While it's a cliché that celebrities love to spend extravagant amounts of money (though it has a basis in truth), there are also many instances where celebrities took their initial fame and made smart business decisions. Those decisions are wide and varied, from investment firms to clothing and lifestyle brands to literally having ownership stakes in sports teams.
Each person on this list took their most marketable assets and parlayed them into unique kinds of success. There's no set playbook to celebrity business wealth, in other words, except that it includes a smart and individualized strategy (and, while they're not recognized as often, a really smart team of people helping bring it to execution).
Below, 32 times celebrities proved to be impeccable at business.
The obviously smart business decision for Kim Kardashian is SKIMS, which she co-founded in 2019 and was valued at over $4 billion in 2023. But she was making smart business decisions before then, including strategic endorsements and shoutouts to dermatologists and other members of her beauty team, long before it was cool.
Ryan Seacrest already feels like the host for about a thousand TV and radio shows, but if you're unfamiliar, he also launched a clothing line called Distinction in 2014 with Macy's, which expanded to sportswear in 2017. This was the same year he announced he'd be partnering on a skincare line, FYI.
Amongst a number of investments, Bono was a managing partner for a private equity firm named (appropriately) Elevation Partners from 2004 to 2015, and co-founded impact investment fund named The Rise Fund, working with the UN on sustainable ventures.
Ellen Digital Ventures, a 2023 venture that expands Ellen Degeneres' franchise to multiple platforms, is just the latest in Degeneres' business ventures, including her own record company, lifestyle brand, and production company (and that doesn't even include being a spokeswoman!).
Magic Johnson has set the bar high for celebrity entrepreneurs, particularly with his ownership stake in sports team (including formerly as a part-owner of the L.A. Lakers and founder of the managing entity that owns the L.A. Dodgers) and successful career as a TV personality.
Selena Gomez launched her beauty brand in 2020 (based of her album at the time), with the aim to promote inclusivity and highlight mental health initiatives. According to Business of Fashion, in 2024 it was worth more than $2 billion, with its hero product being the liquid blush.
Nothing makes more sense than Reese Witherspoon making clothing with tiny hearts on them, as befitting her perky, cheerful personality. Draper James was launched in 2015 and drew very clearly from the actor's personal style as well as her Southern roots.
Gwyneth Paltrow really got in on the modern high-end beauty space before a lot of people did. While people might have originally mocked the strange-sounding "Goop," various sources point to the company currently being worth between $200 and $250 million.
Here on a Revlon photoshoot, Shay Mitchell has made some savvy business decisions. Her most notable one might be cofounding her luggage and bag line, Béis, launched in 2018, swiftly followed by cofounding canned sparkling tequila brand Onda. She told Hollywood Reporter she was motivated by "the gaping white space and the incessant itch that told me I could do it better.”
You may know Sofia Vergara from film roles or her character on Modern Family, but Vergara has business ventures that include underwear, cosmetics, and fragrances. She launched a big Walmart collection that expanded to including home decor alongside clothes, and she also launched a reading-glasses line.
The song "Margaritaville" was successful all on its own, but when Jimmy Buffett had the brilliant idea to sell merchandise and open restaurants of the same name, it helped propel him to massive monetary success—literally millions per year in its heyday.
Referred to Vogue as "perfume tycoon," Ariana Grande parlayed her great success as a musician and actor to quietly build a huge perfume business. With the first launching in 2015 and including more than a dozen, her scents are apparently the perfect mix between sharp and sweet (which tracks with her personality!).
Jennifer Aniston has known about the power of endorsements for a long time (see also: Her long, fruitful relationship with SmartWater, among others). She's also an entrepreneur: Her investments have included Echo Films and LolaVie (haircare), and she has ownership stake in other brands.
No one works harder than Jennifer Lopez—especially since (even after her film career took off) she remained firmly entrenched in her career as a singer. She made history as the first female artist to have a number one album and film at the same time! In 2023, she expanded into the beauty space as well.
Beats by Dre, started by Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine, was acquired by Apple in 2014 for $3 billion(!!). Iovine recounted that Dre was lamenting the sound quality of cheap headphones (pertaining to the experience of listening to his music), and their efforts to fill the gap in the market were born.
Diddy started with a clothing line, but Combs Enterprises expanded to include liquor, a film and TV network, restaurants, sports accoutrements, and most recently gaming infrastructure. What sets him apart (amongst other things) is that he picks and chooses his projects carefully, and works on what makes him excited.
Sometimes known as a sushi "empire," Nobu began in part because Robert DeNiro convinced the mononymous sushi expert to open a restaurant in New York City with him. DeNiro had to wait years until Nobu was ready to launch Nobu New York, but it was worth the wait.
In 2018, Clooney's tequila brand Casamigos was sold to Diageo—and Clooney reportedly walked away with $233 million, per Forbes. But even before that, he's been smart with endorsements, including pocketing $40 million to star in Nespresso commercials.
Francis Ford Coppola
Wine is not the only one of Francis Ford Coppola's business endeavors (including launching multiple hotels), but because he's a winemaking connoisseur and he's owned wineries since the 1970s, he's very successful at parlaying his identity as a filmmaker into the eponymous success of his wine.
In the follow-up to Taylor Swift's "worst-case scenario" (Scooter Braun acquiring the rights to her early songs) Swift re-recorded her classics—introducing her music to a new, younger generation, giving her back creative control, and evolving the sound of her music. Brilliant.
Jessica Simpson's most recent "smart business decision" was to release a very candid memoir that really laid out important aspects of a dramatic life. But her first smart business decision was to launch her own namesake brand (and then buy it back in 2023).
When Queen Bey released her full album Beyoncé in 2013 with no advance marketing, it established her not just as a powerhouse artist who could command huge sales, but an incredibly savvy businesswoman who, quite frankly, didn't need to do marketing anymore if she didn't want to.
Marilyn Monroe had an exceptionally smart business head. In a feud with 20th Century Fox over their inability to cast her in roles she wanted, she protested and went on a wildly successful PR tour—giving her the bargaining power to negotiate. This would happen again, allowing her even more money and creative control.
If you only know of Jessica Alba as an actor, you're really undervaluing her impressive turn as an entrepreneur. And if you're a parent, you probably know her story about becoming a mom, wanting better baby products, and founding the highly successful The Honest Company.
It feels like Martha Stewart has gone through endless evolutions of her business, but the cooking, entertaining, interviews, TV work, and general hustle that led to Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia (MSLO) were proof of the genius that would last decades.
It's not every day you hear of a supermodel-turned-mogul, but that is exactly what Kathy Ireland did with her early Sports Illustrated success. It's all thanks to her brand licensing company, kathy ireland Worldwide (kiWW), which started life as a marketing company, evolved into a brand, and eventually included several thousand products.
Michael Jordan's made a bunch of smart business decisions, including a sneaker deal with Nike that Front Office Sports reported paid him $256 million just in 2022. But his smartest might have been his 2023 $3 billion sale of basketball team the Hornets, netting him a reported $2+ million profit.
Here with partner A.E. Hotchner, Paul Newman debuted a line of pasta sauces. Technically Newman's Own started in 1982 with salad dressing, but it quickly expanded (and if you've ever been to a grocery store, you've probably seen the products with Newman's face on them). Technically the profits go to a nonprofit, but this was also a second career for Newman after acting.
Ryan Reynolds has made a bunch of smart business investments, including ownership stakes in Aviation Gin and Mint Mobile. Fun(ny) fact: In 2023, it was revealed that Reynolds and business partner Rob McElhenney lost about $12 million on the Wales soccer team they bought, Wrexham A.F.C., leading to some comical reactions from Reynolds, but their promotion to the English Football League (and accompanying docuseries) was thought to help with that.
Dolly Parton has made some cool, interesting investments—including Dollywood, a theme park in Tennessee, and other parks and chains—but the coolest decision she's made recently was a $1 million donation to Vanderbilt University Medical Center to help develop the coronavirus vaccine.
When Rihanna launched Fenty Beauty in 2017, she said she was hoping to make makeup inspiring and fun for everyone "so that women everywhere would be included.” Forbes has estimated that Fenty Beauty alone is (conservatively!) worth $2.8 billion.
It might be impossible to count all the smart business decisions Oprah's made, from her brilliant and popular conception for The Oprah Winfrey Show, to her Favorite Things list and book club, to the diversification of her career, to her status as a media mogul. The limit does not exist?