Race to $1 Billion: Diddy Takes Top Spot on Forbes List

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Back in 2007, Sean “Diddy” Combs teamed with Jay Z and 50 Cent to create a song titled “I Get Money: Forbes 1-2-3 Billion Dollar Remix.” Less than a decade later, rappers are closing in on 10-figure fortunes, and he’s the closest of the bunch.

Diddy leads the pack with an estimated fortune of $700 million, an increase of $120 million over his net worth last year. The change comes largely from the addition of Revolt TV — the new, music-focused, multiplatform channel of which he’s the majority owner — to his already-hefty portfolio.

Diddy has plenty of competition in the race to $1 billion. His top challengers are Dr. Dre, who ranks second with $550 million, and Jay Z, in third place with an estimated $520 million. The former leapfrogged the latter on this year’s Forbes Five, a ranking of the wealthiest hip-hop artists, thanks to a large stake in Beats by Dr. Dre, which he co-founded with Interscope chief Jimmy Iovine in 2008.

The company controls an astounding two-thirds of the premium headphone market, with annual sales reportedly in excess of $1 billion and growing. Private equity firm Carlyle invested $500 million for a minority stake last year, pushing Beats’ value past $1 billion and likely closer to $2 billion.

“Beats has a unique brand — it speaks to a nice, young demographic, which is really interesting to marketers,” says Peter Csathy, former president of Musicmatch, an early digital music purveyor acquired by Yahoo in 2004 for $160 million. “When I think about Beats, I think about it as a lifestyle. I think of it as a media company, not just a hardware and music-focused company.”

Jay Z’s fortune continues to grow at a healthy clip, too. He’s made multiple nine-figure deals in the past, including his $204 million Rocawear sale in 2007 and his $150 million pact with Live Nation in 2008. But much of his recent growth comes from Roc Nation, his record label and management firm that recently added a sports agency. The outfit gets a single-digit cut of pacts like professional baseball player Robinson Cano’s $240 million monster agreement.

Next up: Bryan “Birdman” Williams, whose net worth would be over $300 million if he didn’t share his fortune with brother Ronald “Slim” Williams. The duo co-founded Cash Money Records two decades ago; Cash Money continues to grow with a roster that includes rappers Drake, Nicki Minaj and Lil Wayne. Birdman also has diversified with Cash Money Content, GT Vodka and the YMCMB clothing line.

Rounding out the list is 50 Cent, who owes most of his fortune to his $100 million haul from the sale of Vitaminwater in 2007. Now he’s trying to repeat the feat with companies like SMS Audio and SK Energy beverages. In the meantime, he’ll reboot his music career by taking his G-Unit Records independent and releasing a new album “Animal Ambition” in June.

Read the full story at forbes.com

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