From broke to billions: Kanye West is a billionaire thanks to Yeezys

Forbes estimates he's worth $1.3 billion, but he says it's actually treble that figure

Kanye West attends the WSJ Magazine 2019 Innovator Awards at MOMA on November 6, 2019 in New York City. AFP
Kanye West attends the WSJ Magazine 2019 Innovator Awards at MOMA on November 6, 2019 in New York City. AFP

In 2016, Kanye West tweeted that he was more than $50 million in debt, and yet this week, Forbes officially declared the rapper and fashion mogul a billionaire for the first time.

How did the 42-year-old manage the turnaround? By building such frenzy around his Yeezy sneaker tie up with Adidas, which Forbes dubbed "one of the greatest retail stories of the century".

While there's a lack of independent verification of the figures, Forbes has estimated West's net worth to be $1.3 billion (Dh4.78 billion) after a "decade-long earnings analysis".

However, the rapper has reportedly already rebuked the claim, sending a message to someone at Forbes saying "it's $3.3 billion since no one at Forbes knows how to count".

West owns Yeezy outright, but it's tied to Adidas by contract, which manufactures, markets and distributes the shoes. The brand is valued at $1.2 billion. Forbes says West receives royalties of around 15 per cent of the Yeezy revenue.

While the Yeezy empire makes up the largest slice of the billionaire pie, the magazine reports that West also has $21 million in land, $17 million in cash, $35 million in stocks and $81 million in "buildings and improvements".

Last year, West told crowds at a Fast Company innovation festival that he might change his name to "Christian Genius Billionaire Kanye West”.

He was likely joking and/or ranting, but we guess now we know it would be accurate.

The Forbes update puts West higher on the billionaire's list than his sister-in-law Kylie Jenner, who is estimated to be worth $1 billion thanks to her makeup empire. But, at only 22, she remains the youngest person on the 'self-made' list, having appeared on the billionaire's list in 2020 for the second year running.

West at home with his family:

More on the Yeezy 350 Boost trainer

Handout of Kanye West’s new Yeezy Boost 350. Courtesy of Saks Fifth Avenue BURJUMAN - 8007257 *** Local Caption *** al99-ADU-kanye01.jpg
Kanye West’s Yeezy Boost 350. Courtesy of Saks Fifth Avenue

Launched in 2015 in collaboration with Adidas Originals, the Yeezy 350 Boost offered a new type of construction in knitted fabric, and a new extended rounded heel.

Delivered via much-hyped, selective “drops”, the trainers quickly proved impossible to keep on the shop floor, and customers went to extraordinary lengths to bag the shoe that no one could get hold of. In turn, this spawned a massive resale market, and by applying a highly restrictive sales tactic – the same used by Hermes for its much sought-after Birkin bag – the Boost helped turn West's fortunes around.

Published: April 25, 2020 11:26 AM

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