John Lennon: Plastic Ono Band ultimate collection box set unveiled
In the many decades since the band split in 1970, their music has remained as popular as ever, although Beatles royalties varied, with Lennon and McCartney having most of the songwriting credits. All four had successful solo careers. Paul also formed the band Wings, George formed the Traveling Wilburys with Jeff Lynne, Roy Orbison, Bob Dylan and Tom Petty, and Ringo had his All Starrs band. In 1995 and 1996 the three surviving Beatles also released the three retrospective Anthology albums (and lucrative TV series). The first album alone went 8x Platinum in the US, with sales of over 3.6million. Together with the Beatlejuice radio show host Geoff Johns, we look at how the four musicians all diversified beyond their own music, to generate wealth in sometimes surprising ways.
Ringo Star: In 2020 Ringo was named the wealthiest drummer in the world with an estimated $350million fortune.
He has never stopped making music and is currently waiting to get back on the road with his All Starr Band but his involvement with the TV launch of Thomas The Tank Engine in 1984 never ceases to surprise people. He actually narrated the early series from 1984-1986 and from 1989-1990 in the US.
Producer Britt Allcroft said she chose him because she thought children would relate to his relaxed, jovial voice. As well as his standard fee, Ringo cleverly took a 5.1 per cent stake in the Britt Allcroft Company. It was floated on the Stock Exchange in 1996 for £30million, then sold in 2002 for a reported £139million.
The Beatles net worth
The Beatles net worth: Ringo Starr and Thomas the Tank Engine
Apart from that, Ringo also ran the construction firm Bricky Builders in the 1960s and ROR interior design company until the mid 1980s.
ROR worked on palaces in Oman and Abu Dhabi as well as British pornographer Paul Raymond’s London homes and created a range of hip furniture with clients like David Bowie, Elton John and Ted Heath.
In 1987 he opened London Brasserie, a restaurant in Atlanta, Georgia.
Watch Ringo below, in typically laconic fashion, promote the debut of Thomas on Team in 1984.
The Beatles net worth: George Harrison with Olivia and Dhani
George Harrison died from cancer on November 29, 1991, leaving an estate that is worth an estimated $400million today to wife Olivia and son Dhani.
If Ringo’s blockbuster kids cartoon series is impressive, George went one better by founding an entire film production company. A lifelong Monty Python fan, he stepped in when financing was withdrawn for their next film, The Life of Brian, in 1978. They needed $4million to start production and the former Beatle assured a dubious Eric Idle that he would sort it out.
Eric later said: “He mortgaged his house to put up the money for this movie because he wanted to see it – which is still the most anyone has paid for a cinema ticket.”
The risky gamble paid off when the $4million movie banked $21million at the box office.
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George founded Handmade Films with his business manager Denis O’Brien to get The Life Of Brian made and went on to produce critically acclaimed 1980s hits like Withnail and I, Time Bandits, Mona Lisa and A Private Function.
Unfortunately, Handmade collapsed in 1991 after O’Brien incurred major debts through fraud and negligence. Their partnership ended acrimoniously in court.
Although, this indirectly benefitted Beatles fans. Geoff Johns points out: “His reduced financial circumstances paved the way for the surviving three Beatles to reunite in the 90s for the Anthology project.”
In the end, Harrison also eventually received an $11.6million settlement over the Handmade collapse.
Many years later, Eric spoke movingly and hilariously at the 2009 posthumous ceremony to award George a star on the Hollywood walk of Fame, watched by Olivia and Dhani.
The Beatles net worth: John Lennon and Yoko Ono 1969
John Lennon was worth an estimated $200million when he died (approximately $620million in today’s money). Much of this came from his Beatles royalties and subsequent solo projects, but his wife was also responsible for managing and growing their wealth.
Yoko came from an extremely wealthy, upper class family in Japan (she went to school with the future Emperor Akihito) who had been part of the financial elite for many generations.
Yoko explained that she got involved after seeing the complicated tangle of finances from the Beatles era: “We weren’t financially independent; we didn’t even know how much money we had.”
She handled an ambitious investment portfolio while insisting they aimed to make ethical choices, most famously in the purchase of a dairy farm with 122 cows and 10 bulls for $2.7million – they wouldn’t invest in beef cattle which were killed for their meat.
Any doubters were quickly silenced when Yoko sold one of the Holstein cows for a world-record $265,000 in June 1980.
John responded; ‘Only Yoko could sell a cow for a quarter of a million.”
The Beatles net worth: John Lennon and Yoko Ono August 1980
John and Yoko also invested heavily in property around the world, as well as buying up at least five apartments in the prestigious Dakota building where they had lived since 1973. Apartments there can fetch over $11million today.
In 1980 John said: “Yoko became the breadwinner, taking care of bankers and deals, and I became the housewife. It was like one of those reversal comedies. I’d say (jokingly), ‘Well, how was it at the office today, dear? Do you want a cocktail? I didn’t get your slippers, and your shirts aren’t back from the laundry.’ ”
The Beatles net worth: Paul McCartney turned to Linda’s father
Paul McCartney is currently worth an estimated $1.2billion and has topped the lists of richest musicians for decades.
As well as his royalties from the Beatles and Wings, he continues to tour and can personally bank up to $70million each time. But his personal wealth began to outstrip his bandmates when he split from the other three to take direct control of his finances in the Beatles era, taking advice from the attorney father of his wife Linda, which lead to some incredibly lucrative investments.
The Beatles net worth: All four came a long way from 1962
Geoff Lloyd says: “Perhaps scarred by some of The Beatles’ hasty early business decisions, Paul became incredibly adept at taking the long view. He refused to join his band mates in their choice of manager, the abrasive Allen Klein, instead appointing his father-in-law Lee Eastman as his business manager, who wisely steered him to invest in the evergreen songs that had inspired him.
“It’s an approach that has served Paul well, and over the years he’s acquired one of the most valuable music catalogues in the world.”
Paul owns the publishing rights to Buddy Holly, Rupert The Bear, musicals Grease, Annie, A Chorus Line, Guys & Dolls, and standards like Mr Sandman, The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire) and Baby It’s Cold Outside.
By 1984 he estimated that half of his income came from his publishing investments.
GEOFF JOHNS HOSTS BEATLEJUICE ON UNION JACK RADIO EVERY SUNDAY AT 10AM (REPEATED ON WEDNESDAY EVENING)