Magazine article Risk Management

Money to Burn

Magazine article Risk Management

Money to Burn

Article excerpt

Rock stars and financial craziness often go hand in hand. Follow pop music long enough, and you will eventually hear of some rocker with more money than he or she knows what to do with, getting rid of said lucre in ways that make the rest of us working stiffs shake our head in disbelief.

The Who drummer Keith Moon supposedly drove a Rolls Royce into a swimming pool, which would probably cost nearly half a million dollars today. Willie Nelson took some bad advice to invest $12 million in cattle, thinking it would allow him to write off a $2 million tax debt. Instead, he got himself another $28 million in tax liabilities and penalties.

MC Hammer made $33 million off of hits like "U Can't Touch This," but was bankrupt just a few years later after buying a $12 million mansion (complete with a gold-plated bathtub, a 17-car garage and a dishwasher in his bedroom for cleaning up after midnight snacks.) He also bankrolled a 200-person entourage whose combined monthly salary topped $500,000. His loose change went to ancient golf clubs, Estruscan statues and gold chains for his four rottweilers.

And then there is Michael Jackson, who, during his years of fighting allegations of child molestation, was discovered to have assets of $130 million and liabilities of $415 million. According to one forensic accountant, the cost of the King of Pop's lavish lifestyle was outpacing his annual income by some $30 million.

But one of the most fascinating cases of music versus money comes to us courtesy of Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty, who set out to score a top 10 single as if to prove that any idiot could do it. As the pop-electronica group the Timelords, they succeeded in 1988 when their novelty song "Doctorin' the Tardis" hit number one in the U.K. Drummond and Couty then became the KLF, with tracks inspired by hip hop and heavy sampling. They were the world's best-selling singles act in 1991, and showed their appreciation for it at the February 1992 BRIT awards with a bizarre performance that featured Drummond and Cauty firing blank-filled machine guns over the heads of a stunned audience. As they left stage, they announced their immediate retirement and subsequently deleted their entire back catalogue of recordings.

With the KLF dead, the duo became artists and formed the K Foundation, best known for their 1995 film Watch the K Foundation Burn a Million Quid--a self-explanatory documentary about their decision to burn 1 million [pounds sterling] and capture the whole thing on video. …

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