STAR BOSSES: Celebs who founded their own entertainment companies

We check out entrepreneurial actors and singers who established record labels, production houses or artiste management agencies

Photos: TPG, EPA, Toggle
Photos: TPG, EPA, Toggle
22 Jan 2016

Photos: TPG, EPA, Toggle

The entrepreneurial spirit is strong in society today, and even the glitzy world of celebrities has not been left untouched by it. While some choose to open restaurants and launch fashion labels, a bunch have opted for something a little closer to their original expertise – establishing their very own entertainment companies, be it record labels, production houses or artiste management agencies.

Earlier this month, in the midst of his high-profile tussle against agency Star Ritz International Entertainment, Our Times hunk Darren Wang expressed his wish to establish a company of his own in the future. While there has been a discussion on whether such an ambitious venture would be backed up financially by his father, a wealthy antiquities collector, the 24-year-old has always reiterated that he’s made it this far on his own. Well, with the recent announcement of his upcoming mainland Chinese film debut alongside Jackie Chan (without the help of dear old dad), we think he’s pretty capable of working his way towards CEO status all by himself.

While we wait for the announcement of Darren Wang Entertainment (or whatever he chooses to christen it), we check out other stars who turned their dreams of establishing their own companies into a reality:

Janet Jackson
Janet Jackson
22 Jan 2016

Janet Jackson

Founded: Rhythm Nation Records

Last year, the iconic diva became one of the first African-American female record label owners when she opened Rhythm Nation Records (named after the 1989 album that propelled her star to stratospheric heights). Although she has yet to officially announce the addition of singers to the label’s inventory, a press release stated that it will be “a home to both new and established recording artists”. It also explained that those under her management would have full ownership and control over their work, costs and revenues, unlike the traditional deal.

Now, that sounds like a working arrangement we’d like to have if we were musicians (not forgetting that we get to be affiliated with one of the biggest superstars in the world).

Jay Chou
Jay Chou
22 Jan 2016

Jay Chou

Founded: JVR Music

In 2007, the Mandopop King, his long-time collaborator and lyricist Vincent Fang, and Yang Jun Rong, the former general manager of his previous record company Alfa Music, joined forces (and English initials) to form JVR Music. Today, the label manages six singers including Jay himself: Patrick Brasca, Celeste Syn, Darren Chiu, Gary Yang and Cindy Yen, who is a regular guest performer during his tours.

To be honest, we expected someone of the 36-year-old’s calibre and reputation to produce artistes that are more successful, but we guess it’s tough living in the shadows of your company’s founder when he’s, well, Jay Chou. Still, it’s nice to see one of the Chinese music world’s biggest stars bent on grooming a new set of talent in addition to expanding his own already-impressive CV.

Related: The married life of Mr and Mrs Jay Chou

Bae Yong Joon
Bae Yong Joon
22 Jan 2016

Bae Yong Joon

Founded: KeyEast

Some of South Korea’s top actors are listed in KeyEast’s roster, including Kim Soo Hyun, Park Seo Joon, Son Dam Bi, Han Ye Seul and of course, its founder Bae Yong Joon. Two years after it changed its name from Auto Wintech (which was previously known as Tuneboom Korea when it was formed in 1996), the agency expanded into Japan (where Yong Joon is extremely popular) and in 2012, to China. They produced their first television programme, Dream High, in 2010.

The 43-year-old newlywed’s involvement with the organisation has been nothing short of a profitable one: last year, Yong Joon, the majority shareholder of KeyEast, beat SM Entertainment head honcho Lee Soo Man to become the country’s richest celebrity stockholder with a staggering value of US$128 million. As if he needed any more cash flow in addition to his many endorsements, side businesses and high-paying acting gigs!

Yang Hyun Suk
Yang Hyun Suk
22 Jan 2016

Yang Hyun Suk

Founded: YG Entertainment

Meet the man PSY, 2NE1, Winner, iKON and Epik High call “boss”. Before he became the top dog of one of the top entertainment agencies in Korea, the 46-year-old was a member of iconic 90s group Seo Taiji and Boys. After the trio disbanded in 1996, Hyun Suk and his younger brother founded YG Entertainment (YG standing for his nickname “Yang Goon”) and took on musicians like 1TYM, Jinusean and Wheesung as their earlier artistes.

The company was already successful but they really struck gold with the release of BIGBANG’s hits ‘Lies’ in 2007 and ‘Haru Haru’ in 2008. Today, in addition to their roster of top bands, singers, actors and models, they also run streetwear label NONA9ON, cosmetics line Moonshot, a premium restaurant and a golf academy. In 2014, Singapore-based private equity firm L Capital Asia (sponsored by luxury goods conglomerate LVMH) announced their investment of US$80 million into the company. Can you say “ka-ching!”

Michelle Chong
Michelle Chong
22 Jan 2016

Michelle Chong

Founded: Huat Films and Left Profile

Did you know that the local actress/director/restaurant owner (the list goes on) named her artiste management agency Left Profile because she was once told that the left profile of her face was nicer than the right? (Well, we all have our better-looking sides.)

After leaving Mediacorp in 2012, Michelle channelled her energy into entrepreneurship and set up the company, which currently has herself, Pornsak, Lee Teng, former U-KISS member Alexander Lee Eusebio and Chloe Wang in its multinational roster of talents (Michelle is the only Singaporean – Chloe and Lee Teng are Taiwanese, Pornsak is Thai and Hong Kong-born Alexander has Chinese, Portuguese and Korean blood).

Left Profile wasn’t the first of Michelle’s establishments: the year before, she took sabbatical leave to found Huat Films in order to produce her directorial debut Already Famous. Its second film 3 Peas in a Pod, starring Alexander, Fahrenheit’s Calvin Chen and newcomer Jae Liew, was released in 2013, and the studio is now in the midst of making Lulu The Movie (just get that long-awaited picture into theatres already!).

Adrian Pang
Adrian Pang
22 Jan 2016

Adrian Pang

Co-founded: Pangdemonium

Adrian is another former Mediacorp artiste who set up his own business – in his case, a theatre company – after his contract with the station expired in March 2010. Together with his wife Tracie, they don’t just serve as Pangdemonium’s founders and artistic directors, but are also heavily and directly involved in each production: Tracie has directed all of their 14 plays so far, and Adrian has starred in almost every one of them, the latest being his Mandarin stage debut Chinglish.

While running an average of three shows a year is no walk in the park, Adrian has called quitting his full-time TV job to start the studio his happiest moment of his career – and this is a man who won or been nominated for numerous acting accolades and worked with some pretty big names in the biz, including Brad Pitt, the late David Bowie, Pierce Brosnan and Chris Hemsworth. Well, if we got to do what we loved while being the boss at the same time, we’d say the same thing too.

Irene Ang
Irene Ang
22 Jan 2016

Irene Ang

Founded: FLY Entertainment

We used to know her as Rosie Phua, the wife of the curly-haired, boot-wearing titular character of Phua Chu Kang, but since 1999, Irene has also been the CEO of Singapore’s very first artiste management agency, which she was able to start up thanks to the paycheque from a telco commercial.

From having nothing but “two staff, a fax machine and a burning passion and belief in the potential of local talents”, FLY has soared to greater heights (pun intended), and now manages over fifty entertainers, many of whom are familiar faces: there are the Ah Boys, Allan Wu, Chua Enlai, Jacelyn Tay, Patricia Mok and The Sam Willows siblings Benjamin and Narelle Kheng, to name a handful. Besides that, the FLY Group umbrella also comprises an entertainment academy, a bistro and a bar.

Indeed, Irene, who grew up with a difficult childhood, is living proof that you can rise above unfortunate early circumstances to be the ruler of your very own empire.

Jay Park
Jay Park
22 Jan 2016

Jay Park

Founded: AOMG

From disgraced 2PM leader (K-pop followers will remember the hoo-ha surrounding his infamous online comments “Korea is gay” and “I hate Koreans” in 2009) to the CEO of his own indie record label, Jay has experienced the classic “rise and fall and rise again” story. Established in 2013, AOMG (which stands for “Above Ordinary Music Group”) now represents 11 singers, rappers dancers and DJs, including Jay himself.

And it seems he’s doing a good job at being in charge, if claims from his co-CEO Simon D and Epik High’s Tablo are to be believed. During a radio interview, Simon rated his leadership skills as 99 out of 100 (“I left out 1 point so he can stay humble”) and Tablo generously gave AOMG 100 points as a whole company.

Earlier this month, the label was recently acquired by media giant CJ E&M, but Jay promised that “nothing changes” and that they would still be “doin’ s*** OUR way”. Point taken, boss.

Related: Jeanette Aw & Jay Park reunite in Singapore

Brad Pitt
Brad Pitt
22 Jan 2016

Brad Pitt

Founded: Plan B Entertainment

Brad and ex-wife Jennifer Aniston never had any children, but they did have a baby of sorts in 2002 (with now-Paramount CEO Brad Grey) – film production house Plan B, which is now solely owned by Brad following his divorces from his co-founders (one personal and one professional).

To date, the company has produced dozens of pictures, many of which are box office hits and/or big award winners such as The Departed, 12 Years a Slave, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Eat Pray Love and more. They’re currently in the midst of making more movies and TV shows, including the sequel to World War Z (another Plan B success story), War Machine and The Lost City of Z, the first two of which both have Brad in the leading role.

With all these hats he’s wearing, we’d petition to rename the studio Busy B Entertainment.

Leonardo DiCaprio
Leonardo DiCaprio
22 Jan 2016

Leonardo DiCaprio

Founded: Appian Way Productions

Brad’s fellow 90s Hollywood heartthrob (okay, so they’re both still pretty hot property these days) Leo also went down the film producer/actor route when he established Appian Way Productions, which made its first picture The Assassination of Richard Nixon in 2004.

Since then, releases from the studio have spanned numerous genres including horror (The Orphan), biography (The Aviator and The Wolf of Wall Street), documentary (The 11th Hour), thriller (Shutter Island) and, most recently, western (The Revenant, which won Best Picture and Best Actor for Leo at this year’s Golden Globes). Their upcoming releases include crime novel adaptation Live by Night and Robin Hood: Origins, further expanding the company’s portfolio to be as diverse as its founder’s acting career.

Christine Fan & Blackie Chen
Christine Fan & Blackie Chen
22 Jan 2016

Christine Fan & Blackie Chen

Founded: Black Swan Entertainment

Carrying twin boys did not stop super-mum Christine from bringing her newly-established talent agency to the next level by signing their very first artiste Kimberley Chen and even producing a single for her (at eight months pregnant, no less!).

However, if we’re being honest, we have to say that the two biggest stars of the company (at least on social media) are still Blackie and Christine’s adorable sons River and Ryan, who have made several squeal-inducing appearances on the label’s official Instagram and Facebook pages.

Report a problem