British music mogul Simon Cowell could have hundreds of millions of dollars under his belt today, thanks to the runaway success of his Pop Idol and America’s Got Talent TV franchises.
But the 63-year-old hasn’t always been a shrewd businessman. In fact, early in his career, he nearly went bankrupt.
In his late twenties, Cowell had some success working in the music industry as an artist and repertoire (A&R) consultant and signing novelty acts like Power Rangers and Zig Puppets. and Zag.
It was then, says Cowell, that he got carried away.
“What I haven’t learned are credit cards,” he told Advertising Week Europe recently, recalling the lessons of this professional journey.
“Once I started making some money, I did everything a young A&R would do. [I] bought a Porsche, bought a house that I couldn’t afford,” he said.
Before long, he had spent all of his money — and more — and had to move in with his mom and dad.
“At 28, I was broke. I had to move back in with my parents. I was on the verge of bankruptcy, actually,” he said.
In fact, it wasn’t until a decade later, in his mid-30s, that Cowell said he was starting to “do really well.”
It was around this time that he signed to the hugely successful British boybands Westlife and Five.
Soon after, he became a judge on the first series of Pop Idol, a TV singing competition he created with fellow music director, Simon Fuller, which went on to spawn various TV talent shows including The X Factor. and Got Talent franchises.
Today, the entrepreneur is worth an estimated £390 million ($483 million), according to the latest edition of the Sunday Times Rich List published on Friday.
Still, Cowell said his first money mistake taught him an important lesson: “It taught me that I was in a rush; I wanted it all to happen overnight.”
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