Kanye West’s comeback: from $53 million in debt to making over $150 million in a year



In 2016, rapper Kanye West made headlines when he begged Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg via Twitter to invest $1 billion into his “ideas,” because he was personally $53 million in debt.

His apparel brand Yeezy is a billion-dollar empire, according to Forbes, and over the past 12 months, Forbes estimates West has earned over $150 million (pretax). His income is due largely to Yeezy’s Adidas deal, a line that is expected to top $1.5 billion in sales in 2019.

The rapper-turned-designer negotiated an unheard of 15% royalty on the wholesale price of his sneakers with the German shoemaker Adidas, plus a marketing fee, after he brought his brand over to the apparel brand from Nike in 2013, according to Forbes.

For comparison, basketball legend Michael Jordan, who’s Jordan Line of sneakers still generates approximately $3 billion in annual sales for Nike, is thought to only get royalties of about 5% on sales, according to Forbes. Jordan, however, doesn’t own his brand, while West does.

Kim Kardashian West, released a statement on Instagram saying that she is “so incredibly proud of [her] husband.” She says she’s watched every day how hard he worked and how much heart and soul he puts into his business and every product that he designs.“It’s of no surprise to anyone who works with or is close to Kanye that he has been able to turn millions of dollars in debt into a billion in only four years. 100% on his own terms, while owning 100% of his business,” she wrote.

West tells Forbes that he credits his success in part to his Christian faith and also to his diagnosis of bipolar disorder, which he calls a “superpower” that is key to his creativity. But mostly, he tell Forbes he is a “a product guy” at his core.

“To make products that make people feel an immense amount of joy and solve issues and problems in their life, that’s the problem-solving that I love to do,” West says.

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