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The Big Entrepreneur? Shaq forms real estate firm

MIAMI -- Shaquille O'Neal is set to take on the Miami real
estate market.

The Miami Heat center and four-time NBA champion announced
Tuesday the formation of The O'Neal Group, a real estate firm
that's aligning with MDM Development in a $1 billion project to
build 1,100 residential units in a sprawling downtown Miami
complex.

The project -- Met Miami -- will include an 866-foot building,
touted as the tallest residential tower south of New York City.
Plans also call for office buildings, a five-star Marriott hotel
and a 24-Hour Fitness, which O'Neal is also partnered with.

"I'm trying to give people a better way of living," O'Neal
said.

O'Neal began building a real estate portfolio 14 years ago, as a
rookie with the Orlando Magic. That part of his portfolio alone is
worth an estimated $50 million.

Neither the development group nor O'Neal would divulge if the
All-Star is an actual investor in the Met Miami project, which is
being developed only a few blocks south of the Heat's waterfront
arena. Both sides, though, said that O'Neal has "significant"
financial interest in the project's success.

"Our primary focus is on landmark locations and real estate
offerings that positively impact the way people live," said
Christopher Handy, the executive vice president of The O'Neal
Group. "Mixed-use developments with integrated living and
intelligent designs ... are the prototypical examples of what we
hope to accomplish."

O'Neal will be involved in the sales and marketing arm of the
development operation, officials said.

O'Neal, whose Heat will begin defense of their NBA title last
month, has three years left on a $100 million, five-year pact he
signed with Miami shortly after being traded from the Los Angeles
Lakers in 2004.