Kanye West praised for turning $53M in debt into $1B Yeezy empire

By Business LeadersFOXBusiness

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Three years ago, Kanye West revealed he was $53 million in debt and tweeted at Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg asking for a $1 billion investment. On Wednesday, Forbes ranked the rapper as the third highest-paid celebrity, noting he built a $1 billion empire through his brand Yeezy.

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Kim Kardashian praised her husband Wednesday for making it on to Forbes’ 2019 list of the 100 highest-paid celebrities, which revealed the “Famous” singer had a pretax income of at least $150 million, just behind Taylor Swift and Kylie Jenner’s earnings in the past year.

“I watch every day how hard he works and how much of his heart and soul he puts into his business, every idea, and product that he creates,” Kardashian wrote in an Instagram post. “It’s of no surprise to anyone who works with or is close to Kanye that he has been able to turn millions of dollars in debt into a billion dollar empire in only 4 years – 100 percent on his own terms while owning 100 percent of his business.”

Kardashian was referring to West’s success in launching his Yeezy brand in partnership with Adidas and negotiating a rare deal. His Yeezy sneakers are expected to top $1.5 billion in sales by the end of this year and grow in the years to come.

One of the more impressive parts of the line, however, is the agreement West struck in 2013 to move Yeezy from Nike to Adidas. The rapper-turned-designer gets a per-shoe royalty of 15 percent on the wholesale price and full ownership of his brand, Forbes reported.

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Michael Jordan, whose Air Jordan line of sneakers for Nike generates about $3 billion in sales each year, only gets about 5 percent royalty, according to Forbes. Unlike West, Jordan also doesn’t own his brand.

West managed to go from millions of dollars in debt to "centimillionaire status" in a few years partly because he has 100 percent ownership of Yeezy, Forbes reported. The rapper, combined with his other ventures, is expected to reach billionaire status in the future.

West told Forbes his success in recent years is due to his religious beliefs and his bipolar diagnosis, which he dubbed as his “superpower” that drives his imagination.

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The rapper said he’s “just blessed through the grace of God to go from tweeting at Mark Zuckerberg” for money to creating his billion-dollar empire today.

“People wondered, ‘Why did you tweet at Mark Zuckerberg?’ And I was like, ‘Hey, I heard he was looking for aliens,’” West said.