Pitbull: Fame and Fortune

How singing star Pitbull is building a business empire

Pitbull by the numbers

Mr. Worldwide. Mr. 305. Pitbull.

The nicknames of Cuban-American recording artist Armando Christian Peréz sound like chapter titles ripped out of a biography chronicling his unlikely rise from the streets of Miami to global stardom.

Were it not for a 2009 legal victory — the rapper was released from his contract with TVT Records after a lengthy dispute — Perez might have missed the opportunity to plot and execute what has proved to be a highly strategic business plan.

"My goal was freedom. I got free," he said. "That's where Mr. Worldwide came from. … No matter what kinda check they wave in front of you, there's nothing better than your freedom."

Six years later, between successful albums and numerous business deals, Peréz has amassed a hefty fortune. Estimates of his wealth are in the tens of millions, if not higher. And with music sales slumping and controversy swirling around streaming-music service agreements with artists, Peréz continues to expand his fan base and global influence.

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The raw numbers are staggering: nearly 21.4 million followers on Twitter, 4.8 million on Google Plus, 2.5 million on Instagram and 60 million "Likes" on Facebook.

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Building a global brand

Topping the list of most influential people in the Latino community, according to People En Espanol magazine, Peréz' influence is what is driving large corporations to look to him for endorsements and collaborations. They include a pact with Endemol North America to develop TV projects and digital offshoots; a fragrance line with Jacavi Worldwide and Parlux; Bad Boy Latino, a Latin hip-hop record label launched in 2005 with Sean Combs; and a majority stake in Voli Vodka and the Miami Grill.

"The music business is 90 percent business, 10 percent talent. It's great that you can rap. It's great that you can sing," he said. "But if you don't understand the business, then the people around you are going to take advantage of your business."

Peréz listens to mentors and others in the business community, which may be the key to his meteoric rise, especially among the Latin community. He cites Warren Buffett and Carlos Slim as people he admires — clearly looking well beyond the entertainment industry for business acumen.

Tony Robbins, well-known author and motivational speaker, is a mentor and friend. "He's got guts. He's got cajones. He's got intestinal fortitude — whatever you wanna call it — he's got the balls to do what he really wants to do," Robbins said.

The music business is 90 percent business, 10 percent talent.
Armando Christian Peréz, known as Pitbull

Next month, he will become "the godfather" for Norwegian Cruise Line and christen its new ship, the Norwegian Escape. That follows a long list of other endorsements, for such brands as Bud Light, Kodak, Playboy, Wal-Mart and Dr Pepper.

Many brands approach Peréz, but his strategy for selecting his partnerships is much more about feelings than business acumen, he claims.

For Peréz, first impressions are really important, and so are personal relationships. "To be honest with you, the first thing I do is size up the person who is a potential partner," he said. "I don't care if a multibillion-dollar business opportunity comes my way," he said. "I don't need a multitrillion-dollar headache."

Vocal vocalist

Peréz has been widely vocal about the music industry's biggest miss: streaming music. At the eMerge technology conference in Miami last May, he said he believes the biggest mistake was that the music industry didn't partner up with Steve Jobs and Apple. Many artists, like Taylor Swift and Jay Z, are vocal about the streaming business not being lucrative to the artists. Peréz agrees that although it's a way to get music out globally, deals need to be restructured.

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Robbins and a chorus of others who've gotten to know "Pitbull" seem to have no doubt the entertainer has whatever it takes to ensure continued success in the ever-changing entertainment industry.

That's because he's fearless and determined to live out the American dream. Pitbull sums it up nicely: "I love the hustle, I love the grind, and I love the fight."

TUNE-IN Pitbull: Fame & Fortune premieres tonight, Thursday, October 22, at 10pm ET.