11 May 2011

So you want to be a rock 'n' roll star

I used to buy the Sunday Times reasonably regularly in the late 1990s, but nowadays it all seems rather fusty and arch-conservative. But one of my guilty pleasures coincides with a once-a-year event: the publication of the Sunday Times' annual Rich List supplement, in which the newspaper produces its best guess of the thousand wealthiest people or families in Britain and Ireland. I suspect that buying it with the intention of gawping at the huge sums attributed to the various tycoons and celebs marks me out as somewhat immature. I admit to being one of the many who, on hearing of a large lottery jackpot, immediately starts to think of how it could be spent, and when it's people who have succeeded in the music business, it offers a glimpse into an often opaque world.

I'm also interested in how much money creative types end up with, which shows that entertainers can break their way into the realms of the super-rich. But how has the recent recession hit the music Rich Listers? Has it depleted their funds quicker than a gold-encrusted limo sale at Limos R Us? As it happens, I have the 2007 Rich List alongside the one published this Sunday. Let's take a look, shall we?

Only three of the names appearing in both the 2007 and 2011 lists have experienced a substantial improvement in their worth. The greatest leap in proportion to 2007 wealth was for TV impresario Simon Cowell, whose burgeoning bank balance shows the value of tapping into the American market. His estimated wealth doubled over the four years, from £100m in 2007 to £200m in 2011. Next in line was theatre promoter Sir Cameron Mackintosh, whose estimated wealth increased by 50 percent from £450m to £675m, thanks to a wildly successful West End staging of Oliver Twist featuring Rowan Atkinson at Fagin and TV talent show winner Jodie Prenger as Nancy, and revivals of Les Miserables and Hair. Third best gain went to David and Victoria Beckham, whose wealth increased from £112m to £165m, but this is mainly due to David's football career and Victoria's fashion rather than Spice Girls residuals. So third place should properly go to the quixotic George Michael, whose wealth increased from £75m to £95m despite two arrests and a four-week jail sentence in Highpoint Prison in Suffolk. His popularity in America, international touring and sporadic releases helped to boost his funds.

Despite this selection of achievers, most of the names who feature on both the 2007 and 2011 lists have seen their estimated wealth decline, with many experiencing a 10 to 20 percent decline in worth since 2007. The most significant decline was that of Sir Paul McCartney, whose wealth shrunk from £725m to £495m. It has been suggested that McCartney's personal fortune suffered as a result of the impact of the recession on his property and shares portfolio, and due to his divorce settlement with Heather Mills. McCartney's contemporary, Welsh legend Sir Tom Jones, also saw his fortune drop in value, from £190m in 2007 to £140m in 2011. But his star is on the rise once more, with his most recent album selling 130,000 copies in the UK and reaching number 2 in the UK album charts. The former owner of the Chrysalis record label, Chris Wright, also saw his worth fall by a similar proportion, from £95m to £70m.

There are some notable changes in the lists as a result of developments in the past four years. Madonna is no longer a British resident and she divorced Guy Ritchie in 2008, taking most of her wealth with her back to America. Impresario Robert Stigwood, whose £212m fortune resulted in him taking the ninth-highest slot in the 2007 list, is no longer listed. Perhaps he now resides overseas.

Some new names appear in the 2011 list. Moya Doherty and John McColgan (£70m) have made their fortune in the entertainment industry from their Irish base; they own the popular Riverdance show and a TV production company. Others appearing include well-known performers like John Deacon from Queen, Noel and Liam Gallagher, Mark Knopfler, Englebert Humperdinck, and Nick Mason from Pink Floyd, all of whom are valued at over £50m.

It's also interesting to note that while Robbie Williams re-joined Take That in July 2010, it was not for want of a decent income. His personal wealth is estimated at £90m, so clearly Williams relishes the opportunity to stay in the spotlight, even though he doesn't need the money.

The Rich List also contains a healthy selection of young millionaires, many of whom hail from the music profession, like Katherine Jenkins (£13m), Cheryl Cole and Katie Melua (both £12m). So if you're struggling with your guitar or singing lessons, consider that for at least some people, the decision to become a performer can both bring fame and personal achievements, but it can also pay very healthy dividends.
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