Celebrity Businesses That Completely Flopped

Celebrity Businesses That Failed

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House Of Dereon By Beyonce And Tina Knowles
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They Can’t All Be Hits

Regular folks aren’t the only ones who experiment with side gigs. Plenty of celebrities have started businesses or launched products in an effort to make their famous names even more lucrative, but as the following examples will show, they aren’t always successful. From the Kardashians’ debit card to Donald Trump’s short-lived airline, here are some of the most notable failed celebrity business ventures. 

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rihanna fenty
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Fenty (clothing line)

Singer Rihanna recently became the latest victim of a high-profile business flop, bidding farewell to her fashion label Fenty after not quite two years. The luxury line struggled to gain traction (and customers willing to pay the luxury prices) during the pandemic. But don’t feel too bad for Rihanna: She still has a wildly successful lingerie line, Savage X Fenty, plus the Fenty Beauty and Fenty Skin lines.

Related:  Most Expensive Celebrity Homes of All Time

Neil Young
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Neil Young

PonoMusic and PonoPlayer

A hat tip to Neil Young for admirable intent: He simply wanted digital music to sound better. To that end, his PonoMusic service provided high-definition downloads for its compatible PonoPlayer, priced at $399. But the player underwhelmed critics, who found little detectable difference in sound quality versus your average iPhone. The venture also came as more music lovers made the leap away from downloads in favor of streaming. PonoMusic died only a year and a half after its 2015 launch.

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Britney Spears Nyla
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Britney Spears

Nyla (restaurant)

The pop princess was flying high in 2002, with three hit albums in three years. She decided to jump into the food business with Nyla, a restaurant in New York’s Dylan Hotel. But the eatery was a flop with critics and racked up unpaid bills. It was open only five months before Spears bailed, citing “management's failure to keep her fully apprised of information relating to the restaurant and its operations."

Related:  Rich, Famous, and Cheap — 40 Frugal Celebrities

Trump Shuttle (airline)
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Donald Trump

Trump Shuttle (airline)

The former president has racked up a fairly sizable list of ill-fated business ventures (hello, Trump Steaks) but one of the biggest is Trump Shuttle. Trump reportedly pumped $365 million into this short-lived regional airline, aimed at big shots who needed a quick way to hop between Boston, New York, and Washington. The first Trump Shuttle plane took off in 1989, outfitted with costly (and heavy) upgrades like leather seats and gold-plated fixtures. But with passenger numbers dwindling, Trump opted to walk in 1992, losing $100 million. The airline was acquired by USAir.  

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Kim, Kourtney, and Khloe Kardashian
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Kim, Kourtney, and Khloe Kardashian

The Kardashian Kard (prepaid debit card)

Released in 2010, this hunk of plastic pushed by the Kardashian sisters didn’t even last a month before the bank that backed it opted to pull the plug. The reason: Criticism that the card was aimed at young users who wouldn’t realize they could rack up $100 in yearly fees, and even more for services like ATM withdrawals and customer service calls. 

Related: Easy Ways to Keep Up With the Kardashians for Less

House of Deréon
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House Of Dereon (clothing line)

The Beyhive may find it hard to believe, but not everything Beyoncé touches turns to gold. Case in point: House of Deréon, a pricey fashion line the pop icon launched in 2006. It lasted only a few years in the U.S., then a few more years in Europe before going on what turned out to be a not-so-impermanent “hiatus.” The main problem? “It somehow was too gaudy for 2000s and early 2010s America, when gaudiness and tackiness were the name of the game,” according to Vice. Ouch.

Guy Fieri
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Guy Fieri

Guy’s American Kitchen and Bar (restaurant)

“The most mocked restaurant in America” opened in 2012 in Times Square. Shortly thereafter, it was subject to a scathing 0-star review from New York Times restaurant critic Pete Wells. (“Hey, did you try that blue drink, the one that glows like nuclear waste? … Any idea why it tastes like some combination of radiator fluid and formaldehyde?”) Undaunted tourists and Flavor Town residents managed to keep Guy’s open until 2017, when the massive 500-seat eatery shut down because profit margins weren’t quite fat enough. (“Good riddance,” sneered the New York Post.)

Related: 31 Restaurants and Bars Owned by Celebrities

Suzanne Somers
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Suzanne Somers

Suzanne’s Kitchen (meal assembly)

Whether she’s better known for acting or the Thighmaster is up for debate, but both ventures made Suzanne Somers a nice chunk of change. One business venture that did not: Suzanne’s Kitchen, a meal-assembly shop that opened in Lexington, Kentucky, for only a few short months at the end of 2006. Despite grand plans to franchise the concept, Somers decided to pull her name from the venture after disagreements over issues including whether to make the food all organic. 

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Natalie Portman
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Natalie Portman

Natalie Portman for Té Casan (shoes)

Few will argue with Natalie Portman’s acting prowess, but a side gig as a footwear designer apparently wasn’t to be. In 2008, Portman launched a line of vegan footwear with New York shoe shop Té Casan, but they were panned for both their high price and their conventional design. It appears that customers were similarly unimpressed, and the entire store folded at the end of the year, taking Portman’s footwear with it. 

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Naomi Campbell, Elle Macpherson, Claudia Schiffer
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Naomi Campbell, Elle Macpherson, Claudia Schiffer

Fashion Cafe 

The ’90s were the era of the supermodel, but three of the runway’s most formidable names couldn’t make this bloated theme restaurant a long-term success. The Rockefeller Center flagship lasted only three years after opening in 1995, at which point the business-partner brothers behind it, Tommaso and Francesco Buti, had been sued for millions. Schiffer and Christy Turlington, who had later joined the party, quickly cut ties with the restaurant, and for good reason: The Butis ended up facing 51 federal charges, including wire fraud and money laundering. (President Donald Trump pardoned Tommaso Buti in early 2021, right before leaving office.)

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Hulk Hogan
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Hulk Hogan

Pastamania! (restaurant)

The mid-’90s saw the opening of yet another dubious celebrity-backed restaurant: Hulk Hogan’s Pastamania, located in the Mall of America outside Minneapolis. Hogan unveiled the restaurant in truly spectacular fashion, on a stage with a giant bowl of spaghetti and friends including “Macho Man” Randy Savage. Unfortunately, customers soon realized that eating mounds of pasta would not, in fact, give them massive muscles, and the infamous pro wrestler’s quick-service eatery lasted less than a year. 

Debbie Reynolds
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Debbie Reynolds

Debbie Reynolds Hotel and Casino

The iconic actress snapped up an old off-Strip property called the Paddlewheel at auction in 1992, then set about transforming it into a tribute to old Hollywood with millions of her own money. The property included 180 rooms, a showroom for Reynolds’ performances, a museum of Hollywood memorabilia, and a separately owned and operated casino. Ultimately, not being able to cash in on gaming revenue doomed the property, which declared bankruptcy in 1997. It cycled through a few more owners before it was demolished in 2015.

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Curt Schilling
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Curt Schilling

38 Studios

This noted Red Sox pitcher loved to play video games in his spare time, so a video game company didn’t seem like a bridge too far. Schilling founded 38 Studios in 2006 and retired from baseball in 2009 to focus on the company full time. In 2010, the state of Rhode Island even gave 38 Studios a massive $75 million in loans to relocate from Massachusetts, but it turned out to be a bad investment: The big-spending company declared bankruptcy in the middle of 2012 with more than $150 million in debt and only one finished game to its name.

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Steven Seagal
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Steven Seagal

Lightning Bolt (energy drink)

In 2005, Steven Seagal’s blockbuster box-office days were behind him, so he turned his creative prowess to … an energy drink? The martial artist claimed to have hiked around Asia in search of ingredients with “untold power” like (gasp) green tea and ginkgo biloba. It appears that sales weren’t quite as electric as Seagal was hoping for, but you can still find a can here or there on eBay, and the cringe-worthy commercial on Seagal’s own YouTube channel. 

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Vince McMahon
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Vince McMahon

XFL (arena football league)

The flashy wrestling executive’s gimmicky answer to the NFL initially lasted only one season, and its cringey, WWE-like debut in 2001 may hold clues as to why. Ratings declined by more than half by just the second week, and they kept plummeting. Undeterred, McMahon announced in 2018 that he would bring back the XFL, but the COVID-19 pandemic ultimately shut it down again in 2020 and forced it into bankruptcy.

Richard Branson
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Richard Branson

Virgin Cola

Richard Branson’s soda was a hit in the U.K. after its 1994 launch, and its subsequent release in the U.S. featured Branson crushing 3 tons of Coca-Cola cans with a massive tank in Times Square. (Subtle, right?) Unfortunately for Branson, Coke didn’t take too kindly to the new kid on the block, and the soda giant leveraged its clout with retailers to drive Virgin Cola out of business. “If you are taking on a business far larger than yours, you have to be so much better than them,” Branson later acknowledged. “But with two cans of red cola, there wasn’t that much difference in the product.”

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Nicky Hilton
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Nicky Hilton

Nicky O Hotels 

Paris Hilton’s slightly more reserved sister was eager to try her hand at the family business, announcing the launch of Nicky O hotels in 2006. Hilton planned properties in Miami and Chicago, but they never actually materialized. Instead, in 2007, Hilton was sued by her investor, who said she did not promote the properties or do any of the design work she promised to do. 

Pharrell Williams Qream With a Q (liqueur)
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Pharrell Williams

Qream With a Q (liqueur)

This music magnate has had a number of successful businesses, including clothing lines like Billionaire Boys Club. But Qream With a Q, a brand of liqueur launched in 2011, isn’t among them. Aimed at women who wanted to “reward themselves deliciously,” Qream was only on the market for about a year before its distributor, Diageo, pulled the plug because of low sales. Williams countered with a lawsuit claiming Diageo was at fault for marketing the brand as a club drink instead of a high-end spirit. 

Related: Celebrities Who Own Beer, Wine, and Spirits Brands

Blake Lively
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Blake Lively

Preserve (lifestyle products)
The "Gossip Girl" actress tried to create a lifestyle brand in Preserve, selling a variety of products "all seemingly designed for a southern-themed bridal shower" according to Vanity Fair, but when the venture folded in 2015 after less than a year, Lively admitted “it never caught up to its original mission: It’s not making a difference in people’s lives, whether superficially or in a meaningful way.” Luckily husband Ryan Reynolds has had more success in his liquor ventures

Steven Spielberg
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Steven Spielberg

Dive! (restaurant)

The famed director had a bigger flop than the praised (but little seen) "West Side Story" reboot. In the mid-1990s he joined forces with Dreamworks CE) Jeffrey Katzenberg to create the submarine-themed restaurant Dive! The Los Angeles location (there was also a Las Vegas eatery) cost $7 million to build. Despite fun features like sirens that would signal the restaurant would be "submerging" and menu items like submarine sandwiches, both restaurants closed by the early 2000s.