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Volume 25 No. 196
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James, Vonn Among Founders Of New Natural Supplement Company

LeBron James, Lindsey Vonn, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Cindy Crawford have founded Ladder, a brand of all-natural nutrition supplements with clearly labeled ingredients. The powerhouse sports/pop culture foursome is formally launching the startup today, but they have already lent their marketing weight to a pre-launch social media campaign with the tagline “There is no magic pill.” Together, they have 65 million Instagram followers. The four co-Founders are equity investors along with unnamed capital partners. Ladder is designed to upend the supplement industry, which the founders say is poorly regulated and full of risks for elite athletes who must get tested for banned substances. Ladder’s products will contain no “propriety blends,” a term many manufacturers use to hide the precise ingredients. Vonn noted she is "terrified" of taking a tainted substance as part of her training regiment. Vonn said, "In almost everything you can buy over the counter, there are ingredients that aren’t listed, and a lot of them are contaminated and come up on the banned substance list on USADA or WADA.” She added, “Having a product that is reliable is huge. And for me and my legacy, it’s really important for me to be behind a company that’s is transparent in ways other companies are not." Schwarzenegger has had his own issues with supplements -- he ended a three-year endorsement deal with MusclePharm in '16 after some of its products were found to include a chemical banned in Europe that was not listed on the container. “There’s a lot of stuff out there, but we really don’t know exactly what is in there,” said Schwarzenegger. “I don’t want to get involved with something like that, and that’s why this one is really a fantastic way of going.”

BORN OUT OF FRIENDSHIP: Ladder has its roots in the friendship between James and Schwarzenegger, which turned to business after James shared his difficulties in sourcing high-quality supplements. They then invited into the fold Vonn and Crawford, who both had prior relationships with Schwarzenegger. Ladder’s advisory board includes health journalist Adam Bornstein, James’ personal trainer Mike Mancias, Top Chef judge Candace Kumai and UNC professor Abbie Smith-Ryan. Main Street Advisors Founder & CEO Paul Wachter, a financial consultant to both James and Schwarzenegger, advised on the formation of the company. Ladder will launch with four supplement powders, but has broader ambitions. It promotes itself as a “wellness platform” and lifestyle brand. It will sell its wares via a monthly subscription, which gets buyers “targeted, personalized guidance” with tailored products each month. Its website, weareladder.com, will include free-to-access fitness advice and a social networking component. “The big advantage we have is none of us needs money,” Schwarzenegger said. “We’re not doing this for the money. Success is the most important thing. If we succeed, the money will come anyway."