Fashion and music are some of the most popular ways celebrities turn their interests or hobbies into successful businesses, giving us regular folk something to think about when considering launching our own businesses.
WalletPop recently wrote about the celebrities with the worst money problems, and it turns out that you can still have money problems while making a lot of money, as Jay-Z has done. Other celebs seem to have no trouble leveraging their millions into businesses that make them even more successful. Here's our list, in no particular order, of the 10 best celebrity business owners:
Sean John Combs, AKA P Diddy , Puff Daddy, Puffy Combs, and other names, has an estimated net worth of $380 million. The actor and rapper has sold millions of records, but he's also made his money in other ventures under his umbrella business Bad Boy Entertainment Worldwide.
He has formed a record label, Bad Boy Records; Sean John clothing line; a movie production company, Sean by Sean Combs; a fragrance called "I Am King" that costs $72 a bottle; and a restaurant in Atlanta named after his son. And two other things of note: Diddy designed the green alternate road jersey of the Dallas Mavericks basketball team, and is starting a business school in Harlem. That's an impressive range of business talent.
For all of his success and the quality of the movies he's directed and produced, Ron Howard's life story could be a prototype movie on how to become one of the top celebrity business owners ever.
Imagine Entertainment, which Howard started in 1986 as executive producer with producer Brian Grazer, has 40 employees and had $3.8 million in revenue in the fiscal year ending September 2008. It has released such hits as "Parenthood," "Apollo 13," "A Beautiful Mind" and The Da Vinci Code," along with television shows such as "Arrested Development."
Howard started his career as a child star as Opie Taylor on the "Andy Griffith Show" from 1960 to 1968, and after numerous film roles and graduating from high school and attending USC, he played the lead role in "American Graffiti," a film that spawned the TV show "Happy Days." He then directed a few films, with his 1984 hit "Splash" moving him to the top of the list of sought-after directors.
The end-result, which Howard has said he views as a numbers game and one he doesn't try to get emotionally involved in: his net worth is estimated at $80 million.
The music mogul has pulled in $63 million in the past year, putting him atop Forbes' list of hip-hop top earners. Jay-Z is atop WalletPop's list of celebrities with the worst money problems, with the crashing housing market costing him $50 million in losses for hotels he planned to build. Even with that loss, his golden touch on business can't be denied. He co-owns the 40/40 nightclub chain, and owns part of the NBA team the New Jersey Nets.
Paul Newman died in 2008, but his food company Newman's Own probably has a product in almost every pantry in America, and continues donating 100% of its after-tax profits to charities. More than $295 million has been donated overall by the company.
What started as a small salad dressing producer in 1982 has branched out into wine and an organic line of food. In 2008 the company had 28 employees and $4.4 million in revenue.
The actor has an estimated net worth of $31 million, making him the ninth richest actor in the world, but the business he co-founded, Funny or Die, is so successful that HBO bought a 10% share for $10 million. Do the math, and that gives it a value of $100 million. Sequoia Capital also owns a stake, and one of its investors has said the business is making "tens of millions of dollars in revenue."
Ferrell shouldn't get all of the credit for the comedy video site, which has 50 employees, although he's its biggest name. As the website explains, "Funny Or Die was created by the guys at Gary Sanchez Productions (Will Ferrell, Adam McKay and Chris Henchy) and a bunch of Silicon Valley dudes and ladies. Michael Kvamme, an aspiring young comedian, came up with a concept for a new kind of comedy site and told his dad, Mark Kvamme of Sequoia Capital to write a check. Randy Adams, a Silicon Valley serial entrepreneur, signed on to handle design and implementation."
The supermodel, 55, continues making money even after not walking a fashion runway in 21 years. Iman Cosmetics is a $25-million-a-year business that is among the top-selling foundations sold on Walgreens.com, according to a New York Times story. "At the end of the day, my legacy will not be modeling, but my cosmetics line," she told the Times.
She also has a clothing line that is sold on the Home Shopping Network. Her Global Chic Collection is one of four top sellers among more than 200 fashion and jewelry brands on HSN.
Fashion design is a second career for many celebrities, and Gwen Stefani turned to fashion as a creative outlet after her music career. Her L.A.M.B. clothing label debuted at New York's 2005 Fashion Week and has an annual gross income of $90 million.
L.A.M.B. is an acronym from Stefani's debut solo album "Love. Angel. Music. Baby." Her fashion line was founded in 2003, and makes sexy shoes and boots and other accessories like watches, bags, a fragrance called "L," women's apparel and children's clothing. Its Harajuku Lovers collection is made exclusively for Apple and includes everything from iPhone clutches to computer bags.
The former Van Halen rock star's Cabo Wabo Enterprises is a liquor company with the second best-selling tequila in the U.S. The company has earned about $60 million in revenue per year. Hagar sold 80% of his company for about $80 million to Gruppo Campari Spirits in 2008. This month he sold the remaining 20% to Compari for $11 million. Cabo Wabo also owns bars, restaurants and resorts.
It all started from what sounds like a modest beginning in a setting people dream of retiring to. Hagar opened a resort in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, in the 1980s and created his Cabo Wabo tequila in 1996. It's now a worldwide brand.
The Grateful Dead
Allowing fans to record its concerts for free turned the Grateful Dead into one of the most profitable groups in history. The band that was formed in 1965 disbanded 15 years ago when frontman Jerry Garcia died, but lives on with reunions by the surviving members. Garcia alone is still estimated to have a net worth of $40 million.
The Grateful Dead has become a colossal money machine. It was one of the few rock 'n roll pioneers to retain ownership of its music masters and publishing rights. It signed a 10-year licensing agreement in 2006 with Rhino Entertainment. Rhino manages the Dead's business interests, including the release of musical recordings, merchandising, and marketing. The band retains creative control and keeps ownership of the music catalog.
The band was so successful in giving its music to its fans for free by allowing them to tape its concerts, that a book about marketing lessons to be learned from the band was published this month. Grateful Dead Productions continues to promote the band, although it and Garcia's family business, Jerry Garcia Family LLC, are so far nixing a biopic on Garcia.
Grammy-winning artist Sheryl Crow sold her music catalog for $10 million in 2009 to an Australian bank. The deal gives First State Media Group a portion of copyright revenue that her music generates, and gives Crow access to its team to promote her copyrighted material in movies, advertisements and other places.
Crow, who has co-written hits like "All I Wanna Do," "My Favorite Mistake" and "Everyday Is A Winding Road," retained her songwriter's share of copyright. First State Media Group owns a portfolio of about 30,000 songs and has completed more than $150 million in music copyright investments.
Aaron Crowe is a freelance journalist in the San Francisco Bay Area.
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