Celebrities turned entrepreneurs
The Arabian Business guide to celebrities who have become a hit in the world of business
\nShawn ‘Jay-Z’ Carter has not only hit the heights with his rap career, but has built an entertainment empire to rival any media mogul or music business bigwig. Among his various endeavors are his own record label – Roc-a-Fella records, New York nightclub 40/40, which has become a national franchise, and a clothing line, Rocawear, which he sold in 2007 for $204m. In April this year ESPN reported that Carter will soon be launching his own sports agency, Roc Nation Sports, and it is also rumored he would like to enter real estate with a venture called J Hotels.
\nWinfrey’s early life and pursuit of a career in media is in itself an incredible story, but it is her subsequent leap into entrepreneurialism which has really made her a global name. After being given her own show – The Oprah Winfrey Show – in the mid 1980s, she branched out with her own production company, Harpo, along with a film company, Harpo Films, and magazine, O. Websites, radio shows and a cable channel followed, with her estimated net worth nearing $3bn.
\nAcademy Award winner Paul Newman wowed cinema audiences with star turns in films such as The Hustler, Hud, Cool Hand Luke, The Colour of Money, and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. But a prolific career in front of and behind the camera didn’t stop him from entering the business world with his food company Newman’s Own. A philanthropic venture, Newman’s Own gives up to 100 percent of post-tax proceeds to charity. Launched in 1982, the brand continues to grow despite Newman’s death in 2008, donating more than $370m worldwide to date.
\nHe may be one of the most famous music stars on the planet, not to mention a very public and active humanitarians and philanthropist, but U2’s Bono has still found time to undertake numerous business ventures. In 1992 the Irish singer bought and refurbished Dublin’s two-star, 70 bedroom Clarence Hotel with band mate The Edge, converted it into a five-star 40 bedroom affair. Bono is also on the board of Elevation Partners, a private equity firm which invests in entertainment businesses including the Forbes Media Group and Facebook.
\nIndian superstar Shahrukh Khan has not only conquered Bollywood, but is also co-founder of production company Dreamz Unlimited, co-chairman of production and distribution companies Red Chillies Entertainment and Red Chillies VFX, as well as co-owner of cricket team Kolkata Knight Riders. Known as Brand SRK by the media, he is active in entrepreneurial circles, and is reported to always be on the look-out for new opportunities, as well as charitable causes.
\nAnother singer, No Doubt’s Gwen Stefani, not swapped the charts for the catwalk in 2004 to launch her Asia-inspire high-end women’s clothing line, L.A.M.B (named after her solo album Love Angel Music Baby). The brand expanded over time to include the less expensive Harajuki Lovers line, which spawned products such as cameras, mobile phone charms, dolls and perfumes. L.A.M.B is thought to bring in $100m in annual sales.
\nWith more modest ambitions, actress Sandra Bullock exercises her business acumen in the food and beverage industry with a homely restaurant called Bess Bistro in Austin, Texan. On the same street, she later opened a bakery, upscale restaurant and flower shop. Far less modest is her own production company, Fortis Films, which worked on movies including Practical Magic, Miss Congeniality, and All About Steve. The company also produces sitcom George Lopez, in a deal which earned the actress about $10m.
\nHer seven Grand Slam titles maker her one of modern tennis’s most successful women, but relatively few people know that Venus Williams has also had huge success as CEO of interior design firm V Starr Interiors. The company has designed the set of the Tavis Smiley Show on American TV, as well as residences and businesses in the Palm Beach, Florida area. She also has her own fashion line, and is part-owner of American Football team the Mimi Dolphins alongside her sister Serena.
\nProfessional skateboarder Tony Hawk has been building his skating empire since 1992. That was the year his first company, Birdhouse, was launched, manufacturing and selling skateboards and apparel, before expanding into bicycles, shoes, videogames and more. In 1998 he started a show tour which went across the USA, and in 2012 he launched YouTube channel RIDE. The Tony Hawk Foundation has also given away more than $3.4m to help build more than 400 skateparks around the USA.
\nOne of the fashion world’s most successful models, Tyra Banks retired from the catwalk in 2005 to focus on her growing media endeavors. Her production company, Bankable Productions, is responsible for hit shows including America’s Next Top Model, The Tyra Banks Show, and Stylista among others. Her other business ventures include the TZONE programme, which is aimed at leadership and life skills development.