Jack Nicklaus started building his business and brand when his record-setting professional golf career began more than a half-century ago.

His company’s revenue have more than doubled during the past eight years with the help of New York investor Howard Milstein, a diversified billionaire who’s more golden touch than Golden Bear.

Milstein, 63, became co-chairman of Nicklaus Co. in 2007 when he bought 49 percent of the company for $145 million through the closely held New York Private Bank & Trust Corp., of which he’s president and chief executive officer.

Nicklaus Co. has thrived since, licensing Nicklaus’s name and likeness to products from lemonade and ice cream to clothing and golf balls. The record six-time Masters champion used the Nicklaus-brand ball to hit his ceremonial tee shot at the season’s first major championship Thursday morning at Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia.

“The financial results have been terrific,” Milstein said in an interview, saying revenue for the closely held company doubled without being specific. “There have been very few investments that anybody made in 2007 that have done as well as this one has done. On all scores, we’re very pleased.”

Nicklaus, 75, won a record 18 major championships, including his six green jackets at Augusta National, in becoming one of the most recognizable and charismatic figures in golf history. HisNicklaus Design company has built close to 400 golf courses in 39 countries around the world, with fees starting at about $2 million per property.

Family’s Interests

Nicklaus, looking to his family’s interests, wanted his business to thrive after he was no longer involved.

As he evaluated potential partners, the man nicknamed the “Golden Bear” said he discovered that most of those who were interested wanted to change the brand, capitalize on that change and “perhaps flip the company.”

It was his impetus for initiating the partnership with Milstein, a former co-owner of the National Hockey League’s New York Islanders and the scion of a family of New York City real estate investors. Milstein, Nicklaus said, was like-minded in how he approached the partnership, having already been a part of a successful family business.