10 Successful Celebrity Business Owners

Being famous has its privileges, and one of those is having access to capital that makes it easier to branch into sometimes lucrative business opportunities. Celebrities are often …

Being famous has its privileges, and one of those is having access to capital that makes it easier to branch into sometimes lucrative business opportunities. Celebrities are often known for dabbling in clothing, perfume, makeup and similar products, but that is only the beginning. Actress Jessica Alba started The Honest Co., which makes environmentally responsible baby products. Justine Timberlake, a renowned entrepreneur, has his own tequila, clothing line, album label and recently purchased MySpace in a joint venture, among numerous other financial projects. Dr. Dre makes high-end headphones, 50 Cent made $100 million on the Coca-Cola Vitamin Water deal and the list goes on and on. For more on this continue reading the following article from TheStreet.

Not content with just being big stars, some celebrities feel the need to be big in business.

From baby products to booze, a growing number of celebrities are cashing in their cachet to become captains of industry.

It really shouldn’t come as a surprise to see famous faces financing companies or brainstorming business opportunities. The mix of wealth, drive, a supportive entourage and plenty of downtime between projects and while on set provides a perfect petri dish for entrepreneurism.

Mark Wahlburg is opening Wahlburger restaurants. Will Ferrell started the comedy Web site Funny or Die. Portlandia mayor Kyle "Agent Cooper" MacLachlan owns a winery, as do the Smothers brothers and famed director Francis Ford Coppola.

We took a look at 10 celebrities who are taking a stab at being job creators. 

Jessica Alba
If you subscribe to actress Jessica Alba on Facebook, you probably won’t be getting much in the way of celebrity gossip on the possibility of Fantastic Four 3. What you will get are plenty of updates in the new mother’s new venture, The Honest Co.

The Little Fockers co-star is founder of the company, which sells healthy, environmentally conscious baby goods.

"When I became a mom, I finally became the person I am, that I always should have been," she says in a company bio. "It’s the most satisfying job in the world. But, it can also be overwhelming and confusing. I created The Honest Co. to help moms and to give all children a better, safer start."

On the site, co-founder Christopher Gavigan adds that many parents are "completely unaware of the toxic risks posed by everyday basics, like diapers, home cleaners, body washes and laundry soaps" even though "there’s growing consensus that some chemicals used in these products are linked to chronic diseases like asthma, ADHD and even cancer."

Among the baby-safe products offered by the company are diapers, shampoo, bubble bath, sunscreen, dish soap, hand sanitizer and household cleaners. 

Kevin Costner
Many livelihoods were ruined by the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill that resulted from an explosion at BP’sBP Deepwater Horizon oil rig.

But one famous face benefited from the disaster. It was Kevin Costner, star of the infamous box office flop Waterworld, whose company played a role in cleaning up the aquatic devastation.

Costner was among the environmental experts and engineers called upon to testify before Congress at a June 2010 hearing convened by the U.S. House of Representatives’ Science and Technology Committee.

At the hearing, he spoke about the $20 million he has invested over more than a decade in an oil-water separator developed by Louisiana-based Ocean Therapy Solutions.

The equipment offered by Costner’s company, now called Blue Water Planet Solutions has roots in centrifuge technology dating back to the 1800s. The company sums it up: "By spinning two fluids of different densities within a rotating container designed and built using this patented technology, the lighter fluid is forced toward the center of the rotor." This allows dense, viscous oil to be removed from much lighter water.

"I come before you as a discouraged U.S. citizen and an entrepreneur with a partial solution to the tragedy unfolding in the Gulf," Costner said at the hearing. "Seventeen years ago I purchased a licensed patent for a centrifugal force oil-water separator from the Department of Energy’s Idaho National Laboratory. Today that technology is the most effective and efficient tool for cleaning up oil spills that you’ve probably never heard of. Despite [its] proven demonstrations in front of oil industry and government leaders, the technology sat passively on shelves for more than 10 years, powerless to make right the oil spills that continued and will continue to occur."

Beyond disasters such as the Gulf spill, Costner pointed out that "smaller spills that happen around the world every day." He cited estimates that between 5,000 and 13,000 gallons are spilled in a typical year. For every 1 million gallons pumped from wells, it is estimated that 20 gallons will end up in the oceans. "At our current rate of oil production that means the equivalent of the Exxon Valdez spill every seven months," he said.

Roughly a year before the BP spill, Costner co-founded WestPac Resources to perfect the centrifuge technology (He already owns Costner Industries, also known as the Costner In Nevada Corp.) That led to the creation of Ocean Therapy Solutions and its efforts to produce oil-water output of less than 15 parts per million, the threshold named by government agencies and private companies alike.

BP went on to enter into a $16 million contract with Ocean Therapy Solutions for its technology.

Costner is embroiled in a lawsuit filed by actor/investor Stephen Baldwin and investor Spyridon Contogouris, who claim he hid negotiations with BP to lease 32 pieces of equipment while buying out their shares. Costner has countersued.

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In a far different arena, Costner is also owner of the Midnight Star casino in Deadwood, S.D. Sporting a theme based on his western Silverado, the casino features a mini-museum of the actor’s movie-related memorabilia and wardrobes. 

Justin Timberlake
There’s not only Justin Timberlake’s good looks, recording contracts, acting roles, viral videos and golf game to be envious of. He is also a successful entrepreneur.

Timberlake didn’t portray Sean Parker in a The Social Network; he is becoming a high-tech deal maker in his own right.

Among the endeavors, past and present, in which he is an owner or investor: three restaurants; a Tequila brand (901, named for the area code of his Memphis birthplace); a clothing line; a record label (Tennman Records); Stipple, a cloud-based photo tagging service that "that lets publishers label and monetize the content inside the pictures on their sites"; and Miso Media, a music and education software development company.

Last summer, Timberlake and venture capital firm Specific Media spent $35 million to acquire the floundering social media site MySpace from Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp(NWS).

At Las Vegas’ Consumer Electronics Show in January, Specific Media tipped its hat as to plans for the site.

The company announced the launch of Myspace TV, a service that is to be available this year on the next generation of Panasonic(PC) Viera Connect-enabled HDTV. Initial channels on Myspace TV will be music-focused, leveraging its library of 100,000 music videos and 42 million songs. It will expand to movies, news, sports and reality channels. Audiences will be able to chat about what they’re viewing and invite friends to watch with them virtually.

"We’re ready to take television and entertainment to the next step by upgrading it to the social networking experience," Timberlake said in a press release. "Why text or email your friends to talk about your favorite programs after they’ve aired when you could be sharing the experience with real-time interactivity from anywhere across the globe? As the plot of your favorite drama unfolds, the joke of your favorite Saturday Night Live character plays or even the last second shot of your favorite team swishes the net, we’re giving you the opportunity to connect your friends to your moments as they’re actually occurring. This is the evolution of one of our greatest inventions, the television. And we no longer have to crowd around the same one to experience it together."

Timberlake’s most recent venture is an investment in Dekko, a start-up keeping a low profile.

"We all had imaginary friends as kids, whether action figures, dolls or superheroes," the lone blog post on the site reads. "These were the toys that we built our games around and who helped us understand the world. We grew up a little and our imaginary friends moved into the Saturday morning cartoons or the cinema. Then we got a bit older still and they also became video game characters. They never left us. They just became trapped inside the computer. We think they should come back outside and play."

It goes on to add that Dekko is "developing smartphone software that places digital content into the real world, but in a way that feels completely natural."

"It re-connects us to our imaginary friends, and connects them to our online social networks," it says. "Augmented Reality is the term for this idea, and we’re taking a whole new approach to anything that’s been tried so far." 

Ashton Kutcher
Another celebrity dreamboat turned technology angel is Ashton Kutcher, currently seen churning out punchlines on the CBS sitcom Two and a Half Men.

In 2007, he took on a role as creative director for Ooma, a VoIP service that tapped into his star power for a series of online viral marketing videos.

Early on in his run on Two and a Half Men, on which he plays a billionaire whose software company was bought by Microsoft(MSFT) for the Zune, he drew a slap on the wrist from producers after his prop laptop was plastered with logos for companies he’s given seed money. Among them were Foursquare, Flipboard, GroupMe, Hipmunk and Chegg. Other names in his growing international portfolio as an angel investor are TinyChat, Milk, Path, Fab.com, Airbnb, Blekko and Optimizely

Dr. Dre
If you spend any time on a subway or at an airport you’ll see Beats-branded headphones all over the place.

The high-end headphones, released in 2008, are the creation of acclaimed hip-hop producer and rapper Dr. Dre. The underlying technology is now also being used as audio components for branded H-PHPQ laptops and the HTCHTC smartphones.

Dre is far from the only hip-hop artist who has struck gold as a businessman.

50 Cent pulled down a quick $100 million after Coca-Cola(KO), bought Glaceau, the maker of Vitamin Water, for $4.2 billion in cash in 2007; he’d earned an ownership share through a 2004 endorsement deal.

Akon’s "bling" is actually from a diamond mine he owns in South Africa.

In 1998, P. Diddy started a clothing line, Sean John, and has since launched a fragrance and restaurant chain and inked a variety of endorsement and marketing deals. 

Sammy Hagar
The much-maligned replacement for David Lee Roth has yet again been pushed out of a tour by Van Halen’s original lead singer.

But Hagar is probably laughing all the way to the bank. He may not be able to "drive 55," but he does have a skill for picking out great business opportunities.

First on the list: In the 1990s, he started a successful chain of California-based mountain bike stores and designed a bike named after a stage nickname of his: Red Rocker.

From there, he bought a restaurant/nightclub, the Cabo Wabo Cantina, in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. That led to another location setting up shop at Planet Hollywood’s Miracle Mile shopping mall in Las Vegas. Added to the portfolio is a chain of Sammy’s Beach Bar & Grills.

Born from the Mexico nightclub was Hagar’s own brand of tequila, named, of course, Cabo Wabo. In 2007, Hagar earned more than $80 million selling a majority stake in the brand to Gruppo Campari. At the time of the sale, Hagar’s Tequila was generating more than $60 million in annual sales throughout the world. 

Clint Eastwood
The square-jawed, squint-eyed actor has worn many hats throughout his career as a cowboy, police officer, astronaut and war hero. You can add dairy farmer to the mix.

Well, you won’t exactly see Dirty Harry milking cows at the crack of dawn. But Eastwood did buy the 22-acre Mission Ranch Resort in Carmel, Calif. The dairy farm and sheep ranch, more than a century old, was bought by the iconic figure in 1986 with a stated goal of preserving and restoring the property, which had fallen on hard times. An inn at the site — which includes 31 hotel rooms and an acclaimed restaurant with a view of grazing sheep — is one of Carmel’s top tourist attractions.

Eastwood also owns the Tehama Golf Club in Carmel (a city for which he once served as mayor). He is also an investor in California’s Pebble Beach Golf Links, one of the world’s most acclaimed courses. 

Sandra Bullock
The actress — known for her roles in such popular movies as Speed, Miss Congeniality and The Blind Side, bolstered her on-screen career with a lucrative behind-the scene role as executive producer of The George Lopez Show, a one-time hit sitcom that lives on in syndication.

Unlike celebrities who have tried (and often failed) to launch chic, upscale restaurants that bank on their clout, Bullock has taken a more modest approach to her culinary ventures.

She is the owner of Bess Bistro, a popular eaterie in Austin, Texas, and built on its success by becoming a co-owner of Walton’s Fancy and Staple, a gourmet delicatessen, cafe and bakery that offers catering and "one-stop floral services." 

Kevin Smith
The writer and director of such raunchy, quotable films as Clerks, Mallrats, and Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back has a second career as a comic book writer who has penned top-selling story arcs for Daredevil, Spider-Man and Batman, as well as his own Bluntman & Chronic titles.

Smith’s love of comics allowed him to parlay his movie success into opening his own comic book store, Jay and Silent Bob’s Secret Stash in Red Bank, N.J. That store is the subject of a new reality TV series on AMC, Comic Book Men.

Smith has expanded his empire into a surprising field: weddings.

For $5,000, Smith — who is an ordained minister through an online offering by Universal Life Church — will serve as a celebrity officiant for your wedding, holding the ceremony in a 50-seat theater where he records his regular podcasts (and yes, the ceremony will be recorded for the show). 

Rush Limbaugh
What does right-wing talkmeister Rush Limbaugh use to soothe his parched throat after a full day of blustery misogyny? His own brand of bottled teas, we now know — four flavors, under the name Two If By Tea, that are only available online.

In an announcement made June 15, Rush (or more likely the boys in marketing) explains how the drinks will help save this great nation:

"Dear America, the Liberals are coming. The Liberals are coming. My good friend Paul Revere laid out the blueprint of how to deal with this. Sound the alarm! One if by land, Two If By Tea! Two If By Tea represents traditional American values of capitalism and the pursuit of excellence. Each bottle is designed to rise above the sameness and mediocrity that threatens our great nation."

We are told that a "scientific panel of tasters has been working for years to develop the perfect recipe of tea."

"Developing and bringing Two If By Tea to market has been a unique American experience for all of us who worked on the project," the site says. "We were all reminded of the blessings bestowed upon our country by our Founders and the Constitution, who fought to create and safeguard the fundamental values of a free society, knowing that it was limited government and belief in the greatness of the American people that established the concept of American Exceptionalism."

A no-calorie version is not only free of a "chemical aftertaste"; Rush trumpets that this beverage may also be the thing that saves us from tyranny, though perhaps not patriotic pandering.

"Join me in drinking a bottle of my tea as we admire the great United States of America and the military and law enforcement officials who fight to defend our freedom every day," Rush writes. "Thank God, yes God, for the blessings of life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness and of course, this wonderful drink — Two If By Tea!"

This article was republished with permission from TheStreet.


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