Whether he’s going by Pitbull, Mr. 305 or Mr. Worldwide, Armando Pérez is both a recording artist and a self-made mogul, rising from Miami’s mean streets to become a hustling entrepreneur worth $27 million, according to Forbes’ recent list of Hip-Hop Cash Kings. That’s more than double his bona fides from four years ago, when the same survey had him pegged at $11 million.
“There are no failures, only opportunities” is one of his favorite mottos. Another — “There’s nothing better than freedom” — describes his current situation after the conclusion of his deal with Sony Music Group and RCA Records, making him a free agent for the first time since he signed with Luther Campbell’s Luke Records in 2001 (his Spanish-language albums are still distributed by Sony Latin).
“For me, this is just the beginning,” says Pérez, who insists he won’t re-up with another record label for the time being. Instead, he announced a new venture at the recent eMerge Americas tech conference in Miami Beach: a worldwide blockchain coding competition — which he’s dubbed Smackathon — hoping to help artists wend their way through the maze of streaming services while disrupting the current music business.
Of course, music is only one of Pitbull’s hustles. The 37-year-old Cuban-American Miami native has graduated from endorsement deals with Dr. Pepper, Bud Light and Dodge to equity positions in his own Voli 305 Vodka, After Dark Clothing line and fragrance company and film/TV production entity Honey I’m Home (named for the phrase made famous by Cuban-born entertainer Desi Arnaz on “I Love Lucy”). His brand ambassadorships include stints with Playboy Enterprises — creating a Pitbull slot machine — and, most recently, Norwegian Cruise Line, along with his own Sirius XM music channel, Globalization.
This summer, he plans to open restaurant iLov305, based on a Latino version of Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville, on Miami’s Ocean Drive. (There are also plans for the two to collaborate on a song.) And he’s expanding his Little Havana-based charter school project SLAM! (Sports Leadership Arts and Management), designed to give opportunity to disadvantaged urban youths, to seven other locations, including Atlanta and Las Vegas. But while Pitbull more than lives up to his name as a tenacious businessman, he also continues his interest in charitable work: He’s an active supporter of the Miami-based Nicklaus Children’s Hospital and the Imaginate Foundation, which provides resources for low-income families in the area.
Amid it all, he’s still active as a performer, featured on Enrique Iglesias’ new single, “Move to Miami,” and set to open on the European leg of Britney Spears’ Piece of Me tour. (The two share a manager in Maverick’s Larry Rudolph; Pitbull is booked by WME.)
“Music is still the driving force, the engine that creates those opportunities, but if you want to survive, it’s necessary to diversify,” Pérez advises. “Music will always be a part of my life because it’s therapeutic to put my thoughts and ideas to a beat and feed that to the world. That’s priceless. I’m a fan first, an artist second and a businessman third.”