New Next: The Real Name Brands

People have been promoted as and acting like brands since the beginning of time, far before brands themselves even existed. From Napoleon's empire to Martha Stewart's, the most exciting corporations around are the actual people who started them.

Fortune favors the bold. We live in an ever-empowered world, where one day you can be writing a blog in a garage and the next you could be Nick Denton. You can go from rapping in Brooklyn to being a multi-faceted corporation courted by the UN. Or from young British artist to superstar and cultural influencer. Today's creative class brings entrepreneurship to a new level: These people-as-corporations are selling their personas as much as anything.

>> Damien Hirst

This Bristol, England-born internationally renowned artist has helped democratize the art world as we know it today, bringing his often controversial works to the mainstream as few contemporary artists have been able to do. Hirst is now the most expensive living artist, having recently sold his diamond-encrusted platinum skull, "For the Love of God," for $67 million (he played an active role in raising the price - and his own worth - by being a member of the investment group that purchased the skull). In addition to his art and co-running his restaurant on the coast of Devon, 11 The Quay, Hirst has also recently collaborated with Levi's and designed a pair of 501s for the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts.

>> Jay-Z

The Brooklyn native made his name with freestyle rapping. But adding to his net worth of nearly $550 million, Jay-Z served, until very recently, as president and CEO of Def Jam and Roc-A-Fella Records. He co-founded the clothing brand Rocawear, co-owns a sports bar, the 40/40 Club, and is a part-owner of the New Jersey Nets NBA franchise. He doesn't just own companies either: he participates. He has recently opted for being
co-brand director for Budweiser Select. Jay-Z has teamed up with the UN to raise young people's awareness of the global water crisis. He's acquired a property in New York's Chelsea neighborhood where he'll build the flagship for his five-star J-Hotel chain.

>> Nick Denton

With a love of journalism and a good sense of timing, Brit Nick Denton realized the potential of blogs in the early 2000s. The former reporter for the Financial Timeslaunched Gizmodo in 2002 and it was an instant success, drawing tech heads and gadget lovers from all over. Gawker came next and became the go-to for anybody interested in celebrity and media gossip. Others followed, fueling his blogospheric rise. Denton's methodology for Gawker Media is quite simple: If he can picture himself and others wanting to read it, it shall exist. He must be doing something right; Nick Denton's wealth from his ventures is currently estimated at almost $290 million.

Written by Johanna Beyenbach, curated by Paul Woolmington, partner, Naked Communications. (,

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