It's a long way from playing to 20,000 screaming fans in Detroit Rock City, but KISS co-founder and bassist Gene Simmons made sure his message to the 60-or-so suits in a Beverly Hills conference room was clear, if not quite as loud.
"At the end of the day, you need to think about three important things: mental health, physical health and financial health," Simmons said on Tuesday, speaking to the British American Business Council of Los Angeles (BABC LA) at Beverly Hills' Peninsula Hotel. "I'm in the highest tax bracket. What are my choices in life?"
Plenty of Green Behind the Black-and-White Makeup
Simmons was pitching Cool Springs Life Equity Strategy, a financial advisory group he joined last year to help broaden their client base and attract members of the well-heeled entertainment industry. The Franklin, Tenn.-based company, whose co-founders include former Transamerica executives David Carpenter and Simon Baitler, specializes in asset protection to individuals with a net worth of more than $20 million. More specifically, Cool Springs, among other things, secures large life insurance policies with little or no cash outlay by arranging for low-interest loans to pay the premiums.
It may seem like an odd fit for Simmons, who's far better known for his fake-blood-spitting, on-stage "Demon" alter ego than for his financial acumen. But Simmons has never made any bones about making sure there was plenty of green behind his group's the black-and-white face paint.
KISS, which has sold more than 100 million CDs and DVDs, was hawking band-themed merchandise, ranging from lunch boxes to toy dolls, as far back as the 1970s. The group, which Simmons co-founded in 1973, holds merchandising licenses to more than 3,000 items.
A Rock-and-Roll Success Story
"I didn't buy my first car until I was 34. . . . I didn't buy my first house until I was 36," Simmons said in an interview with DailyFinance. "Why do you need them when you're always on the road? I lived with my mother until I was about 20. You wanna go out and have some privacy? You go to a hotel."
His approach is a far cry from the dozens of well-known artists who have may have sold tens of millions of albums, yet found themselves in financially precarious situations because of questionable record deals, overspending or financial mismanagement. For every Paul McCartney -- whose net worth was reported last year by U.K.'s Sunday Times to be almost three-quarters of a billion dollars -- or Bruce Springsteen, who according to Forbes earned $70 million in 2009, almost three decades after his first album release, there's a Billy Joel or TLC -- acts that declared bankruptcy in the midst of their popularity because of bad record deals or management. Then, there's Michael Jackson, who was reportedly about $400 million in debt when he died in 2009.
All of which made Simmons a natural choice for Samuel Watson. The Cool Springs CEO was looking for a partner famous enough to appeal to high-net-worth individuals in the entertainment industry -- an industry Watson had little access to -- yet financially savvy enough to pitch Cool Springs' services with a sense of authority. Dressed in dark shades and a suit jacket, Simmons preached financial responsibility to the BABC audience for about an hour Tuesday morning. He then gladly posed for pictures with many of the women in the audience after the presentation.
"I needed a marketing machine, and if you were to define 'marketing machine,' Gene Simmons's picture would be there," said Watson. "There's not a door he can't open."