By the middle of the last decade, Kevin Hart had climbed about as high to the top of the comedy mountain as possible, reliably filling arenas, churning out top-notch Netflix specials, and pulling in early box office hits like Up and Driving along. But for Hart, getting rich and famous was just the first step to even greater wealth.
Stardom is a commodity today, more monetizable than ever, and few have figured out how to use it more effectively than Hart, who has built a business empire alongside his comedy career so diversified it’s nearly impossible to categorize, from film to Health & Fitness TV, Consumer Packaged Goods, Spirits, Sportswear, Fintech & Biotech. Every A-lister seems to have a production company, plenty of brand sleuths (take care of Nespresso?), a select few have built their own successful ones (Casamigos, anyone?), and an even smaller number have launched their own venture capital funds. What sets Hart apart from other entrepreneurial entertainers isn’t just that he’s doing all of the above, but also the pace of his ambitions: No one can argue he’s had a more prolific 2022.
Regardless of your demographic profile, it’s unlikely you haven’t seen Hart in an ad aimed at you. He has partnered with many brands, including Sam’s Club and DraftKings, and continues to do commercials for JPMorgan Chase, all with a personal touch. “I’m very easy to hug. [these brands] and incorporate them into my day,” says Hart. “It’s never a stretch.”
He is even more enthusiastic about the consumer goods companies in which he now has a stake. In the fitness sector, these are rowing machines Hydrow, for which he is an 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 is tied to my success because not only do I love the product, but I believe the world will love the product,” says Hart. “So having Fabletics on every day, all day, is no chore. It’s a must, isn’t it?”
In May, Hart introduced his premium tequila, Gran Coramino, pitting himself against friend and frequent bandmate Dwayne Johnson’s own Tereman label. Hart has been approached by many liquor brands over the years, but didn’t pull the trigger until he met 11th-generation tequila maker Juan Domingo Beckmann, who custom-crafted an ultra-filtered cristalino expression ($59) and a newly released añejo for Hart. ($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 “non-stop pounding red meat” on the road and seeing “a lot of people in my family have heart attacks, high blood pressure, strokes” as a result of poor nutrition. Hart’s idea was to introduce the benefits of a plant-based diet to communities that have few such options.
For good measure, Hart launched his new media production company Hartbeat in the spring, which attracted a $100 million investment from private equity firm Abry partners.
According to Thai Randolph, CEO of Hartbeat, Hart’s banner year was a direct result of a four-day all-hands brainstorming session at the Montage Hotel in Cabo in mid-2021. Hart laid off 60 employees to boost morale at the height of the pandemic, but the retreat proved to be “a call to action across this ecosystem to dream bigger, collaborate in bolder ways, and rethink the possibility of what could happen,” says Randolph.
Hart had a knack for making deals long before he became a household name. He self-financed several of his first stand-up specials, spending $750,000 to produce and release his 2011 special Laugh at my pain in theaters, grossing more than $7 million. This success only strengthened Hart’s entrepreneurial ambitions. “I wasn’t the businessman I am today,” Hart says. “I didn’t know anything in the beginning. I was a sponge and I absorbed a lot of information from being around people who were doing the things I wanted to do.”
Robert Roman, a wealth manager who met Hart at a summit years later, recalls that even then it was clear 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 company BeyondMeat and social food. -Snackpass ordering platform. In October, Hartbeat Ventures announced its first institutional investment from JP 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, Randolph admits. “But surprisingly,” he says, “the one thing that’s not a joke to him is the money and the bottom line.”
This story first appeared in the Nov. 21 issue of The Hollywood Reporter. To subscribe, click here.