How Jay-Z Created His $1 Billion Fortune
In Omaha, Nebraska's Hollywood Diner, two odd lunch companions sat down nine years ago. One of them, Warren Buffett, frequented the place. Jay-Z, the other, wasn't. The two men struck up a friendly conversation as the rapper ordered strawberry malts and they returned to Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway offices.
Then 80 years old, Buffett left the performance astonished by the musician who was 40 years his junior: "Jay is teaching in a much larger classroom than I'll ever teach in. He is the one to look up to as a young person growing up. This particular instance, which Forbes documented it in their 2010 Forbes 400 package, demonstrated that Jay-Z already had a plan in place for building his own ten-figure fortune. According to him, hip-hop has always been aspirational.
Less than ten years later, it is evident that Jay-Z has amassed a wealth that, conservatively, totals $1 billion, making him the first hip-hop artist to achieve this milestone and one of just a select few performers to do so. Jay-kingdom Z's is vast and continuously expanding; it includes alcohol, fine art, real estate (homes in Tribeca, the Hamptons, and Los Angeles), and investments in businesses like Uber.
Given that his journey began in Brooklyn's infamous Marcy housing complexes, it is all the more astounding. Prior to creating his own record company, Roc-A-Fella Records, to release his 1996 first album, Reasonable Doubt, he was a drug dealer. Since then, he has accumulated 14 No. 1 albums, 22 Grammy Awards, and more than $500 million in pretax revenues.
Importantly, he came to the realization that he should create his own brands rather than promoting those of others. He did this with the clothing line Rocawear, which he founded in 1999 and sold to Iconix in 2007 for $204 million, the cognac brand D'Ussé, which he co-owns with Bacardi, and the music streaming service Tidal.
"If he's a billionaire now, imagine what he's about to be," Swizz Beatz says. "Because he's only just starting."
What’s Jay-Z Worth?
We applied our standard private company discount to the artist's holdings in businesses like Armand de Brignac champagne to determine his net worth. (He owns all of the stock in Armand de Brignac and a portion of the other businesses.) Then he added up his earnings and subtracted a sizable sum to reflect a star-studded lifestyle. To make sure these projections were accurate and conservative, we double-checked our numbers with a panel of outside experts. It seems that Jay-Z is a real businessman.
Armand de Brignac
Using his songs, Jay-Z has promoted the $300 gold bottles of the "since the brand's introduction with the 2006 video "Show Me What You Got," "Ace of Spades" champagne. His verse on Meek Mill's "What's Free" more recently "Put a $500,000,000 value on the wine, which seems like a little bit of a giddy number.
Cash & Investments
An estimated $70 million worth of Uber stock is part of a huge investment portfolio. He reportedly paid $2 million for his share back in 2013 and tried to boost his ownership by sending founder Travis Kalanick a wire for another $5 million but was rejected.
Jay-Z and beverage tycoon Bacardi's joint venture cognac sells close to 200,000 cases and has increased sales by approximately 80% annually. 'Jay-Z resonates with consumers who are drawn to the ultra-premium lifestyle,' claims Eric Schmidt, Director of Alcohol Research at Beverage Marketing Corp.
Jay-Z put up a bid to buy the parent business of the Scandinavian streaming service in 2015 for slightly under $60 million. Later that year, he relaunched Tidal with a group of famous investors that included his wife, Beyoncé, as well as other influential musicians including Kanye West and Calvin Harris.
This multifaceted entertainment company got its start in a partnership with Live Nation more than ten years ago. Through its record label, artist management, and sports agency (Kevin Durant, Todd Gurley), Roc Nation represents some of the biggest names in entertainment.
Jay-Z secured the ultimate return of his master recordings from the aforementioned label that helped launch his career prior to the start of his tenure as Def Jam's CEO in 2004. In a separate agreement with EMI, he also reclaimed his publication rights. His hits now receive close to 1 billion streams annually, which was a wise decision.
Jay-Z boasted about a "Basquiat in my kitchen nook" in the song "Picasso Baby." Most likely, he wasn't joking. He has been collecting masterpieces for more than ten years, including Basquiat's "Mecca," which he reportedly paid $4.5 million for in 2013. A contemporary and close friend of the late painter, Fab 5 Freddy, claims that "He's rapped about it everything in detail." Jay-Z assisted in enlightening millions of hip-hop fans about Jean-Michel.
After giving birth to twins in 2017, Jay-Z and Beyoncé bought two homes to match: an $88 million estate in Bel Air and a $26 million mansion in East Hampton. Jay-Z also owns a Tribeca penthouse that he purchased in 2004 for $6.85 million.