By the middle of the last decade, Kevin Hart had climbed as high atop the comedy mountain as possible, reliably filling theaters, running top-rated Netflix promotions, and pumping out No. 1s at the box office as Up and Ride Along. But for Hart, becoming rich and famous was only the first step to even richer.
Stardom today is a more monetizable commodity than ever before, and few have figured out how to use it more effectively than Hart, who, alongside his comedy career, has built a business empire so diverse it’s almost impossible to categorize, ranging from from film and TV to health and fitness, consumer packaged goods, spirits, sportswear, fintech and biotech. Seemingly every A-lister has a production company, has a strong desire for brands (Nespresso care?), a select few have built their own successful ones (Casamigos, anyone?), and even fewer have started their own venture capital funds. What sets Hart apart from other entrepreneurs isn’t just that he does all of the above, but the speed of his ambition: No one can claim to have had a more prolific 2022.
Regardless of your demographic profile, it’s unlikely you haven’t seen Hart in an ad targeted at you. He has signed partnerships with numerous brands, including Sam’s Club and DraftKings, and continues to do commercials for JPMorgan Chase, all of which he has a personal affinity for. “It’s very easy for me to embrace him [these brands] and build them into my day,” says Hart. “It’s never a stretch.”
He is even more enthusiastic about the consumer products companies in which he now has a stake. In the fitness sector, this includes rowing machines Hydrow, for which he serves as an investor and creative director, and Fabletics. In 2020, Hart launched the Fabletics Men line, which launched its third activewear collection in January. “The success around the brand is tied to my success because not only do I love the product, I believe the world will love it,” Hart says. “So turning on Fabletics every day, all day, is not a chore. It’s a must, isn’t it?’
In May, Hart introduced his premium tequila, Gran Coramino, pitting it against his friend and frequent colleague Dwayne Johnson’s own Teremana label. Hart has been approached by numerous liquor brands over the years, but didn’t pull the trigger until he met 11th-generation tequila maker Juan Domingo Beckmann, who custom-crafted for Hart an ultra-filtered crystalino ($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 Los Angeles’ Westchester neighborhood. The comedian switched to a flexitarian diet (mostly plants, a little chicken) after years of “hitting red meat non-stop” along the way and seeing “a lot of people in my family suffer from heart attacks, high blood pressure, strokes” as a result of poor nutrition. Hart’s idea was to bring the benefits of a plant-based 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 firm Abry partners.
According to Ty Randolph, CEO of Hartbeat, Hart’s remarkable year was a direct result of a four-day everyone’s brainstorming session at the Montage Hotel in Cabo in mid-2021. Hart had sent 60 employees to boost morale in the midst of the pandemic, but the retreat proved to be “a call to action in this ecosystem for us to dream bigger, to collaborate in bolder ways, and to reimagine the possibility of what can happen,” says Randolph.
Hart had an eye for deals long before he became a household name. He self-funded 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 over $7 million. This success only fueled Hart’s entrepreneurial ambitions. “I wasn’t the businessman I am today,” Hart says. “At first I didn’t know anything. I was a sponge and 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 several years later, recalls that even then it was clear Hart “wanted to be a tycoon.” He and Hart settled, and today Roman heads Hart Ventures, the artist’s venture capital firm, which has minority stakes in dozens of companies that align with Hart’s interests and values, including streetwear brand Mitchell & Ness, the vegan foods BeyondMeat and the social food ordering platform Snackpass. 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 the odd joke during dates, Randolph admits. “But surprisingly,” she says, “the only thing that isn’t a joke to him is the money and the bottom line.”
This story first appeared in the Nov. 21 issue of The Hollywood Reporter. Click here to subscribe.