Carl Icahn. Warren Buffett. George Soros. When we think of great investors, names like these come to mind. Most great investors are finance gurus first and celebrities second. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t famous people who are super savvy with their money.
In fact, some of the best celebrity investors in the world might surprise you.
Of course, in order to earn a reputation as one of the best celebrity investors on the planet, you’ve got to build a nice little nest egg to begin with. One can’t exactly found a venture capital firm with a dollar and a dream.
Whether these celebs gained fame and stardom on the court or the field, the big screen or the stage, the following 10 celebrities are all surprisingly gifted investors.
The Best Celebrity Investors: Nas
“Nasty Nas” is widely considered one of the greatest emcees of all time. His studio albums have sold more than 25 million copies, and his albums Illmatic and It Was Written are considered two of the best hip-hop albums ever.
But while the public is well aware of Nasir Jones’s rapping prowess, the Queens artist is quietly becoming a legend in another game: The world of venture capital.
Nas founded QueensBridge Venture Partners, a VC firm which has helped to fund more than 100 companies in the last six years. Some of them are already big successes: Cloud storage company Dropbox and ride-hailing app Lyft are the two biggest names in its sprawling portfolio. Other investments include the trading app Robinhood, sleep startup Casper, ticket platform SeatGeek, and moving company Bellhops.
The Best Celebrity Investors: Jared Leto
Even TechCrunch’s Alex Wilhelm, in a 2014 TC profile on the famous actor and musician, was surprised to learn of Leto’s somewhat prolific and pretty successful stint as a venture capitalist.
The Requiem for a Dream and Dallas Buyers Club actor has made over 40 investments in a wide number of companies, including Zenefits, Robinhood, reddit, and Meerkat. His most successful investment “both in creative terms and financial terms” was in Nest, the smart thermostat company that Alphabet (GOOG, GOOGL) — still Google back then — snapped up for $3.2 billion.
Leto prefers to not merely be a passive investor, and has been of strategic importance to Zenefits, the HR automation company that is using Leto’s swagger to tap into new markets in Hollywood.
The Best Celebrity Investors: Magic Johnson
Magic Johnson made a name for himself on the basketball court in his college years, and by the time he retired in the early 90s, he left as one of the best players to ever lace ‘em up. After his Showtime days were over, however, he quickly made the transition to the business world, where he quickly became an All-Star as well.
He began his own line of movie theaters, made a fortune owning more than 100 Starbucks (SBUX), was previously part-owner of the Lakers, and currently owns the Los Angeles Dodgers with a group of other investors.
With a net worth of $500 million, it would seem Magic’s nickname is as true in the board room as it is on the court, and the all-time great recently added a life insurance company to the portfolio of Magic Johnson Enterprises.
The Best Celebrity Investors: Steve Nash
Another legendary point guard, Steve Nash, is also setting examples for business-minded athletes when they retire. Two-time NBA MVP Nash has said Magic Johnson’s success in business helped inspire him to want to be great in that realm as well.
Nash has built a health-centric portfolio of investments across product lines like juices and supplements, and even owns a stake in Vancouver’s Major League Soccer club, the Whitecaps. In 2010, he co-founded a venture capital fund called Consigliere Brand Capital, LLC.
Consigliere has gone on to invest in a number of hot names, including Contently, Birchbox, and Casper.
While it’s tough to tell exactly how the valuations of those private companies have fluctuated, Fortune reported in August of 2015 that Birchbox’s next round of funding would value the beauty supply delivery service at $750 million, a healthy premium to the $400 million to $500 million valuation Consigliere bought into about a year before.
The Best Celebrity Investors: Ashton Kutcher
That 70s Show star Ashton Kutcher’s success in the world of investing has been pretty well documented. That doesn’t make it any less surprising, though.
While we were far more likely to find Kutcher’s character Kelso blazing a fatty in the basement than leading a seed round of the next Silicon Valley unicorn, in real life Kutcher is more akin to John Doerr. He’s made more than 50 investments in 45-plus companies, some of which are now household names.
Familiar with Spotify, Airbnb, Foursquare, Uber, or Dwolla? Good, Ashton owns a chunk of each of them. Spotify, Airbnb, and Uber alone are three of the most widely anticipated IPOs on the planet right now, so when they go public Kutcher will be set to make a fortune. Not that he needs it; he’s already worth $140 million.
The Best Celebrity Investors: Jay Z
Jay Z is arguably the most famous and legendary rapper alive today, but his prowess in the business world is equally impressive. He’s always had money on his mind, and after he founded his own label, he built it up and sold it to Def Jam for $10 million.
He founded his own clothing line, Rocawear, in 1999, which sold eight years later for the modest sum of $204 million. He started the iconic 40/40 club in New York, and even owned part of the New Jersey (now Brooklyn) Nets. He had to sell out of that, though — for what Forbes estimates was a 135% gain — because he founded his own sports agency, Roc Nation Sports.
In 2015, Jay Z bought the music streaming service that is now TIDAL for $56 million in cash. That service is currently making a major push to compete against Spotify, and in February his wife Beyonce and his buddy Kanye both released exclusive music on the service that only subscribers can access. Pretty savvy — no wonder he’s worth more than $500 million.
The Best Celebrity Investors: Dr. Dre
Dr. Dre is another rapper-slash-entrepreneur, and while he too made his first millions in music, he’s leveraged his name to make far more in the corporate world.
Whether its appearing in Dr Pepper commercials, licensing his image for a feature-length film, or apparently starring in a new Apple-produced TV series, Dre knows how to monetize his talents.
But his greatest investment — and you only need one if it’s as successful as Dre’s was — was in Beats By Dre, his trendy headphone and music streaming company that eventually sold to Apple Inc. (AAPL) in 2014 for $3 billion. The deal made Dre $620 million — not bad for a project he began six years earlier.
The Best Celebrity Investors: Shaquille O’Neal
Shaquille O’Neal: The greatest NBA center of his generation, he’s also a former rapper and actor, a current basketball analyst on TNT, and he has a doctorate in education. But Dr. O’Neal is also an extremely savvy investor.
Shaq was a pre-IPO investor in Google. He’s got an equity stake in Five Guys. The man owns forty 24-Hour Fitness locations, a number of car washes, part of a sports drink company, and a few nightclubs.
The Big Aristotle disclosed in an interview a few years back that one quote, from General Dwight D. Eisenhower, changed his entire outlook on life and business: “The greatest of leaders are the ones smart enough to hire people smarter than them.”
Dr. O’Neal seems to have it all figured out now, and in 2014 his agent said he was making more than $20 million annually despite being retired.
The Best Celebrity Investors: David Robinson
Former San Antonio Spurs big man David Robinson is a man of discipline. Nicknamed “The Big Admiral” after coming into the NBA from the Naval Academy, the Hall-of-Famer is currently playing the private equity game — quite well, as a matter of fact.
Robinson co-founded Admiral Capital, a private equity firm focused on real estate deals, in 2007. The fund controls hundreds of millions of dollars in assets, and in late 2015 Robinson was raising money for a second fund, the Admiral Capital Real Estate Fund 2, which hopes to raise $175 million total.
JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon is a personal friend, and has complimented Robinson’s philanthropic efforts as well, calling him a “triple threat.”
The Best Celebrity Investors: Troy Aikman
Troy Aikman is an NFL legend and somewhat of a Texas hero. The six-time Pro-Bowler won three rings with the Cowboys in the 1990s, ensuring he’ll never have to buy a drink in Dallas again.
In the early ’90s, Aikman started making big business moves, putting his name on the Troy Aikman Automall, which sold Chevys, Chryslers, and Jeeps. He owned a 25% stake, and after his partner made him a “very significant offer,” he sold out. To further beef up his nest egg, Aikman acquired some Ford Motor Company (F) dealerships and again was bought out — this time by Ford itself.
Along the way, the former QB also established a real estate company, which leased to big-time tenants like J C Penney Company Inc (JCP) and Target Corporation (TGT). But perhaps his most significant win was with Wingstop Inc (WING), which he became an early investor in back in 2003 when the company had 133 restaurants.
Then, 12 years later, Wingstop went public with more than 750 locations. Aikman sold a chunk of his shares on the first day of trading, making some serious money. He said that his Wingstop stake grew to be worth more than he made in his first four years in the NFL — a period in which he earned $6 million.
As of this writing, John Divine did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities. You can follow him on Twitter at @divinebizkid or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.