Is Felix Baumgartner about to become the richest space jumper alive? Can he make money if there's no real space jumping industry?
—Skywatcher, Tennessee, via Twitter
Yes, currently, Fearless Felix is currently the only person who has fallen at Mach 1.24 and watched the Earth creep up on his face at the same time. He may not have a whole industry to base a career on, but canny managers tell me that the guy can start making money. Like, right now.
How much? Well, move over, Michael Jordan.
Let's start with the small stuff.
A record-breaking athlete with good charisma can make a couple hundred thousand dollars every time he shows up somewhere to talk. Now, consider the fact that there are plenty of record-breaking athletes, but only one guy who fell to Earth at Mach 1.24, and that price just might, um, skyrocket.
"I am not gonna see another guy do this while I am alive," says Malki Kawa, who represents three Ultimate Fighting champions, including Jon "Bones" Jones, Benson Henderson and Carlos Condit. "This really is a once in a lifetime thing."
In fact, Baumgartner has the chance to capitalize in ways that even the Jordans and Ryan Lochtes can't. Jordan's sneaker line accounts for the bulk of basketball footwear sold right now, Kawa says. However, Baumgartner's achievement speaks not only of physical prowess, but also milestones in science and technology.
Which brings us to our next income stream: Endorsements.
If Baumgartner is smart, he will compartmentalize his feat into different traits, each of which could make him millions: speed (say, a tech company), endurance (a deodorant endorsement?), adventure (his own TV show), curiosity, whatever. With his unique story—somewhere between Chuck Yeager, Neil Armstrong, David Blaine and Cal Ripken—Baumgartner's possible income streams could be twice as long as any basketball hero.
"In the end he can easily get into the seven figures" just doing that, Kawa tells me.
Of course I haven't gotten into the inevitable book or movie deal yet. Kawa says he'd start the bidding "in the seven figures."
And all of this could happen for Baumgartner without him ever jumping off of anything again.