Nine crazy investments of the rich and famous

These nine investments were all chosen by the rich and famous. Some of them worked, some of them failed miserably. 

Evan Agostini/Invision/File
Jay Z arrives at the 2015 Vanity Fair Oscar Party in Beverly Hills, Calif. Jay Z is breaking out his B-sides to hype his fledgling music streaming service (Feb. 23).

When it comes to making money, the rich and famous have done their fair share of crazy investing. Here are nine such examples — each of which has had varying levels of success.

1. Nicolas Cage — Schloss Neidstein Medieval Castle

The wild man of Hollywood, and star of countless blockbuster movies, has hit the headlines on more than one occasion due to money troubles. When Cage started dabbling in real estate, specifically in Malibu and Paradise Island, he struck gold. Boosted by that success, he branched out to one very spectacular, and doomed, venture. Cage bought a Bavarian castle, Schloss Neidstein, that became a huge money pit. After taking out over $18 million in loans to cover it, he was forced to foreclose on his Bel Air home.

2. Dan Aykroyd — Crystal Head Vodka

Dan knows a thing or two about spirits, having been the writer and co-creator of the Ghostbusters franchise. So, why not get involved in the spirits in another way? Using bottles that look like those crystal skulls from the Indiana Jones movie, Crystal Head Vodkais distilled from peaches and cream corn, and blended with water from Newfoundland. Yes, corn and peaches. Apparently it tastes very good. And when you're done, you have one cool looking bottle left for display.

3. Mark Twain — The Paige Compositor

You may be scratching your head wondering "What on earth is the Paige compositor?" You're not alone. It was an invention developed by James W. Paige between 1872 and 1888, and was designed to replace the human typesetter on a printing press with a mechanical arm. That's right, an automated typesetter way back then. It was a crazy idea, but one that could have changed the printing world… if it had worked. Twain was fully behind it, sinking $300,000 (around $6 million today) into the venture. The machines (only two were ever built) never worked correctly, needing constant adjustment and negating the reason it even existed. It is said that the Paige compositor was directly responsible for the financial misfortunes of Mark Twain, and the reason he lost much of his wit and humor.

4. William Shatner — Priceline

A lot of people thought Shatner was off his rocker when he decided to take stock in the company instead of a paycheck. They wanted him badly, but couldn't afford his fee. So, Shatner did his homework, and figured the company might one day be worth a chunk. He was right, even though most people thought he was crazy. In fact, Shatner has made over $600 million from that decision. Now who's crazy? And more bizarre is the fact that Shatner made more money from Priceline than from the rest of his career, which spanned over 50 years.

5. Will Ferrell — Funny or Die

Chances are, you've seen a bunch of Funny or Die videos over the years. But, FOD wasn't always a staple of comedy. It was founded by none other than Will Ferrell and Adam McKay back in 2007, with a small investment from both of the guys. The infamous first video, The Landlord, received over 80 million views, and the rest is history. Funny or Die has received major backing from Sequoia Capital, Time Warner, and HBO, and it has become a very profitable investment for Will and Adam.

6. Nelly — Pimpjuice

What is Pimpjuice? Well, originally it was a song, "Pimp Juice," by Nelly. He decided to turn it into an energy drink, and for the record, it was one of the first celebrity-driven energy drinks on the market. The first case was produced and shipped over a decade ago, back in 2003. And in case you're wondering, yes, it's still around. So, where is it?

Sadly, this was not the Red Bull or Rockstar investment that Nelly thought it was going to be. Pimpjuice made national headlines, and not in a good way, when several cultural groups got together and demanded that people across the country boycott it. The reason? They said it degraded women, and promoted a "pimp" lifestyle. Despite doing record sales in a short amount of time, Pimpjuice quickly fizzled out in America, but if you are reading this in Australia, you can still buy it there.

7. Jay Z — Tidal

You cannot Google the word Tidal without revealing dozens of disastrous articles about the streaming music service. Annoyed with Spotify and its poor royalty agreements, Jay Zcreated and launched Tidal, plowing millions of dollars of his own money into the project. It was going to be the place to stream music, attracting big names and changing the face of music consumption. But after only two weeks, the app was not even ranking in the top 700. It was considered out of date, costly, and very corporate. Spotify and iTunes have nothing to worry about, and the future for Tidal is not bright. Over 71% of music execs speculate that Tidal will be dead and buried within a year.

8. Burt Reynolds — PoFolks Restaurants

He was the world's most popular movie star in the 1970s and early '80s, and had the kind of big money that went with the title. He figured a restaurant business would be a good use of his money (even though 90% fold in their first year) and invested in a chain called PoFolks throughout California, Texas, and Florida. The title, a play on "poor folks" it seems, became a sad prediction of the future. By the time he dropped out of the business, it had cost him over $15 million.

9. Danny DeVito — Limoncello

What is Limoncello? It's described as a sweet, lemony liqueur made from the zest of Femminello St. Teresa lemons. Coming in at 60% proof, it's not as strong as a typical bourbon or vodka, but it's definitely something that can take you by surprise, due to how easy it is to drink. Seems perfect as an investment, right? Well, not for Danny DeVito. The sad fact is, the market was already crowded with many different Limoncello brands when he entered it. Despite his celebrity name being attached, or maybe because of it, DeVito Limoncello was short-lived.

This article is from Paul Michael of Wise Bread, an award-winning personal finance and credit card comparison website. 

of stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Unlimited digital access $11/month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.