Kanye West sang Forbes’ praises as recently as two weeks ago with the release of new album Jesus Is King, recalling the days when this publication’s “cover was just a mirage.” Indeed, he’s come quite far, earning a career-high $150 million pretax this year, thanks mostly to his Yeezy sneakers. But West changed his tune yesterday.
“When I did Forbes, I showed them an $890 million receipt and they still didn’t say ‘billionaire,’” he said at an event in New York. “When people say it's crass to call yourself a billionaire, I say I might legally change my name to Christian Genius Billionaire Kanye West for a year until y'all understand exactly what it is.”
So why hasn’t West appeared on our Billionaires list? The main reason is quite simple: the issue containing that ranking comes out once per year, usually in the spring. When we looked at West’s wealth in early 2019, we pegged his net worth at $240 million–admittedly conservative, as we aim to be with all our wealth estimates.
Subsequently, over the summer, I sat down with West and interviewed him for the cover story in our August issue (though I don’t recall seeing the aforementioned $890 million receipt among the materials he and his team provided, that alone would not be enough to prove billionaire status).
The success of his Yeezy brand–projected to do some $1.5 billion in sales of his footwear (via Adidas) and apparel through the end of 2019–had, by that point, already increased his net worth markedly from our previous estimate, as I noted in the story: “Perhaps most impressively, West still owns 100% of Yeezy. This is the reason he became a centimillionaire many times over much earlier in his life than [Michael] Jordan. Given Yeezy’s success, West should eventually join the NBA legend—alongside sister-in-law Kylie Jenner and mentor Jay-Z—in achieving billionaire status, though the never-modest West would claim he’s there already.”