There’s no arguing that there’s a lot of money in Hollywood. For instance, Nicolas Cage was once able to make $40 million in one year based on acting alone (and that’s just Nicolas Cage! Imagine a really talented person’s earnings). Whether you’re on stage, in front of a camera, or behind all the scenes, there’s certainly a fortune to be had if you’re working in the entertainment industry.
That said, there are plenty of stars who have gone above and beyond the call of duty to earn some outrageous fortunes. Acting and singing alone didn’t earn these celebrities all of their estates, yachts, air crafts, and lavish lifestyles. They’ve invested much more than their raw talent in their careers. They’ve invested their time, their energy and yes, even their money, toward becoming ever-richer.
People believe that most celebrities cash in on their talent because they don’t have any other marketable skills or knowledge that would earn them money. That’s certainly false; plenty of celebs are good at playing dumb when they’re actually quite clever, and even more prefer to keep their knowledge and wealth private (it’s none of our business anyway). Even the more idiotic and simple on this list are savvy enough to see opportunity when it presents itself, and they have the money from their various entertainment ventures to at least hire someone to watch their investments vigilantly. So, whether they want you to know about it or not, here they are: 15 celebrities whose side careers make them more money than their entertainment careers.
15. Bono & Elevation Partners
Bono is best known as the lead singer of the UK band, U2. After that, he is best known for his philanthropic work around the world (specifically all the work he does in Africa). Shockingly few people know about his incredibly savvy business smarts. His private equity company, Elevation Partners, is led by himself, Fred Anderson (former CFO of Apple computer), Avie Tevanian (former officer at Apple), Bret Pearlman (former director of Blackstone Group), and Roger McNamee (cofounder of Silverlake Partners). They manage billions of dollars in assets across companies like Bioware/Pandemic Studios, Yelp, Facebook, Forbes, Move, and MarketShare. This company has earned him a ton of money; in 2013 alone, when Facebook went public, Bono walked away from the deal with $1.5 billion. Pretty impressive, right? What’s even better is that he uses his fortune for good; without his business savvy, how would Bono be able to save the world?
14. Jared Leto & Risky Investments
Jared is, of course, best known for his music career (he’s in the band Thirty Seconds to Mars) and for his acting career (some of his most famous roles are in Requiem for a Dream, Dallas Buyers Club, and Mr. Nobody); he’s about to gain even more fame for his upcoming role as The Joker in Suicide Squad. However, what people don’t know about Jared is that he’s quite the investor. He’s invested in eleven different companies now. Most of his investments seemed pretty risky at the time: some panned out well for him (like the popular website Reddit) and others have stagnated (like Meerkat). His best investment by far must have been when Nest, a smart thermostat control technology, was bought by Google for $3.2 billion dollars, and he certainly walked away with a large cut of the earnings. He may play a druggie and a lunatic, but he’s certainly got a good mind for business.
13. Madonna & Investing in Vita Coco
Madonna fell in love with the coconut water drink Vita Coco early on in its corporate years. She reportedly smelled like coconut constantly while she was on one tour! After years of enjoying the drink, she finally invested in the company. In 2010, she finally committed to the company and invested a whopping $1.5 million in the company. She wasn’t the only investor to be convinced to join the Vita Coco team, but she certainly had one of the largest stakes in the company (outside of the two founders, Michael Kirban and Ira Liran, and corporations like Anheuser-Busch InBev and Reignwood Group). The investment has certainly paid off for Madonna, earning her millions of dollars as the company has grown and expanded all over the world. Plus, since she’s one of the biggest investors, she gets to drink all the Vita Coco she wants!
12. Justin Bieber & Early Investments
Yes, we all believe Justin Bieber is a brainless tool; and maybe he is but, if so, he’s at least got someone in his corner making a lot of wise investments on his behalf. While he’s been busy swooning teenage girls with hits like ‘Baby,’ ‘Boyfriend,’ ‘Sorry,’ and ‘One Less Lonely Girl,’ he’s also been making quiet investments in some serious corporations. Justin was smart; he invested with seed money (meaning, when these companies were just startups), and now some of these companies are hugely profitable. Some recognizable names are Spotify (a music hosting app which arguably beats out iTunes), Stamped (an information tracking app that was recently acquired by Yahoo), and Shots (a photo sharing site similar to Instagram and SnapChat, which Justin uses regularly to promote). He’s kept his earnings quiet, possibly hoping to keep his innocent, boyish reputation, but he’s certainly made a lot off his investments.
11. Magic Johnson & His Many Franchises (Detroit Venture Partners)
Magic Johnson is, of course, best known for his years playing basketball with the Los Angeles Lakers. However, since he retired from professional basketball, he’s been busy investing and growing his fortune. He owns Magic Johnson Enterprises, a company presiding over his chain of movie cinemas (Magic Johnson Theatres), Burger King franchises, and health clubs/gyms. He also has a stake in T.G.I. Fridays and Sodexo.
One of his more community-minded investments was a series of specialty dropout schools across the nation to help young students get their lives back on track. He also owns a large share of the Los Angeles Dodgers. He’s a surprisingly smart man with a great mind for business and investments.
10. Andy Samberg & Indy Startups
Leave it to Andy Samberg to invest in some totally hipster startup. Andy is known best for his time on Saturday Night Live, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and his work with The Lonely Island, a comedy music group. However, he’s quite the entrepreneur as well. Back in 2010, he invested in a startup app called CanaryHop, which offered listings for real-life experiences: you could take skateboarding lessons, join a Segway tour group, or join a session of “discrete men’s grooming” (whatever that means).
CanaryHop has offered for Andy to do for them what William Shatner did for Priceline (if you don’t know what that means, see the William Shatner section of this article); if he’s wise, he’d investigate the company and seriously consider the opportunity. Though the company has quieted their work for now and slowed production and release, they still seem to have every intention of launching and having Samberg as their spokesman.
9. Kim Kardashian & ShoeDazzle
We all believe Kim Kardashian is pretty much an air-headed heiress to her father’s fortune (her father was a wealthy attorney), which she certainly is (an heiress, that is); air-headed may be a bit of a stretch, though. Kim at least had the sense to invest in a business with a few friends in which customers paid a subscription every month to have access to an ever evolving and always fashionable collection of shoes, accessories, and purses. The company distributes across ten different countries to about four million customers. ShoeDazzle was acquired by JustFab, which offers the same services as ShoeDazzle only with the addition of all other apparel items (shirts, pants, dresses, exercise apparel, etc.); the same company also acquired Kate Hudson’s Fabletics brand. Kim may have made much of her fortune through lewd photos and a ‘leaked’ sex tape, but she’s maintaining it with a little bit of business smarts.
8. Jessica Alba & Honest Company
Back in 2008, Jessica Alba had her first baby. She found a new identity in motherhood and fell in love with her daughter and with being a mom. She wasn’t crazy, however, about the amount of chemicals and unnatural additives put into baby foods, toys, and other assorted products. She was frustrated at the amount of ineffective, toxic, dangerous, environmentally harmful, and just plain expensive products on the market. So, with the help of friend and businessman Christopher Gavigan, she started Honest Company, which sells natural products for babies and their mothers. The company delivers necessary products to mothers’ doorsteps every month (like a subscription service). The business is so successful, it’s being watched for a buyout and Jessica will never have to act again if it is acquired; she can finally have her dream job (of being a mom) full time!
7. Will Ferrell & Investing in Comedy
Will Ferrell usually plays the dim-witted friend in most of the movies he’s been in. Think about it: his roles in Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, Anchorman (and its sequel), and Step Brothers are always bumbling, brainless, buffoons. But in real life, this buffoon is brilliant. After gaining wealth and a reputation as a smart-minded comedian through adventures in Saturday Night Live, Austin Powers, A Night at the Roxbury, and Old School, he started his own production company, Gary Sanchez productions, with Adam McKay (of Step Brothers and Anchorman), Chris Henchy (of The Campaign and The Other Guys), and a fictional character, Gary Sanchez, a “Paraguayan financier”- that’s right, there is no real Gary Sanchez). Afterwards, Will started the popular comedy website FunnyOrDie, which produces articles, commentary, jokes, and videos of low-brow comedy for immature-mature audiences, and is a main competitor for websites such as Cracked.com. Will has invested his life in comedy, and it’s certainly panned out for him.
6. William Shatner & Priceline
William Shatner is best known for his role in the debut series of Star Trek as Captain Kirk. He’s often made fun of for his sometimes corny acting, but that doesn’t make him any less beloved in our hearts; he was one of the captains of modern science fiction film and television! Of course, after he left Star Trek, things slowed down for him a little. In 1997, he was approached by Priceline, a startup company that offers cheap flights and hotels (similar to Expedia).
The company was eager to have him as their spokesperson, but regretted that they didn’t have the money to pay him. In lieu of upfront cash, they offered him equity in the company. Shatner accepted, of course after doing due diligence and researching the company, and he never came to regret the decision. Ten years later (in 2007), he cashed out with $600 million. Since a commercial takes about a day to film, he certainly got the good end of that deal.
5. Shaquille O’Neal & His MBA
After Shaq retired from professional basketball, he invested his time and energy in his education and got a masters in business administration. Though he was known for being an awkwardly tall individual that couldn’t sink a free throw to save his life, he’s actually made some great investments in the past decade in some amazing startups, including companies such as Vitamin Water (a flavored bottled water that’s enriched with extra vitamins and electrolytes), Muscle Milk (a protein rich drink meant for post-workout cool-downs or diets), and Tout (a social media aid that powers video streaming on web platforms like ESPN, Entertainment.com, the Wall Street Journal, and People.com). It’s also important to note that Shaq was an early investor in Google (we’re talking really early, back when each share went for about $100 a piece), and his investments have multiplied six times since his initial investment, making him an immensely and happily wealthy man.
4. Jessica Simpson & Her Clothing Line
Jessica Simpson has actually made a good living off of her dull wits: remember when she was on Newlyweds with Nick Lachey and wasn’t sure if Chicken of the Sea (the tuna brand) was chicken or fish? Yeah, she can be quite the airhead. But she’s not a complete dunce, apparently! If nothing else, she’s made some lucky and well-timed business and investment decisions.
She’s had a clothing brand for the last decade or so with clothes meant for stylish, tall, classy, but flirty women, and her clothes were of good quality and tasteful design. Jessica sold 50% of the master license of her clothing brand to Sequential Brands Group back in 2015 for a reported $15 million (with royalties). The company still rakes in over $1 billion in sales annually, and she’s still hard at work. “Here’s to the next billion,” she’s said, excitedly pressing on in her business.
3. Dr. Dre & Beats
Seriously, it’s hard to walk the streets of any city around the world and not see someone wearing Beats headphones, or go to a party and not see a Beats speaker. BEATS ARE EVERYWHERE! Rap artist and producer Dr. Dre saw an opening and opportunity in the music technology industry, and he invested in the research and development to revolutionize the industry and came out the other end a wealthy man.
Back in 2006, Dr. Dre founded the company with Jimmy Iovine because headphones made prior didn’t have the desired bass capabilities to best listen to his and other rap music. After he started the company, the line of earbuds, headphones, and speakers launched with explosive fervor. In July of 2014, Beats was acquired by Apple for a hefty payout to Dr. Dre, making it so he will never EVER have to perform again. Of course, he will, but the point is he doesn’t have to.
2. Lady Gaga & Her Blossoming Investing Prowess
American Horror Story star and singer Lady Gaga hasn’t always been an investor, but she’s recently picked up some clever tricks that have made her a lot of money. She’s holds a major stake in Place (a social media platform recently known as Backplane intent on connecting music and sports professionals with their fans; the site’s other major stakeholder is Google chairman Eric Schmidt), which is rapidly growing and expected to have a hefty and profitable buyout in the near future.
However, this isn’t her first rodeo. Once, for fun, she worked with the gaming company Zynga to release an altered version of FarmVille called GagaVille, in which gamers played to earn access to some of her popular music. Lady Gaga is now also as the creative director for Polaroid (yeah, THAT Polaroid as in the photo/camera company) and has started her own social media platform, Little Monster (powered by Place), with a million followers already.
1. Ashton Kutcher & Brilliant Investments
Ashton may play an idiot on TV (in such popular shows as That 70’s Show and Two and a Half Men) as well as in film (who could forget such idiotic classics as Dude, Where’s My Car? or What Happens in Vegas), but he’s quite the genius in reality. He actually has a degree in biochemical engineering, and never intended for acting to be his livelihood. In his spare time, he’s invested seed money in some insanely well performing companies, such as Skype (a video chat site), Airbnb (a vacation and boarding site), Foursquare (a better version of Yelp), Hipmunk (a cheap travel site), Flipboard (a personalized magazine experience app), Path (a photo sharing app), and LikeALittle (the original version of the common Facebook university-affiliated ‘missed-connections’ pages). On top of everything else, he’s also started his own foundation (with ex-wife Demi Moore) to fight human trafficking. Needless to say, this man knows what he’s doing.