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Definitely Jammed? Record Executive and Entrepreneur Russell Simmons ‘I’m Broke’ Claim In Messy Public Spat with Ex-Wife Kimora Lee Simmons and Daughter Aoki Raises Doubts About His Fortune

For many years serial entrepreneur Russell Simmons was lauded for his business endeavors, positive attitude, and appearance of being a doting father.

Yet the recent online disputes between his daughters and ex-wife, Kimora Lee Simmons, are revealing that Simmons’ pockets might not be as deep as expected — at least he seems to be claiming so.  

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – FEBRUARY 03: Russell Simmons attends the 2023 MusiCares Persons Of The Year honoring Berry Gordy and Smokey Robinson at Los Angeles Convention Center on February 03, 2023 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic)

In a recent online rant, Lee Simmons charged that Simmons verbally abused their daughters, Ming and Aoki. She also asserted that Simmons had lied about their family’s cozy relationship for several years. 

They married in December 1998 and divorced in January 2009.

“Please don’t attack my children, they’ve been through so much. Don’t attack my family — which is supposed to be your family too,” Lee Simmons said on Instagram. “Don’t do that because you’re at rock bottom, I don’t know, you’re grasping at straws. This is a money grab. I don’t really know what this is.” 

Simmons Wealth Timeline

By most media accounts, Simmons is still rolling in the dough. Many outlets peg his current net worth to be between $340 million and $350 million.

Here’s how he made his fortune.

Considered a  pioneer of hip-hop culture, Simmons co-founded the groundbreaking rap label Def Jam Recordings with Rick Rubin in 1984. Through the partnership, Simmons would sign acts such as LL Cool J, the Beastie Boys, and Run DMC, and Public Enemy, among others. 

In 1996, Simmons sold 50 percent of his stake in Def Jam to PolyGram Records for $33 million, and three years later, the remaining stake was sold to Seagram for $130 million. Since then, Simmons has gone on to launch other enterprises under his company Rush Communications, which included energy drinks, digital platforms and book publishing. Here’s a look at some of Simmons’ other ventures. 

Film and Television Production 

While running Def Jam Records, Simmons began expanding his media empire. In 1985, Simmons co-produced the film “Krush Groove,” which was based on his formation of Def Jam Recordings. He established Simmons/Lathan Media Group with film/television producer Stan Lathan. Through this partnership, Simmons and Lathan developed television shows such as “Def Jam Comedy” and “Def Poetry Jam,” which aired on HBO.

In 1996, Simmons co-produced “The Nutty Professor” starring Eddie Murphy. The film grossed an estimated $273 million internationally. In 1997, Simmons co-produced “How To Be A Player,” starring comedian Bill Bellamy, which grossed $14 million.

Clothing Lines Appealing To Varied Lifestyles

Simmons proved early on that hip-hop culture was not just about music — it was a lifestyle. He launched clothing lines, including Phat Farm, and supported Lee Simmons in establishing Baby Phat, both urban wear lines. His other fashion lines such as Argyle Culture and Tantris focused on millennial men and yoga, respectively. 

Phat Farm was sold to the Kellwood Company for $140 million in 2004.

Prepaid Debit Cards 

Unirush, LLC was founded in 2013 to support low-income people to have access to a prepaid debit card. The company was sold to Green Dot Corporation for $147 million in 2017. 

The Celsius Investment

In 2015, Simmons invested $16 million in Boca Raton-based energy-loss drink company Celsius Holdings.

In 2021, Simmons sued his ex-wife and her then-husband Tim, saying they conspired to fraudulently transfer more than three million shares of Celsius to their accounts in order to help pay for Leissner’s legal and bail fees for a 2018 money laundering case in which he pleaded guilty, as Finurah previously reported.

In 2016, Lee Simmons and Leissner joined Simmons’ investment company, Nu Horizons, Vanity Fair reported.

The lawsuit included a letter Simmons wrote to his ex-wife in an attempt to “reaffirm my 50% of the Celsius shares” without getting the court involved.

“Throughout my entire decades-long partnership with you I’ve done everything and anything to protect and promote our family,” he wrote. “I have never said no to any request and have always gone against my own council to offer up much more than any judge would ever require of me in order to keep the peace. I am shocked and saddened to see how your side has behaved in response to my repeated attempts to get an agreement from you to rightfully and legally reaffirm my 50% of the Celsius shares which have been locked up with the government after being used for your husband’s bail money.” 

Though the court battle is ongoing, but Lee Simmons was reportedly able to convince the court to dismiss a breech claim Simmons filed. This resulted in Simmons being ordered to pay for her $100,000 in legal fees.

In her response to the lawsuit, she claimed to the press, “This extortion attempt is especially egregious given that Russell remains contractually in debt to Kimora for millions of dollars in unpaid business loans. Our team is actively working to put a firm end to his harassment, which continues despite Russell having fled the country — he will face his own reckoning in the U.S. court.”

PepsiCo Makes Major Investment in Celsius

In 2022, PepsiCo made a $550 million investment in Celsius Holdings. The investment was part of a long-term distribution deal with Celsius. News of the investment caused shares of Celsius to go up 11%, CNBC reported.

It has not been reported how much Simmons made from the spike since his company now holds fewer shares after Lee Simmons transferred shares.

It seems Simmons can kiss those Celsius shares goodbye. In March, Leissner was ordered to forfeit $43.7 million in cash along with the 3.3 million shares in Celsius Holdings Inc., Bloomberg reported. But the judge in the case did stipulate that third parties who claim an interest in those shares may petition a court for what they say they are owed.

Is Simmons’ Broke?

During the drama that unfolded over Father’s Day, Lee Simmons accused Simmons of verbally abusing their daughter Aoki in a joint FaceTime call and in text messages. Lee Simmons released the FaceTime call footage on mute, but Simmons could be seen screaming and mouthing what has been reported as the words “I’m broke.”

TMZ posted a photo of the text message between Aoki and her father. In the messages, Simmons says to Aoki, “Your mother stolen my money” to which she replies, “she DID NOT STEAL IT. YOU LOST IT.”

The Apology

Simmons has since apologized. He issued a statement on social media that said, “I love you guys more than I love myself.” He also said, that he was “DEEPLY sorry for being frustrated and yelling.”

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