If you think the words 'celebrity' and 'investment' are rather incongruous, you're not alone. It seems that there is a new breed of celebrity who is choosing not to blow their millions! Instead, these celebrities are seeing their wealth as a means to business enterprise. They are investing well and making wise business decisions. Let's take a look at some of these celebrity investors. (For celebrities that failed, read Celebrity Financial Failures.)
TUTORIAL: Greatest Investors
Here are some famous names you might know and their investing credentials that you might not.
Hollywood actor and "Two and a Half Men" star Ashton Kutcher has recently made a string of excellent investments. One of his most lucrative has been investing in Skype. In 2009, Kutcher was convinced by Silicon Valley heavyweight Marc Andreessen to risk some of his Hollywood cash on Skype. This was at a time when the web-calling service was valued at $2.75, a figure many deemed outrageously high. However, Microsoft recently purchased Skype for more than $8 billion.
He has also invested undisclosed amounts in some of the tech world's hottest start-ups, either independently or through his investment firm called A Grade Investments. Some of his best-known deals include investments in social magazine app Flipboard, location-based service FourSquare, vacation rentals web service Airbnb and photo sharing app Path. If these successes continue, perhaps in time Kutcher will be known as a venture capitalist first, and an actor second.
In an episode that sees life replicating art, Timberlake has followed in the footsteps of social media investor Sean Parker, whom he played in the Hollywood hit "The Social Network."
Timberlake was part of a $35 million deal which saw Myspace being sold to an online ad company. Exactly how much of the $35 million Timberlake put in is unknown, but he will be playing a "major role" in the new direction of the website, which suggests it was a sizable chunk.
Justin is building quite the investment portfolio. Before this large and public deal, he invested in clothing brand William Rast, bought Mirimichi Golf course in Memphis, founded Tennman Records, invested $2 million in photo start-up Stipple and invested in Disney-acquired app maker Tapulous.
Whether Myspace will ever reclaim a stake in the online-network world remains to be seen, but Justin Timberlake will certainly be doing his best to bring some glamor to the beleaguered social networking site. (For more on startups, see Valuing Startup Ventures.)
Kim is the daughter of the late Robert Kardashian, an American attorney who was best known as being one of the attorneys for OJ Simpson. It might be easy to dismiss the socialite and reality TV star, but it's not so easy to dismiss her latest investment.
In 2007, Kardashian and three partners founded ShoeDazzle, an online shoe and accessories website. The site now counts a reported 3 million customers, who pay a monthly fee for access to a personalized selection of shoes, jewelry and handbags every month. The website recently landed an impressive $40-million investment from venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz. Andreessen Horowitz also happens to be invested in Facebook, Foursquare, Groupon, Skype and Twitter.
Pop singer Lady Gaga has also been putting her money into start up businesses recently. Gaga has become a major shareholder in Backplane, a platform that connects music and sports stars with their fans across various social networks. Backplane has raised approximately $1 million from a group of investors led by Google chairman Eric Schmidt. This is not Lady Gaga's first technology venture. The savvy businesswoman has also worked with game maker Zynga to release a FarmVille extension called GagaVille where players complete tasks to unlock downloads of her songs.
More and more celebrities are moonlighting as tech-investors, but will these celebrities have the necessary skills to make their businesses a success, and will we be more inclined to support a company due to its celebrity status? Only time will tell. One thing is sure, these companies will certainly be watched very carefully by the media and public alike. (To help you with investing in tech, check out A Primer On Investing In The Tech Industry.)
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