Empowering women in finance

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Famous Women

Madonna and her millions.


Estimations of her current worth according to The Sunday Times Rich List 2008 edition, start at £300m and go up from there.

A brief history

Madonna Louise Ciccone grew up in Detroit, the third of eight children, whose mother died when she was six years old. The prospects of becoming a future star, business woman and multi millionaire where slim. She had no industry contacts and with the exception of her dance ability had little musical background.

In 1978 at the age of 19 and with the princely sum of US$35,  Madonna left her Michigan University dance major and set off to New York.  She worked initially at Dunkin Donuts and Burger King. She became involved in a band but things didn't take off and ended up moving between friend's couches for a while. Her prospects seemed grim but persistence and grit kept her going and eventually she started to work on her image and music.

Her first real financial awakening came when she discovered the commercial implication of the musical trend which was sweeping across the clubs. She started to frequent clubs with her demo tapes, having recognised that the key to breaking into the scene was held by the DJ's. One DJ especially assisted Madonna to climb the first rung of the ladder by introducing her to some influential record executives. This resulted in her first recording contract for US$5,000. Her first single was given a lot of hype in the dance clubs and she started work on her first album.

In 1983, her first album was climbing the charts and was supported by a flow of single releases. In 1984, she featured in the film, Desparately Seeking Susan. Essentially she was Madonna, playing herself, wearing her own clothes and featuring her own music.

In 1985 her 'Like a Virgin' album went triple platinum and as they say, the rest is history. But very early on in her career, Madonna stamped her mark on exactly how she expected things to be dealt with. After she learnt about the $5m the photographer Steven Meisel earned from syndicating some pictures he had taken of her, she insisted on retaining the rights to all future studio shoots. This became a pioneering move, that has been copied since by stars such as Tom Cruise.

The next issue she looked at was that of retaining song credits. Since 1986,  Madonna has always been the first name to appear on her song credits.

In 1992 she signed a US$60 million deal with Time Warner Inc. in a joint venture with Maverick records. This provided an ideal opportunity for her to promote her talent.  Maverick was for a while a great success, yielding one of the biggest selling albums of the 1990s in America, Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill.

Brand Madonna has extended across several continents and genres, from music to children's books.  She has been involved in advertising campaigns for Pepsi, BMW, Max  Factor, Versace and Gap. Then there are the merchandising deals, investments in fine art and property, appearance fees and other income accrued as a result of her being one of the most famous women on the planet.

Behind Madonna's ongoing rags to riches theme is her determination, drive and hard work.

How is Madonna's fortune invested?

In contrast to her public image, the material girl has been a cautious investor. She has built up a hugely valuable art collection. She has acquired around 300 works of art since starting her collection in 1987, when she paid $1million for Leger's Les Deux Bicyclettes.

She paid US$5m for Picasso's Buste de Femme a la Frange. She owns two Frida Kahlo paintings, My Birth and Self Portrait with a Monkey. She also owns works by Dali, Man Ray and the British modern artist, Damien Hirst.  Her collection was valued at around £80m last year.  Madonna's brother, Christopher Ciccone, estimated that by 2008 the value of his sister's art collection had grown by 600%!  Not a bad return on her money.

Property investment

About one fifth of Madonna's fortune is in property. After her marriage to Guy Ritchie in 2001, she sank around £40m into the British property market.  She currently owns six houses in central London, including ones in Marylebone and Belgravia. She also owns an 18th-century Mayfair pub.

In America she has two homes, the New York apartment on Central Park West, that she has owned since 1987 and that has since expanded to take in five surrounding apartments and a 16,500 square foot Mediterranean style villa on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood.

Her other investments that represent about half her total worth are said to be in government bonds. In his 2001 biography, Andrew Morton revealed that Madonna had avoided the stock market in favour of fixed interest investments in government bonds. This shrewd move will have protected her from the recent stock-market crash.

She has a distinctive business style of complete management of all her assets.  The only figures she is happy to make public are her charitable donations such as the Kabbalah Centre in Los Angeles, where she is a regular attendee and to which she donated £2.8m in 2007.

Madonna takes a keen interest in the valuation of her assets. Her portfolio is a great example of diversification and shows that there is a place for the often overlooked fixed interest investments. It also proves that alternative investments such as art can return great profits.

What can we learn from Madonna?

There are many lessons that can be learned from Madonna's rags to riches rise, right up to her current diverse portfolio. Madonna manages her brand, her businesses and her investments very carefully and with keen attention to detail. 

Everyone has a different style of how they are going to manage their money. Madonna is not a passive wealth manager, she is very proactive. Madonna ensures that she is current and up to date with all aspects of money that impact her everyday life. She reviews frequently her investments and business contracts to ensure that they are working for her.

The valuable lesson from Madonna is to set your goals from the start and stick with them.

Disclaimer: All the information above is provided as a service for individuals and institutions. It should in no way be construed as a recommendation as an investment. Investment decisions should be based on the risk tolerance and planning horizon of the investor. Market participants must understand that past performance is also not a guarantee or predictor of future results.
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