How Jimmy Buffett went from beach bum singer to billionaire businessman—creating hospitality-related businesses, such as restaurants, resorts, alcohol brands, and t-shirts. And, of course, music.
- Forbes has officially declared the Margaritaville legend a billionaire after estimating his current net worth to be $1 billion.
- Buffett started as a small country artist in Nashville, Tennessee, before moving to Florida, creating his trademark tropical rock sound and becoming a success.
- His ten-figure fortune is broken down into seven categories, according to Forbes…
- Cash 56.8%
- Margaritaville holdings 18%
- Planes and yachts 7.3%
- Beer sales 6.0%
- Homes 5%
- Music catalog 5%
- Shares of Berkshire Hathaway 1.9%
Why it’s news
Jimmy Buffett is known for his carefree island attitude and beach-loving music, but the real story is how he took his love for the beach and created a billion-dollar business from it.
Buffett was raised in the port town of Mobile, Alabama, with a love for the beach and storytelling. After graduating college and moving to Nashville, Tennessee, he became a small country artist recording his first record, but he says his life truly changed when he traveled to Key West, Florida.
In Key West, he gathered the inspiration to combine his storytelling with music and created his trademark tropical rock sound, combining folk, calypso, rock, and pop. He also created his carefree beach-bum brand while in Florida.
“The whole idea of having a brand or anything, that never occurred to me until I got to Key West,” he says.
He began playing local clubs, but his breakthrough came with his hit “Margaritaville” from his 1977 album Changes In Latitudes, Changes In Attitudes. The song went platinum that year and became the song of his fanbase—the Parrotheads.
His popularity quickly grew after that, and he began to see many shirts and posters with his name that he did not own, meaning people were making money off of his brand, so he teamed up with longtime pal Donna “Sunshine” Smith to open the first Margaritaville T-shirt shop in Key West in 1985, according to Forbes.
“If you’re an artist, if you want to have control of your life … then you gotta be a businessman, like it or not,” Buffett told Forbes in 1994. “So the businessman evolved out of being an artist.”
After that, his business exploded. He created more businesses, including apparel stores, restaurants, hotels, beer, and more. Buffett also went on many tours playing his island music for fans worldwide.
Today, the Margaritaville brand has over 30 vacation resorts scattered from Manhattan and Palm Springs to the Dominican Republic and Mexico. There are 150 Buffett-themed restaurants and multiple alcohol partnerships, including a beer brand with LandShark and Margaritaville cocktails.
With all of his success, Forbes recently declared Buffett a billionaire, stating that his fortune comes from a 28% stake in the licensing company estimated to be worth $180 million, plus another $60 million from the tequila and beer business. The rest of his fortune comprises an estimated $570 million amassed over a lifetime of touring and record sales, a music catalog valued at $50 million, and a $140 million collection of six homes, four planes, and a yacht, and shares in Berkshire Hathaway, the investment conglomerate run by Warren Buffett.
Buffett, 76, spends his days hopping from island to island while playing for Parrotheads across the country. He is currently playing with his Coral Reef band on a 2023 tour with a few stops in the U.S., but after all of these years, one thing is true about the star—every day is a vacation for Jimmy Buffett.