Derrick Rose gets into pizza business

Updated: September 5, 2012, 10:10 PM ET
By Darren Rovell | ESPN.com

Derrick Rose is back to dishing it out again. Except this time, he's giving an assist to a well-known, Chicago-based pizza establishment.

Deep dish pizza company Giordano's will announce on Thursday that the Chicago Bulls point guard has become an equity partner in the restaurant franchise.

"The pizza business is a cash flow machine; we just have to make it grow," said Richard Levy, managing partner of Victory Park Capital Advisors, which bought the stalwart Chicago brand last year.

So Giordano's, which is looking to branch out from the Chicagoland area, will lean on Rose to give it a boost as it moves outside of its comfort base.

The brand, famous for its two layers of dough surrounding its stuffed pie, has 43 restaurants, only three of which are outside the state of Illinois.

In the process of considering how to grow the company beyond its traditional roots, Levy said he befriended former Bulls guard B.J. Armstrong, who is Rose's agent, and found out that Rose was a fan of Giordano's.

Levy said Rose paid for his undisclosed piece of the pie, which will entitle him to the share of the profits as the company seeks to branch out, first to the Midwest and in "Big Ten" college cities and eventually to other states notably California and Texas, the two top states where Giordano's says it ships the most frozen pizzas to.

As a private company, Giordano's doesn't disclose revenue, but the company's CEO and president Yorgo Koutsogiorgas said the brand has been growing at 5 to 9 percent a year, without price increases. He said the company will make roughly 13.4 million pizza pies this year.

Koutsogiorgas said the company will use Rose by putting his image on a special takeout box and will drive customers to his favorite pie, a thin crust version with cheese, sausage and red peppers.

Giordano's will not be allowed to use official Bulls trademarks in any of it's advertising or promotional material involving Rose. The Bulls have sold its official pizza designation to supermarket brand DiGiorno.

Giordano's competes with other deep dish pizza brands such as Lou Malnati's, Gino's East and Pizzeria Uno.

It has been a big week for athletes and pizza. Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers was named national spokesman for Pizza Hut on Tuesday.

Darren Rovell | email

ESPN.com Sports Business reporter