Justin Timberlake: Building a Business Empire
Article courtesy Timberlake-Justin.com & The Daily
For many who have known Timberlake purely as an entertainer, his surprise involvement in the Myspace buyout revealed another side of the 30-year-old pop artist — as a risk-taking businessman.
Myspace represents the newest and arguably highest profile addition to what could very aptly be labeled “Justin, Inc.”
Bit by bit, Timberlake, whose latest movie “Friends With Benefits” opened this weekend, has built a business empire over the past few years with everything from the launch of his own tequila, to a record label, clothing line and more. Timberlake’s success in music — his net worth is reportedly $70 million — has afforded him the freedom to be an entrepreneur.
And Myspace is far from Timberlake’s only involvement in the tech space. According to Silicon Alley Insider, he’s investing in a tech startup called Dekko that will launch later this year. Still, Dekko has kept close wraps on what its business model will be. And late last year, Timberlake contributed to the first round of funding for a San Francisco-based photo-tagging startup called Stipple, which got a total of $2 million from investors like Timberlake and venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. Timberlake’s amount was not disclosed.
But even all that only scratches the surface when it comes to the depth of Timberlake’s business ventures. Timberlake works closely on business matters with his stepfather, Paul Harless, a former banker with First Tennessee who now oversees Just-in Time Entertainment, the holding company for Timberlake’s business interests.
Timberlake has invested in restaurants, a backpack line, created a charity golf tournament and is continuing to shepherd one of his crown jewels, the $16 million golf course Mirimichi that he opened on the outskirts of his hometown of Memphis in 2009.
The golf course — which recently won a prestigious environmental and conservation award from the state of Tennessee — is probably the one project he covets the most. During an introduction of the course to the public, Timberlake told a group of Memphis reporters, “I think this is probably the coolest thing I’ve ever been a part of in my life.”
The story behind his creation of Mirimichi, a native American word meaning “place of happy retreat,” is not that different from the circumstances that led to his involvement in the Myspace deal. Both involved 11th-hour rescues of properties that might otherwise have met untimely ends.
Timberlake was on his FutureSex/LoveShow tour in 2007 when he got word the owner of the 300-acre Memphis-area property was planning to auction it off.
It was likely a bitter pill to swallow. Timberlake’s father taught him to play golf when he was 10, and the future singer hit his first golf ball on the 10th tee at the Memphis course before it was known as Mirimichi. His mother and stepfather also had their wedding reception there.
After making an offer to buy the property for a little less than $900,000, Timberlake and his family took ownership of it at the end of 2007 and went on to spend more than $1 million to buy property around it.
After that came the tasks of redesigning it and hiring the management to transform it into a course with 7,400 yards of championship golf that Timberlake later said could eventually rival courses as elite as New York’s Bethpage Black.
But he and his family, along with the team they assembled, didn’t stop there.
The course has kept an intense focus on green management. It was the first course in the U.S. certified by the Audubon International Cooperative Sanctuary Program. And in 2010, it became the first golf course in North, South or Central America to receive the Golf Environment Organization’s certified status.
Clearly Memphis remains a special place for Timberlake as he finds ways to export the image of his hometown through some of his other business interests.
He’s launched “901 Silver Tequila”, which includes in its name the local area code in Memphis. Timberlake opened a Memphis-style barbecue joint in New York City called Southern Hospitality in 2007. The first location opened on the Upper East Side. A second restaurant opened earlier this year in Hell’s Kitchen. He is partnered in the venture with his longtime friend, Trace Ayala.
In 2005, Timberlake launched a clothing line called William Rast that was partly inspired by another fashionable singer from Memphis: Elvis Presley. William Rast is a combination of the names of Timberlake’s and Ayala’s grandfathers.
A few years ago it was rumored that Timberlake was planning to buy the legendary Sun and Stax record labels,both based in Memphis, giving them a relaunch of sorts. That didn’t happen, but today Timberlake is nevertheless the chairman of Tennman (for Tennessee Man) Records. It’s a joint venture with Interscope Records, and the outline of Timberlake’s home state is visible as the top part of the “T” in the logo.
The next chapter in his unlikely second act as a venture capitalist, dealmaker and entertainment business mogul comes in the form of Myspace, which he and Specific Media want to turn into a music industry hub on the cutting edge of the digital sphere.
“What goes around comes back around,” goes the hook to one of Timberlake’s hits on 2006’s FutureSex/LoveSounds album. It’s a statement he’s hoping to prove true by pulling off something you don’t see often on the Web — taking a site like Myspace back to the top again.