Tom Wolfe Net Worth: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

Tom Wolfe


Tom Wolfe has died at the age of 87, according to the New York Times. Wolfe, who authored many best-selling masterpieces such as “The Bonfire of the Vanities” and “The Right Stuff,” had been hospitalized with an infection and died Monday, May 14. Wolfe was known as an innovative journalist and a pioneer of a literary style in nonfiction known as New Journalism.

What is Tom Wolfe’s Net Worth?

According to Celebrity Net Worth, Wolfe’s net worth was an estimated $20 million at the time of his death in May, 2018.

Wolfe got his start in journalism as a newspaper reporter at various regional outlets. According to Celebrity Net Worth, Wolfe quickly rose to stardom in the 1960s due to a series of best-selling non-fiction books including The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby, and more. His 1979 book The Right Stuff, an account of the Mercury Seven space program, was also incredibly successful and was eventually turned into a movie.

1. Wolfe Became Known as a Pioneer of  “New Journalism,” a Literary style in Nonfiction Writing

Tom Wolfe

GettyNEW YORK, NY – NOVEMBER 30: Author Tom Wolfe attends the 2012 Trophee Des Arts Gala at The Plaza Hotel on November 30, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Fernando Leon/Getty Images)

According to, During the New York newspaper strike of 1962, Wolfe struggled with the angle for an article on the Southern California hot-rod culture for Esquire magazine and “finally sent his editor a letter explaining his ideas, dispensing with traditional journalism conventions and describing the entire scene in a personal voice. The editor was so impressed that he removed the letter’s salutation and published it in its entirety.”

Since then, Wolfe developed his own writing style, which became known as the “New Journalism,” a style of journalism in which writers experimented with different literary techniques, combining journalistic accuracy with an eye for description and deeply immersing themselves in the subject they were writing about.

According to CNN Money, Wolfe edited a volume of work by himself and other prominent writers of the era, including Truman Capote, Joan Didion, Hunter S. Thompson, Norman Mailer, George Plimpton, titled “The New Journalism.”

This genre of writing helped propel Wolfe into the stardom that he gained up to the day of his death.

2. Wolfe Published a Number of Notable Books, Including “The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test,” and “The Right Stuff”

tom wolfe wife sheila wolfe

GettyTom Wolfe and his wife, Sheila Wolfe.

Before his rise to New Journalism fame, Wolfe had already published a number of ground-breaking books of his own, including “The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test,” in which Wolfe provided a psychedelic chronicle of Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters as they experimented with LSD. He went on to write “The Right Stuff” about the Mercury space program.

He then moved into the realm of fiction, publishing “The Bonfire of the Vanities” a story of 1980s New York involving a Wall Street banker, a Bronx high school student, and a tabloid reporter, according to CNN Money. He wrote the work as a series of stories for Rolling Stone in 1984 and 1985, and was later published in book form in 1987, CNN Money reports.

Wolfe was born and raised in Richmond, Virginia, and went to college at Washington and Lee University and received his PhD from Yale.

3. Wolfe Enjoyed a Luxury Apartment in the Upper East Side of Manhattan, and a Summer Home in Southampton

sheila wolfe

GettySheila and Tom Wolfe.

Wolfe had been living in New York since 1962, when he started reporting for the New York Herald Tribune. Wolfe lived a quiet, private life with his wife Sheila in their 12-room Upper East Side apartment in Manhattan, according to the New York Times.

“Tom and Sheila Wolfe seem to live very quietly in their East Side townhouse. Tom’s only excess seems to be tailor-made clothes: He does not light up the sky at Elaine’s. He sits at home in his white-on-white studio and sketches illustrations for Harper’s and works on outlines of his next book, which will be his first novel and which he hopes will be a sort of Vanity Fair of New York City. He feels New York – any major city – should be a central part of a book. Dickens and Zola and Balzac and Thackeray did it, Tom said, so why shouldn’t he?” Rolling Stone wrote in 1980.

Wolfe wrote of his apartment in “Bonfire of the Vanities,” stating “the mere thought of which ignites flames of greed and covetousness under people all over New York, and for that matter, the world.”

Wolfe also owned a summer home in Southampton.

4. Wolfe Enjoyed Dressing Smart, with his Trademark White Suit a Staple for his Signature Look

Alexandra Wolfe

GettyTom Wolfe in his signature dapper white suit.

Wolfe had a flair for fashion, which he self-described as “Neo-pretentious,” according to the New York Times. The iconic white suits made of silk tweed, his doeskin shoes, and homburg hats all came together as Wolfe’s trademark look.

He was easy to spot walking down the streets of Manhattan: “a tall, slender, blue-eyed, still-boyish-looking man in his spotless three-piece vanilla bespoke suit, pinstriped silk shirt with a starched white high collar, bright handkerchief peeking from his breast pocket, watch on a fob, faux spats and white shoes,” as described by the Times.

Wolfe described his look as “the man from Mars who simply wants to know,” and noted that it gave him certain advantages when reporting, making him appear more interesting than he actually was. He described his style as a “substitute for a personality,” that helped people more easily open up to him when he was tracking down leads for stories.

5. Tom Wolfe Received a $12 Million Advance for his Novel Back to Blood

Tom Wolfe

GettyThomas Kennerley Wolfe, journalist, pop critic and novelist. (Photo by Evening Standard/Getty Images)

In 2012, Wolfe was given one of the biggest book advances of all time for his fourth novel, Back to Blood. According to Celebrity Net Worth, his $7 million advance is 12th biggest advance ever paid to an author.

Other notable authors preceding Wolfe include J.K. Rowling for her book “The Casual Vacancy,” and Pope John Paul II for his book “In My Own Words.”