Celebrity net worth: Serena Williams builds on her $240m business empire

In our fortnightly celebrity investment and wealth round-up, Scarlett Johansson joins a record-setting investment round and Akshay Kumar pays $1m for a Mumbai property

Tennis star Serena Williams has invested in more than 40 companies through her Serena Ventures company. AP
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Serena Williams

Serena Williams offered a rare insight into the struggles of managing several revenue streams last week.

“Got caught literally multitasking,” she posted to Instagram, captioning a video of herself switching between two different laptops while making notes on a sheet of paper in front of her. A coffee cup with the words “Best Mom Ever” hints at her other full-time job.

Williams has been off the tennis court since a hamstring injury in the first round of Wimbledon last year. However, that enforced absence has not slowed her finance game.

She earned a pre-tax total of $45.9 million last year as estimated by Forbes, which places her second on its list of the world’s top 10 highest-paid female athletes. Only $900,000 came from six on-court tournaments. The publication now estimates her net worth at $240m, an annual increase of $15m.

Over a 27-year career, Williams has earned twice as much as any other female athlete, pocketing more than $94m in prize money.

As her Instagram post indicates, Williams, 40, has a number of different revenue streams.

Crunchbase data indicates that she has invested in more than 40 companies through Serena Ventures. She founded the company in 2014 and tends to seek out early stage ventures in sport, health and technology.

Her investments include healthcare company Hued, education technology platform Fiveable, recipe start-up Foody and Indonesian coffee chain Kopi Kenangan, now considered one of the country’s unicorns.

Over the past month, Williams has backed at least two start-ups. A fortnight ago, Serena Ventures joined a $7m series A funding round in New York-based machine-learning messenger app Chatdesk, alongside Menlo Ventures, Harlem Capital, Stormbreaker Ventures, Fika Ventures and others.

In December, the company participated in a $4m seed round for Kiira, a technology-enabled healthcare provider that aims to address the needs of young multicultural women with a virtual care mobile app and personalised data-driven insights.

Williams is also a board member of Poshmark and SurveyMonkey's parent, Momentive. This month, she signed on as board adviser to Sorare, the player-owned online fan site that combines non-fungible tokens (NFTs) with fantasy sports.

Founded in 2018, the company has increased its trading volume to $325m in 2021, from $7m in 2020, reaching more than one million users around the world with 230 partnering sports organisations, it said in a statement.

“NFTs have the potential to be a powerful tool for bringing equity and investment to women’s sports. I’m excited to start working alongside … the team because they understand the relationship between athletes and fans unlike anyone else in the category, and I believe Sorare will be setting the culture and tone of the future of sports entertainment,” Williams said.

Separately, she is also an early investor in NFT platform Bitski.

The tennis star has also exited three investments: body products company Billie, community spaces network The Wing and nutrition manufacturer Olly.

Williams, widely considered one of the greatest of all time tennis players with 23 Grand Slam titles and four Olympic gold medals, has endorsed brands such as Nike, Gatorade, Gucci, Audemars Piguet, Subway and, more recently, satellite service DirecTV.

As a fashion designer, Williams set up a direct-to-consumer clothing line, S by Serena, in 2018. Other investments include an estimated 0.5 per cent stake in the Miami Dolphins football team.

She is also a film and TV producer. With her sister Venus, she produced King Richard, a biographical film about their father, who was played by Will Smith. Last April, Williams agreed to a first-look TV deal with Amazon Studios, which includes a biographical documentary series on her life.

Williams also owns several multimillion-dollar homes in the US, including a $6.9m property in Beverly Hills, California, another in Miami, Florida, and an apartment in Paris, France.

Scarlett Johansson

Actor Scarlett Johansson has been involved in setting a new record alongside a group of other celebrities and venture capital firms with a $620m investment in digital vault software service 1Password. The series C round, concluded last week, is thought to be the biggest in Canada and values the company at $6.8 billion.

Joining Johansson are X-Men and Avengers stars Ryan Reynolds and Robert Downey Jr, as well as Pharrell Williams and Rita Wilson. Other celebrity investors include Ashton Kutcher, Trevor Noah, Justin Timberlake, Chris Evans and Matthew McConaughey.

1Password offers consumers and businesses an online storage space for passwords, software licences and other sensitive information, with fees beginning at $2.99 a month. It claims to have 15 million users.

Johansson, 37, has a net worth of $165m, according to wealth-tracking website Celebrity Net Worth.

She was the highest paid actress in 2018 and 2019, at $40.5m and $56m respectively. The nine Marvel films earned her a total of $95m in fees and profits, according to Yahoo! Finance, with $20m coming from Black Widow alone.

Trailer for new Marvel movie 'Black Widow'

Trailer for new Marvel movie 'Black Widow'

Johansson is also sought after by fashion and luxury brands, making between $10m and $20m annually from endorsements. She has worked with the likes of L’Oreal, Louis Vuitton, Dolce & Gabbana, Mango, Calvin Klein and Moet & Chandon.

She has a sizeable real-estate portfolio worth about $20m and has properties in New York and Los Angeles.

Her Manhattan penthouse has been on the market for more than 18 months. The two-bedroom, two-bathroom home is now available for $1.86m, after initially listing for $2.3m, according to The New York Post.

Akshay Kumar

Bollywood star Akshay Kumar bought an apartment in the western Mumbai suburb of Khar last week. He paid 78m Indian rupees ($1.04m) for the 19th-floor flat.

Builder Bhavin J Soni told media that Kumar acquired the 167.2-square-metre (1,800-square-foot) flat as an investment.

Born in Amritsar, Punjab, Kumar has previously been on Forbes’ list of highest-earning global entertainers. His present net worth is estimated at $240m.

The bankable actor has appeared in more than 100 films during a 30-year career. He earns $5m to $10m per film and has endorsement deals with more than 20 brands.

Kumar also own homes in the Mumbai suburbs of Juhu and Andheri, as well as properties in Mauritius and Canada.

Bob Dylan

Folk singer and Nobel Prize winner Bob Dylan has sold the master recordings to his entire back catalogue to Sony Music months after a previous blockbuster sale to Universal Music Group.

The deal includes all of the singer’s albums dating through to 1962, as well as the rights to several future releases. It is valued at an estimated $150m and $200m, according to Variety.

“Columbia Records and Rob Stringer have been nothing but good to me for many, many years and a whole lot of records,” Dylan said. “I am glad that all my recordings can stay where they belong.”

Dylan, 80, sold his publishing rights to Universal in 2020 for about $400m.

The two deals cover hits such as Blowin’ In The Wind, The Times They Are A-Changin', Tangled Up in Blue, Like a Rolling Stone and Mr Tambourine Man.

Dylan's sale comes after a series of acquisitions of rights to songs and recordings by the likes of Madonna, David Bowie, Fleetwood Mac, Shakira, Blondie and David Guetta.

Also last week, Luis Fonsi, co-writer and singer of 2017 global breakout hit Despacito and many other songs, sold both the songwriter and publisher catalogue right to his work to HarbourView Equity Partners, an alternative asset management company, Billboard reported. The terms of the deal were not disclosed.

At least $5 billion was spent on music rights acquisitions in 2021, according to industry publication Music Business Worldwide.

Sony has been a major buyer, with $1.4bn in acquisitions over the first half of 2021 alone. In December, it spent another $500m on Bruce Springsteen’s catalogue.

Dylan, born Robert Allen Zimmerman, is estimated to have a net worth of $375m.

Updated: January 31, 2022, 5:00 AM