By the middle of the past decade, Kevin Hart had climbed about as high up the comedy mountaintop as it was possible to go, reliably filling arenas, releasing top-ranked Netflix specials and pumping out No. 1 box office hits like The Upside and Ride Along. But for Hart, getting rich and famous was just the first step to getting even wealthier.
Stardom today is a commodity, more monetizable than ever, and few have figured out how to leverage it more effectively than Hart, who in parallel with his comedy career has built a business empire so diversified, it’s nearly impossible to categorize, ranging from film and TV to health and fitness, consumer packaged goods, spirits, sportswear, fintech and biotech. Seemingly every A-lister has a production company, plenty shill for brands (care for a Nespresso?), a select few have built successful ones of their own (Casamigos, anyone?), and an even smaller number have launched their own venture capital funds. What differentiates Hart from other entrepreneurial entertainers is not just that he does all of the above, but also the pace of his ambition: No one can claim to have had a more prolific 2022.
No matter your demographic profile, it’s unlikely that you haven’t seen Hart in an ad targeted at you. He has inked partnerships with numerous brands, including Sam’s Club and DraftKings, and continues to do ads for JPMorgan Chase, all of which he has a personal affinity for. “It’s very easy for me to embrace [these brands] and embed them into my day,” says Hart. “It’s never a stretch.”
He’s even more enthusiastic about the consumer-product companies where he now has a stake. In the fitness sector, these include Hydrow rowing machines, for which he serves as investor and creative director, and Fabletics. In 2020, Hart launched the Fabletics Men line, which released its third activewear collection in January. “The success around the brand, it’s attached to my success because I not only love the product, I believe that the world is going to love the product,” says Hart. “So having Fabletics on every day, all day, it’s not a chore. It’s a must, right?”
In May, Hart introduced his premium tequila, Gran Coramino, putting him in competition with his friend and frequent co-star Dwayne Johnson’s own Teremana label. Hart had been approached by numerous liquor brands over the years but didn’t pull the trigger until he met with 11th generation tequila maker Juan Domingo Beckmann, who custom-crafted for Hart an ultra-filtered cristalino expression ($59) and a newly released añejo ($113).
Then, in August, Hart opened the first location of Hart House, his plant-based fast-food chain, in the Westchester neighborhood of Los Angeles. The comedian switched to a flexitarian diet (mostly plants, some chicken) after years of “pounding nonstop red meat” on the road, and seeing “a lot of people in my family fall short to heart attacks, high blood pressure, strokes” as a result of poor nutrition. Hart’s idea was to introduce the benefits of a plant-centric diet to communities with few such options.
For good measure, in the spring, Hart launched his new media production company, Hartbeat, attracting a $100 million investment from private equity company Abry partners.
According to Thai Randolph, CEO of Hartbeat, Hart’s banner year was the direct result of a four-day, all-hands brainstorm at the Montage hotel in Cabo in mid-2021. Hart had flown 60 employees down to boost morale at the height of the pandemic, but the retreat turned out to be “a call to action across this ecosystem for us to dream bigger, collaborate in bolder ways and kind of rethink the possibility of what could happen,” Randolph says.
Hart had an eye for dealmaking well before he became a household name. He self-financed several of his early stand-up specials, spending $750,000 to produce and release his 2011 special Laugh at My Pain in theaters, where it grossed more than $7 million. That success only bolstered Hart’s entrepreneurial ambitions. “I wasn’t the businessman that I am today,” Hart says. “In the beginning, I knew nothing. I was a sponge, and I soaked up a bunch of information from being around people that were doing the things that I wanted to do.”
Robert Roman, a wealth manager who met Hart at a summit a few years later, recalls that it was clear even then that Hart “wanted to be a mogul.” He and Hart hit it off, and today Roman oversees Hart Ventures, the entertainer’s VC firm, which has minority stakes in dozens of companies that align with Hart’s interests and values, including streetwear brand Mitchell & Ness, vegan food company BeyondMeat and the social food-ordering platform Snackpass. In October, Hartbeat Ventures announced its first institutional investment, from J.P. Morgan.
Hart rarely spends more than a few months at home in Los Angeles, but when he does, he’s in his Encino offices every day. The comedian can’t resist cracking the odd joke in meetings, acknowledges Randolph. “But, surprisingly,” she says, “the one thing that’s not a joke to him is money and the bottom line.”
This story first appeared in the Nov. 21 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.