Mogul builds empire on image, taste and savvy

As a 12-year-old growing up in Mount Vernon, N.Y., Sean Combs managed to finagle his way into a $600-a-week paper route even though he was a year too young to get the job. It was then, the hip-hop mogul once said, he figured out that “one plus one equals two.”

That knack for basic math has led Combs on a relentless progression of successful business growth, as he discovered how to add likable celebrity image and hitmaking taste with keen branding savvy.

For Combs, a knack for transition has matched sizable ambition.

With urban fashion percolating in the ’90s, he moved his Bad Boy music empire into a fast-growing clothing business based on his own image.

Later, with urban market sales cooling, he broadened his apparel lines — and his brand — into aspirational luxury, attaching his Sean Jean moniker to everything from cologne to vodka, growing his merchandising empire into a $525 million-a-year business in the U.S. alone with sights set on Fortune 500 status.

Still six months from his 39th birthday, and ready to receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame Friday, Combs is in the midst of what might be his most compelling transition yet, as he directs his focus to acting.

In this section, Variety examines the man’s business empire and creative acumen.

Tip Sheet

What: Sean Combs gets his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Where: 6801 Hollywood Blvd. in front of the Hollywood & Highland Center.

When: Friday at 11:30 a.m.

Who: Speakers at the event will include Jamie Foxx.

What’s next: A private party at billionaire Ron Burkle’s estate will follow the presentation.

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