Gene Collier: Kanye West's debt can't stack up with financial gaffes of the sports world
February 18, 2016 12:00 AM
Evan Agostini/Associated Press
Kanye West is $53 million in debt, but his financial missteps don't quite reach the levels of athletes like Evander Holyfield, for example.
By Gene Collier / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
So you’re with me on this Kickstarter campaign for Kanye West, right?
Oh, all right, no need to be rude.
Those of us who pay way too much attention to sports and pop culture have earned a near impenetrable immunity to staggering financial figures, numbers that might, to the saner population, seem preposterous or downright vulgar.
Even the most virulent strain of hyper-compensation, such as a university strength and conditioning coach grossing between $500,000 and $600,000 annually, is hardly worthy of a decent shrug from the likes of us.
Likewise, the generally accepted financial intelligence that Michael Jordan’s net worth is in the neighborhood of $1 billion, or, if you think of it like this, about $1 million for every NBA game he ever played (not counting playoffs), somehow gets through our consciences without a lot of turbulence.
But even in such a warped context, we’ll occasionally bump up against a dollar figure that buckles us, and this week we actually bumped up against two, the buckle twins.
First came the heartbreaking news that rap mogul Kanye West finds himself $53 million in debt, prompting him to prod Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg and Google co-founder Larry Page to fund more of his galloping creativity.
But where else did I just see that exact figure — $53 million?
Is it what National League MVP Bryce Harper thinks he can rake annually on the open market, what Nationwide Insurance pays to underwrite all of Peyton Manning’s Papa John’s franchises, what a suite is going for at Madison Square Garden for one of the upcoming Adele shows?
No, none of those it turns out; it’s what Kim Kardashian made last year for um, whatever that is. Now if you don’t know — and God bless you for not knowing it — Kim Kardashian is married to Kanye West, at least as of my deadline.
Without knowing why, I find it too much of a coincidence that Kanye’s in the hole the exact amount Kim earned in 2015 for, um, whatever that is. Instead of badgering digital CEO’s for start-up cash, couldn’t Kanye just ask his wife for maybe a $53 million payday loan until his cash flow is more like that to which he has become accustomed?
Of course, as a certified financial illiterate, I’m among America’s least qualified commentators on wealth mismanagement.
Like that would stop me.
Kanye West needs to know that just because his net worth was recently estimated at $145 million, and just because that appears to mean he’s even more recently blown through $198 million, to us, the sports/pop culture obsessed, it’s no biggie.
We know, for example, that Mike Tyson, the undefeated, undisputed heavyweight champion cash fire hose of all time, once claimed to have lost a suitcase containing $1 million. He just couldn’t remember where’d put it.
Somehow, he did not drop dead as a result.
Did he check next to the tiger? How about in the $2 million bathtub? Iron Mike is estimated to have gone through $400 million.
Tyson ring opponent Evander Holyfield went bankrupt from $250 million, so you have to wonder if Tyson had put that part of Holyfield’s ear he bit off on eBay, would things be different today.
In many cases, the sheer volume of cash some of our subjects relieved themselves of isn’t as impressive as the intensity of their outlay.
Golfer John Daly once estimated he went through more than $1.5 million in five hours of slot play. Basketball’s Allen Iverson said in divorce proceedings in 2012 that at one point his expenses were $360,000 per week. That’s crazy, you’d say, but there’s this: At least it wasn’t on slots.
Former quarterback Vince Young was known for spending an estimated $5,000 a week at Cheesecake Factory, which almost sounds doable, but the waits still averaged 45 minutes. Jose Canseco earned more than $45 million in baseball and disposed of all of it. One year after retiring from the NFL, former Ravens defensive back Chris McAlister told a family court judge that was living with his parents because he couldn’t support himself, despite making an estimated $50 million between 2004 and the end of his career in 2009. One-time Boston Celtics star Antoine Walker, who made roughly $115 million in the NBA, once owned 14 houses and is said to have never worn the same designer suit twice, spent his way to a point where he’d have to sell the NBA championship ring he earned with the Miami Heat.
These are among our most familiar horror stories, the anecdotal antithesis of so many athletes and celebs who took their assets and wisely invested it through people they could trust.
Like Bernie Madoff.
What a relief Kanye won’t be falling for that.
Gene Collier: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter@genecollier.
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