has more than $26 billion in assets, was rolling Atlanta Life into its portfolio.

The majority of his business footprint in the city is through SodexoMagic.

Magic Johnson (center) with employees at the American Express Centurion Lounge on Wednesday, February 14, 2024, at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.

Credit: Handout

icon to expand image

Credit: Handout

Last year, SodexoMagic opened a full kitchen operation about five minutes south of the airport to provide hot, fresh food for their growing footprint. It tapped local acclaimed chef Deborah VanTrece, whose restaurants include La Panarda and Oreatha’s at the Point and the Michelin-recommended Twisted Soul Cookhouse & Pours, to design the menu for the Centurion Lounge.

Johnson has long had a presence in Atlanta. In 1996, Johnson invested $8 million to build a 12-screen movie theater at Greenbriar Mall. He eventually sold it to new owners, though it kept his name. The theater closed in 2009.

Greenbriar Mall visitors head across the parking lot to their cars after shopping. During recent years this area linchpin has suffered with shootings and smash-and-grabs as well as last month's closing of Magic Johnson's Theater.

Credit: Bita Honarvar

icon to expand image

Credit: Bita Honarvar

Johnson, who played 13 seasons with the Lakers, made about $40 million in salary during his career, according to data from Sports Reference. Johnson over the years has taken stakes in pro sports franchises, including the Washington Commanders, the Los Angeles Sparks of the WNBA and the Los Angeles Dodgers.

He’s also owned numerous restaurants and Starbucks cafés, which he sold back to the Seattle-based coffee giant years ago.

Many of his former Starbucks and Burger King locations were based in the city and he has invested millions in multiple Midtown developments near Georgia Tech and the Four Seasons.

“I’ve made some incredible investments in Atlanta and I’m just happy that I can be proud and feel good when I come to the city knowing that we’ve touched the community, hired great people, but also left a legacy,” Johnson said.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Report for America are partnering to add more journalists to cover topics important to our community. Please help us fund this important work at