Gloria Vanderbilt was a famous American socialite, fashion designer, actor, and entrepreneur who tragically passed away on Monday from stomach cancer. Her net worth at the time of her passing estimated to be $200 million according to celebrtitynetworth.com.
However, according to Forbes, the $200 million has been diluted significantly over the years due to increased philanthropy and spending coupled with a steady decline in her fashion businesses. Gloria Vanderbilt’s son, TV news anchor Anderson Cooper, told Howard Stern in an April 2014 interview that “My mom’s made clear to me that there’s no trust fund.”
Gloria was also forced to sell two of her homes in the 1990s to pay back taxes owed to the IRS. Although her net worth is listed at an estimated $200 million, the amount is most likely much lower.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Gloria Vanderbilt Is Descended from One of the Wealthiest Americans in History
Gloria Vanderbilt’s great-great-grandfather was Cornelius Vanderbilt, a railroad tycoon and one of the five wealthiest Americans in history. Cornelius built his fortune from the shipping industry and was one of the early investors in the railroad industry. He was known as “The Commodore” and most famously owned the New York Central Railroad. At the time of his death, Cornelius was worth an estimated $185 billion in today’s dollars.
Gloria’s father, Reginald Claypoole Vanderbilt, was the sole heir to the Vanderbilt fortune. He passed away in 1925 when Gloria was 1 year old and left her with a trust fund worth $2.5 million which is equal to approximately $35 million in today’s dollars. Her mother Gloria Morgan Vanderbilt and her aunt Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney fought over custody of Gloria and the trust fund. Gertrude eventually won and went on to raise Gloria.
She was not allowed access to the money until she turned 21 and her mother received $50,000 annually.
2. She Built a Fashion Empire That Generated $100 Million Annually
Gloria Vanderbilt started out as an artist but got into the fashion industry in 1976 when Glentex commissioned some of her paintings for their scarves. That same year she founded GV Ltd., a ready-to-wear company, but her career didn’t really take off until she formed a partnership with Mohan Murjani. She started out designing blouses before creating the iconic Gloria Vanderbilt jeans line. The form-fitting jeans that featured a swan logo on the back were an immediate hit. The jeans exploded in popularity when Gloria Vanderbilt herself became the spokesperson for the company.
This led to branded lines of shoes, clothes, accessories, sheets, leather goods, and a perfume line with L’Oreal, Vanderbilt for women, that became one of the most popular fragrances of the 1980s.
At the height of its popularity in the 1980s, her fashion line was generating over $100 million in annual revenue and Gloria was earning $10 million annually in royalties.
3. Her Lawyer & Psychiatrist Stole Millions from Her
Gloria Vanderbilt sued her Lawyer Thomas Andrews and her Psychiatrist in 1993 for stealing millions of dollars and selling off her business interests without her authorization. The court eventually ruled in her favor and awarded Gloria $1.79 million judgment in 1995. By the time the judgment was rendered, Andrew Thomas had passed away.
Gloria had given them power of attorney which allowed them to steal her money and make decisions on her behalf. Despite winning the lawsuit, Gloria never received any of the $1.79 million. Her lawyer was disbarred and she was also awarded $300,000 from the New York Bar Association from its Victims of Fraud fund.
4. She Had to Sell Her New York Homes to Pay for Back Taxes
In addition to stealing her money, her now-deceased lawyer did not pay her taxes for years which resulted in Gloria owing $2.5 million to the IRS. Although Gloria had amassed a fortune from her fashion line in the 1980s, sales had declined in the 1990s as her lavish spending habits continued. Her monthly expenses combined with the money that was stolen from her and the fact that she didn’t actually receive any money from Thomas’ estate for the lawsuit made her unable to pay the IRS.
She was forced to sell her properties in Southampton and New York City for $2.7 million to settle her debts.
5. She Wrote Several Popular Books and Appeared in an HBO Documentary
During her later years, Gloria wrote several books that appeared on the New York Times Best Seller list. One of her most popular books was 2004’s “It Seemed Important at the Time: A Romance Memoir,” detailed her love life with influential celebrities including Frank Sinatra, Marlon Brando, and Howard Hughes.
She also co-authored “The Rainbow Comes and Goes: A Mother and Son On Life, Love, and Loss” in 2016 with her son Anderson Cooper. Most of her books had significant sales and appeared on the NYT bestseller list. She appeared in a documentary the same year “Nothing Left Unsaid” which chronicled her life and her relationship with Anderson Cooper.
It’s unclear exactly how much money she pocketed from the deals but judging from the bestseller lists and HBO’s pedigree the amounts were most likely significant.