Larry Busacca/Getty Images
by Leslie Gornstein | Sun., Apr. 17, 2011 9:03 AM
Larry Busacca/Getty Images
Mom always said it was rude to talk about money. But how did Elizabeth Taylor amass such a huge fortune, north of $600 million!?
—Malone S, via Facebook
Two words: White Diamonds, a perfume so lucrative that a flying stack of $100 bills lands on Liz Taylor's grave every time someone even thinks about a bottle.
Liz knew how to make a deal, son. But her net worth is nothing compared with how folks like Beyoncé and Jay-Z are building their hoard these days:
First, a closer look at the late Liz's millions.
Yes, the general estimate of her worth at the time of her death is roughly $600 million. A goodly portion of that, about $150 million, is tied up in jewels and other gifts that Liz enjoyed receiving from movie studios, husbands, admirers and producers who hired her.
Liz loved to get glittering gifts; she considered them beautiful, of course—but she also viewed them as investments. One jewel alone, the Burton-Taylor diamond, was worth $1 million in 1969, and about $5.8 million today. Other big-ticket jewelry pieces include a diamond Cartier necklace from Mike Todd, and a 33.19-carat Krupp diamond from Richard Burton.
But according to reports, most of Liz's wealth came from merchandising deals, such as the White Diamonds perfume she created with Elizabeth Arden.
White Diamonds sold for $200 an ounce when it first launched in 1991 at the Marshall Field & Co department store in New York. And that pricey perfume is still considered a bestseller. Along with other Taylor scents—such as Passion and Passion for Men—her perfumes earned an estimated $69 million last year alone, according to tracking firm Euromonitor International.
During the 1990s, Liz reportedly earned about $2 per second, or about $63 million per year, thanks to all those business deals.
She had houses, too, including one in Bel Air, where homes go for roughly $23 million and up.
And of course we can't forget Liz's film career. For her gig as Cleopatra, she earned a then-unheard-of $4 million. Today, with inflation, that's about $47 million.
So. That's why Liz died rich.
Know who else is on a wealth track similar to Liz?
Let's talk about Jay-Z. The rapper-turned-money-machine has an estimated net worth of at least $450 million. Already. And he's only 41 years old.
How did he get there? Well, working, for one.
"New stars will get most of their money from contracts they sign for endorsements and entertainment work," says Rebecca Rothstein, a Managing Director at the Beverly Hills office of Morgan Stanley Smith Barney.
But not all of their money.
Forbes magazine notes that Jay-Z sold his Rocawear clothing label for $204 million in 2007, and signed a $150 million deal with Live Nation the following year. He also holds investments in a club chain, a basketball team, an advertising firm and still other businesses.
Wife Beyoncé is said to be not far behind; she's widely believed to have a net worth somewhere north of $300 million. Meanwhile, Diddy, another mogul, is said to have a huge net worth of about $475 million.
Both Jay-Z and Beyoncé appear to have glamorous portfolios, filled with clothing and entertainment-related investments. But more likely, I am told, your fave celebrity is likely playing things very safe with his or her wallet.
"The smart stars sock away as much as possible in conservative mutual funds and live off of a six percent return on those funds," says Andrew Stoltmann, a Chicago securities attorney with high-profile clientele. "The merchandise deals come and go, but if the money is invested right, it's there forever."
Sort of like Liz's perfume. Oh man. Another stack of hundred-dollar bills just landed over at Forest Lawn.
—Additional reporting by Brooke Matthews