How LVMH helped make Rihanna a billionaire

Rihanna and LVMH have built a multibillion-dollar partnership.
Rihanna and LVMH have built a multibillion-dollar partnership.
Image: Reuters/Lisi Niesner
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Rihanna has joined the exclusive ranks of the world’s billionaires. The singer’s worth now stands at $1.7 billion, according to an estimate from Forbes. Despite her fame as a performer, it’s her makeup line, Fenty Beauty, that makes up the majority of that fortune—about $1.4 billion of it, to be exact.

Rihanna’s stardom undoubtedly helped to make the brand so valuable. Even more important was her insight in making cosmetics for a wide range of skin tones to address the needs of darker-skinned women, who had been historically underserved by the beauty industry.

But it certainly didn’t hurt that she had a powerful partner in her corner: LVMH, the luxury conglomerate behind Louis Vuitton, Dior, and many other successful brands.

Fenty Beauty—its name comes from Rihanna’s full name, Robyn Rihanna Fenty—launched in 2017 under the umbrella of LVMH’s beauty incubator, Kendo. The program creates products to be sold in Sephora, the popular cosmetics and perfume retailer also owned by—you guessed it—LVMH. The conglomerate invested €30 million (about $35 million) in cash in the venture, taking a 50.01% stake. Rihanna agreed to put in €30 million in “in-kind” contributions, meaning assets such as her time, effort, and name, and controls the remaining 49.99%. “We are aiming for the stars,” David Suliteanu, Kendo’s CEO at the time, told trade outlet WWD in 2016 (paywall).

Rihanna and LVMH: a powerful partnership

Fenty Beauty had not only had the technical expertise and financial backing of LVMH, which already had a portfolio of perfumes and cosmetics brands, but also a built-in distribution channel in Sephora. (The brand also sells online through the Fenty Beauty site.) With Rihanna’s savvy and promotion, it took off. In its first full year in operation, it generated a reported €500 million in sales.

While LVMH doesn’t break out the brand’s sales separately in its quarterly reports, it has consistently said the brand continues to grow. Last year, it also expanded into the lucrative skincare space. Forbes now estimates Fenty Beauty’s value at a “conservative $2.8 billion,” and since Rihanna owns half, that amounts to about $1.4 billion for her.

Another $270 million of her worth comes from Savage x Fenty, her lingerie company, which has also found success with a more inclusive approach than established competitors. It has a number of backers, among them L Catterton, the private equity firm owned in part by Bernard Arnault, CEO and majority shareholder of LVMH.

The ties between Rihanna and LVMH have generally been profitable for both, leading them to announce the launch of a full-fledged luxury fashion brand in 2019. It was one venture that didn’t succeed, however. It had difficulty building a clear identity, while its high prices—$700 for a shirt dress or $900 for high heels—left out many of the customers who otherwise line up for Fenty Beauty’s $22 lipstick and other products. In February, LVMH said it would put the line on pause.