Sweet Vindication! Kylie Jenner Is Not A Billionaire – Forbes Claims Previous Coverage Was Based On Allegedly Forged Tax Returns And Major Exaggerations

By on May 29, 2020 in ArticlesEntertainment

Look, I think we can all agree that the status Kylie Jenner's personal finances is not the most important story in the world today. There's a pandemic. Unarmed black men are being murdered by cops. The President of the United States is lashing out at Twitter over Twitter… Frankly, I don't really feel like writing a 3,000 word victory lap dunking on Forbes' bad coverage of Kylie Jenner's net worth. But I will admit that I am feeling extremely vindicated today. So I'll write a 2,000 word victory lap 🙂

For the last two years CelebrityNetWorth has caught a ton of heat for calling out Forbes' coverage of Kylie Jenner. Every time Forbes published a glowing story about Kylie, we were quick to rebut. I did interviews where I called out their math, point by point.

A lot of people called us haters and questioned our credibility. "If Forbes says someone is a billionaire, it must be true!" is a refrain we heard quite frequently.

Turns out, Forbes crowning someone a billionaire might not be all that credible after all. Just ask Elizabeth Holmes.

But let's back up for a moment. When did this all start?

July 11, 2018

On this day, Forbes published a digital version of an upcoming cover story titled "How 20-Year-Old Kylie Jenner Built A $900 Million Fortune In Less Than Three Years". The article lavished praise:

"What her half-sister Kim Kardashian West did for booty, Jenner has done for full lips. Like Kardashian West, she has leveraged her assets to gain both fame and money. But while her sister is best-known for the former, Jenner has proved adept at the latter. In historic fashion."

"Kylie Cosmetics launched two years ago with a $29 "lip kit" consisting of a matching set of lipstick and lip liner, and has sold more than $630 million worth of makeup since, including an estimated $330 million in 2017. Even using a conservative multiple, and applying our standard 20% discount, Forbes values her company, which has since added other cosmetics like eye shadow and concealer, at nearly $800 million. Jenner owns 100% of it."

"…she's conservatively worth $900 million, which along with her age makes her the youngest person on the fourth annual ranking of America's Richest Self-Made Women."

Kylie Cosmetics was worth $800 million? Kylie is personally worth $900 million?

Those "facts" certainly raised some eyebrows here at the CelebrityNetWorth headquarters.

Prior to the Forbes article being published we estimated Kylie's net worth to be $150 – $200 million. Out of that range, roughly half of her net worth was attributable to the value of Kylie Cosmetics according to the information and revenue figures we had seen. Suddenly Forbes was claiming Kylie Cosmetics was worth $900 million. Nine times our own calculations. So we dug into the numbers. Our research resulted in this rebuttal article published that very same day, July 11, 2018:

Kylie Jenner Is Not Worth $900 Million – That's A Silly Clickbait Headline To Sell Magazines

To summarize, Forbes claimed that Kylie Cosmetics was worth $800 million because it generated $330 million in revenue in 2017 with $100 million in profits.

My first issue was that Forbes was applying an 8X multiple of profits to a brand new business that was not at all in-line with industry comparables. Private technology companies sell for 8-10X profits. Unproven makeup businesses that are less than two years old certainly do not.

Secondly, Forbes' own reporting showed that Kylie Cosmetic's sales were basically tanking. In mid-2017, Kris Jenner told Forbes that Kylie Cosmetics was on pace to do $400 million in sales for 2017. Well, they actually did $330 million. Forbes reported that Kylie Cosmetics' 2017 revenues were only 7% higher than 2016 and sales of her flagship lip-kit product were down 35% year over year.

If we are being generous and believing Kris Jenner-provided numbers, we're talking about a company that missed revenue targets by $70 million, ended up posting extremely weak growth while seeing its main product line TANK by 35%. Why on earth would anyone pay an extremely high multiple for the company I just described?

Our July 2018 conclusion:

"A more reality-based multiple would be 3-4X profits. Using 4x, if someone bought Kylie Cosmetics, it would sell for $400 million. After Kylie gave 20% to the US Treasury for long-term capital gains and 13% to the California Franchise Tax Board, she'd be left with $268 million. We estimate that Kylie's non-cosmetics assets are worth $40 million, not $100 million, which would mean after a sale she would be left with a net worth of $300 million. Using a 3X sale multiple, she'd be left with a $240 million net worth."

(Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)

March 5, 2019

On this day, Forbes released their annual list of the 400 richest Americans. Perhaps not surprisingly, they decided to put Kylie Jenner on the cover with a salacious headline claiming she is now "officially" a billionaire. I mean, who wouldn't click that article or buy that magazine cover? It's so good. But is it too good to be true?

Yes.

Sticking to our guns, we fire back the same day with the following article:

Kylie Jenner Is Not A Billionaire – That's An Invented Clickbait Headline To Sell Magazines

Once again we lay out a clear numbers-based argument showing that Forbes has taken a few morsels of unverified anecdotes from Kris Jenner and massaged them into a shocking headline purely for the purpose of selling magazines, getting attention, backlinks… pageviews etc.

*** Please also note that Kylie was quick to share Forbes' articles from her various social platforms, which I'm certain drove an unfathomable amount of traffic ***

November 18, 2019

On this day it is announced that Kylie has sold 50% of her company to Coty Inc. at a reported valuation of $1.2 billion. Honestly, we felt pretty stupid and are forced to eat some crow with the following article:

Kylie Jenner Is A Billionaire After Selling 51% Of Cosmetics Company For $600 Million

Kylie reportedly received $600 million in cash for a 51% stake, which turns into around $340 million after taxes. When you combine $360 million + $50 million outside wealth and her remaining $588 million paper stake in Coty, Kylie was worth $998 million. Not quite a billionaire, technically, but basically a rounding error at this point.

May 29, 2020

After nearly two years of being called a hater and feeling like the only sane person on the planet, on this day Forbes publishes an article titled:

"Inside Kylie Jenner's Web of Lies – And Why She's No Longer A Billionaire"

Long story short, we were right all along. Forbes admits that all of the numbers provided to them by Kris and Kylie over the previous years were either inflated or flat out false.

Forbes goes so far as to accuse the duo of presenting them with "forged tax returns" to prove the inflated earnings and net worth. (An attorney for the family JUST denied this claim and demanded Forbes issue a retraction on this claim).

Some other fun facts we learned from Forbes' retraction article:

  • The 2018 article claimed Kylie Cosmetics was generating $300-400 million in annual revenue with $100 million in profit. Actually, according to a financial presentation from Coty Inc, Kylie Cosmetics generated $125 million in 2018 and $177 million in 2019. Big numbers, but literally half what Kris Jenner claimed over numerous interviews.

 

  • Kylie claimed her skin care line, launched in May 2019, generated $100 million in its first 45 days. In reality, filings show the line was actually "on track" to finish the year with just $25 million in sales.

 

  • Kylie did not actually own 100% of the company, her mom owned 10%. So her actual cut of the Coty sale was a little smaller than we all assumed.

 

  • Data from e-commerce firm Rakuten, which tracks a select number of receipts, suggests there was a 62% decline in Kylie's online sales between 2016 and 2018.

 

Here's my favorite paragraph:

"The business was never that big to begin with, and the Jenners have lied about it every year since 2016—including having their accountant draft tax returns with false numbers—to help juice Forbes' estimates of Kylie's earnings and net worth. While we can't prove that those documents were fake (though it's likely), it's clear that Kylie's camp has been lying."

Let me repeat those three lines because they are glorious:

The business was never that big to begin with, and the Jenners have lied about it every year since 2016.

…including having their accountant draft tax returns with false numbers—to help juice Forbes' estimates of Kylie's earnings and net worth.

While we can't prove that those documents were fake (though it's likely), it's clear that Kylie's camp has been lying.

So What Kylie Jenner's Net Worth Today?

All bullshit aside, Kylie did make a verifiable boatload of money from the Coty sale. Coty even confirmed that the sale was all cash in an SEC filing.

She did not make as much as we all assumed though! As we mentioned in the bullet points above, Kylie didn't actually own 100% of her company. According to Forbes, Kris owned 10%. So when they sold 51% to Coty, Kylie took home around $340 million in cash after taxes and maintains, vs the previously reported $360 million. She also still owns a 44% stake in the brand, vs the previously reported 49% stake.

How much is that 44% stake worth today, knowing everything we now know about the brand?

Take a look at Coty's stock price over the last 12 months:

That's a 70% decline in the stock price since the day of the Kylie Cosmetics acquisition. Today Coty's total market cap is $2.77 billion. That means when you add up the dozens of brands operated by Coty, they are all worth a total of $2.77 billion.

Coty has all but admitted that it drastically overpaid for Kylie Cosmetics. If I were a betting man, I would bet my bottom dollar that Coty will write down the value of Kylie Cosmetics in a major way soon.

In other words, there's absolutely no chance that Kylie Cosmetics is worth $1.2 billion today. I would wager that it's worth a tiny fraction of that amount.

Let's say Coty writes down the value of Kylie Cosmetics by 50% (still an extremely high multiple for what appears to be a dying fad brand). Kylie's 44% remaining paper stake would be worth $264 million before taxes, around $175 million after taxes.

Here's what we think is a reasonable current valuation of Kylie Jenner's current net worth:

  • $100 million "other" assets (real estate, cash, investments, IP)
  • $340 million cash from Coty sale
  • $175 million remaining stake

= $615 million

We've actually chosen to round up to $700 million because we can't say for sure where Coty currently values the brand. Maybe a 50% cut is way too harsh?

Here is the full statement from Kylie's lawyer Michael Kump:

"We have reviewed Forbes' article accusing Kylie of engaging in deceit and a 'web of lies' to inflate her net worth. The article is filled with outright lies. Forbes' accusation that Kylie and her accountants 'forged tax returns' is unequivocally false and we are demanding that Forbes immediately and publicly retract that and other statements. It is sad that, of all things, Forbes has devoted 3 reporters to investigate the effect of the coronavirus crisis on Kylie's net worth. We would not expect that from a supermarket tabloid, much less from Forbes."

Here's what Kylie posted to twitter (grammar not edited):

"what am i even waking up to. i thought this was a reputable site.. all i see are a number of inaccurate statements and unproven assumptions lol. i've never asked for any title or tried to lie my way there EVER. period. Even creating tax returns that were likely forged' that's your proof? so you just THOUGHT they were forged? like actually what am i reading…but okay. i am blessed beyond my years, i have a beautiful daughter, and a successful business and i'm doing perfectly fine. i can name a list of 100 things more important right now than fixating on how much money i have."

And since I'm at 1934 words vs the promised 2000 words. I will leave you with the following:

Kylie Jenner is very rich but she is not a billionaire. Don't believe everything you read on Forbes. Obviously this is a silly issue and there are much more important worries in the world.

I hope you all have a wonderful and peaceful weekend.

Stay thirsty my friends.

Goodnight.

Brian

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