In recent years, multiple celebrities have attempted to extend their brand by venturing into the business world. Actor and comedian Will Ferrell found tremendous success with his website, FunnyorDie.com, while Rapper Sean Combs (P Diddy) owns multiple businesses, including a record label, a clothing line, a movie production company, and more.
Despite all the successful celebrity ventures in the world, however, there are numerous examples of celebrity businesses that have gone bust.
A celebrity name can automatically help a business, bringing in a recognizable spokesperson and a built-in fan base. However, just because a celebrity brand is attached to a business, it doesn’t guarantee success—and may occasionally cause more harm than good.
Celebrity businesses fail for numerous reasons, from poor business management and lack of experience, to bad concepts that were doomed from the beginning. Regardless of the reason, these celebrities have learned the hard way that success doesn’t always come easily in the business world.
So, which major celebrities launched businesses that flopped? Click ahead to find out!
By Jill Weinberger
Posted 09 September 2011
Business: Nyla Restaurant
Named after Spears’ two favorite places—New York and Louisiana—Nyla opened in June 2002 in Manhattan’s Dylan Hotel. The restaurant originally featured dishes with a Cajun and Southern flair, with dishes such as Southern sushi and fried okra, with prices ranging from $16 to $26 a dish.
According to People.com, however, the restaurant received terrible reviews, was cited for several health-code violations, and eventually began to suffer from financial problems. In an attempt to save the business, People reported, Nyla underwent a menu overhaul in which the Southern cuisine was dumped in favor of Italian dishes, but this was not enough to keep the restaurant afloat. Less than six months after it opened, Spears severed all ties with the business, the magazine said.
Business: Dive! Restaurant
The brainchild of director Steven Spielberg and Dreamworks CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg, Dive! was a submarine-themed restaurant in the shape of a neon-yellow submersible. The restaurant’s visitors were surrounded by metal catwalks, pressure gauges, and torpedo-shaped seats. Every half-hour, the restaurant would simulate a "dive" and red lights would flash around the room. Dive! opened in 1994 in Los Angeles, and in 1995 a second restaurant opened in Las Vegas.
The menu focused on "submarine" sandwiches and contained puns such as "sub-stantial salads" and "sub-lime desserts." The restaurant also generated additional income by selling souvenirs.
Despite its early success, the restaurant found difficulty in attracting locals as repeat customers. Sales fell short of projections and the sale of merchandise became sluggish. The Los Angeles Dive! closed its doors in 1999, and the Las Vegas restaurant followed soon after, according to published reports.
Business: Nicky-O Hotels
As an heir to the Hilton family, Nicky Hilton should have the hotel business running through her veins, but her disastrous attempt at starting up her own hotel chain proved otherwise.
Hilton’s first venture was planned as a 94-room luxury hotel on Miami’s Ocean Drive, with a second location planned for Chicago. Italian fashion designer Roberto Cavalli was brought in to design the hotel suites. The hotel was scheduled to open in time for the 2007 Super Bowl in Miami and reportedly advertised a $1,000 per night Super Bowl package. Unfortunately, plagued by delays, the hotel never opened its doors.
The project filed for bankruptcy protection in 2007 and Hilton was later sued by the condo hotel developer, who claimed she didn’t keep up her end of their business agreement. The developer said Hilton had promised to promote the project and that she misrepresented her associates. The property eventually was put up for auction, and the Chicago project was abandoned.
Source: The Washington Post | TMZ | People | USATODAY
Business: Vegan-Friendly Footwear
Natalie Portman is an advocate for animal rights, and she only wears clothing and shoes that are not made of animal byproduct. In early 2008, she collaborated with designer Te Casan to launch a vegan-friendly footwear line, which included shoes that were made without harming animals.
However, customers may have thought that the $200 price tag was a bit high, and shortly after, in December 2008, the parent company, Te Casan, closed shop due to failing sales.
Source: E! Online
Business: Planet Hollywood
After the success of the Hard Rock Café restaurant chain, CEO Robert Earl created Planet Hollywood. Inside, diners could eat alongside memorabilia and props from various movies and TV shows. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis, and Sylvester Stallone were among the company's celebrity shareholders, and the actors helped to promote the restaurant.
Unable to turn a profit, the restaurant chain filed for bankruptcy protection in 1999. In an attempt to keep the business afloat, many locations were shut and the company focused solely on tourist destinations. These efforts were still not enough, however, and following a decline in spending after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the company was forced to file for bankruptcy protection for a second time.In 2000, Schwarzenegger severed his ties with Planet Hollywood. At the peak of its success, the chain had more than 80 locations around the world, but as of fall 2011, only 16 remain in operation, including restaurants in New York and Orlando, Fla.
Source: People | CNN Money
Business: The “Kardashian Kard”
In 2008, Kim Kardashian and her sisters, Kourtney and Khloé, launched their own pre-paid credit card, dubbed “The Kardashian Kard.” The sisters said at the time they were excited to create their very own financial product.
Their excitement waned, however, after consumer advocates complained of the card’s extremely high fees, and the Kardashian sisters quickly came under attack for aiming the product at young adults. The sisters backed out of their contract, claiming they were unaware of the card’s high fees, according to AOL Small Business.
NBC’s "Saturday Night Live" was quick to ridicule the sisters for their decision to venture into a business they knew nothing about.
Source: AOL Small Business
Business: Heidiwood Clothes Line
Heidi Montag used her 15 minutes of fame from MTV’s reality show “The Hills” to launch her own fashion line, dubbed "Heidiwood," in 2008. Her clothes were available at Anchor Blue stores, priced between $10 to $60, and marketed to teenage girls. Unfortunately, the inexpensive clothes were described as flimsy, whisper-thin, and "unwearble" by critics.
Only seven months after its launch, Heidiwood was scrapped when Anchor Blue decided not to renew its contract with Montag, according to published reports.
Source: NYMag | People
Business: Fashion Café
Hoping cuisine might prove more successful than their movie careers, supermodels Claudia Schiffer, Christy Turlington, Elle MacPherson, Naomi Campbell helped launch Fashion Café with creator Tommaso Buti. The restaurant’s first location, which opened in 1995, was at New York's Rockefeller Center.
Inside, diners were greeted with cases displaying dresses, shoes, and fashion accessories of the models, and TVs displayed fashion show footage. The menu included chicken wings, pizza, and burgers, and dishes were named after the models.
The idea of associating supermodels with burgers and wings didn’t resonate with customers, however. The restaurant was unable to recoup its start-up costs and eventually ran out of money. The Fashion Café in Rockefeller Plaza closed in 1998.
Business: Tourist Destination Braselton, Ga.
In 1989, Kim Basinger partnered with other investors and spent $20 million to purchase the town of Braselton, Ga., an approximately 1,750-acre town, which at the time had a population of around 400. The investors had plans to turn the tiny town into a tourist attraction, featuring movie studios and a film festival.
Unfortunately, Basinger was never able to turn her ideas into reality. In 1993, after experiencing financial difficulties, Basinger and company sold Braselton for around $1 million, according to published reports.
Business: Madres Restaurant
In an effort to celebrate her Puerto Rican heritage, Jennifer Lopez opened Madres, which is Spanish for mother, in 2002 in Pasadena, Calif. The menu focused on Latin food that Lopez had enjoyed growing up, and included empanadas, ceviche, ropa vieja, and arroz con pollo, with dishes priced between $30 and $50.
Despite a star-studded opening, the restaurant received lackluster reviews, and six years later, a sign was placed on the front door that said, “Madres will be closed … until further notice.”
In addition to Madres, Lopez has also experienced failures in the fashion industry. Before it became common for celebrities to have fashion lines, Lopez found success in her clothing line JLO in 2003. Afterward, she launched two additional lines, JustSweet (2003), and Sweetface (2005).
With the recession, her initial clothing line JLO was unable to remain profitable, according to reports, and was closed in the U.S. in 2007. Her additional lines also didn't find success: JustSweet closed after only a few seasons at retail; and Sweetface, despite a revamp of the line, was halted in 2009.
Lopez may find success aiming at an older audience, however—the singer recently announced that a new line will come out this fall at the department-store chain Kohl’s.
Source: TMZ | People
Business: Suzanne’s Kitchen
In an attempt to “bring back the family dinner,” Suzanne Somers launched Suzanne’s Kitchen, a do-it-yourself meal prep franchise, in late 2006. The venture allowed customers to choose ingredients and prepare dishes at the store, and then take them home.
Due to internal conflict between Somers and her business partner, former Kentucky Governor John Y. Brown Jr., the business closed in early 2007. According to the gossip site bittenandbound.com, Brown complained that Somers altered the original concept, insisting that the food be organic-only, making the business “impractical and uneconomical.”
Business: Beso Restaurant and Nightclub
In 2008, “Desperate Housewives” TV show actress Eva Longoria partnered with celebrity chef Todd English to open up Beso, a restaurant with a Latin approach to classic steakhouse cuisine. The Hollywood-based restaurant found success, and in 2009 she expanded the brand to Las Vegas with a restaurant and nightclub.
According to The New York Daily News, her Vegas nightclub reportedly was losing more than $76,000 a month and had accumulated nearly $5.7 million in debt. In January, the nightclub filed for bankruptcy protection and eventually shut its doors. Beso’s Hollywood location is still successful and open for business.
Source: The New York Daily News
Although he missed out on the opportunity to put his face on the “George Forman” grill, Hulk Hogan was looking for a business opportunity, and unfortunately he settled on Pastamania, a fast-food restaurant in the Mall of America. Customers were given the opportunity to feast on a variety of pasta-based items, including “Hulk-U's” and “Hulk-a-Roos.”
The restaurant was even promoted through World Championship Wrestling, but no amount of marketing could keep the business from closing its doors less than a year after opening.
Hogan hasn’t given up on being an entrepreneur. Since then, he has launched his own energy drink, Hogan Energy, and has also attached his name to a line of microwavable hamburgers and chicken sandwiches called “Hulkster Burgers.”
Business: Pastelle Clothing Line
Kanye West, known for having an interest in fashion, had been talking about starting his own fashion line for years, and in 2009 he attempted it with Pastelle.
But West’s clothing business never had a fighting chance: Two days after photos of his fashion line were posted on the Internet, the business folded. Shortly before, West’s reputation took a hit after he interrupted Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech at the MTV Video Music Awards, declaring that another artist should have won. Many speculate that this stunt contributed to the fashion line’s demise.
Source: E! Online
Mandy Moore launched her clothing line Mblem in 2005, which focused on youthful contemporary clothing. The brand was sold in major department stores around the country.
In early 2009, almost three years after the launch, Mblem shut its doors. Moore said she stepped away from the business to focus on her music career, however interviews hint at creative differences behind the scenes. In an interview, she said, “If I were to dip my toe back in there, it would have to be the right situation… a great partnership that could represent a true reflection of me and my ideas and, you know, that wasn’t happening.”