He’s one of the most successful comedians of all time and is worth an estimated $350 million. Away from his work, though, Jay Leno’s biggest indulgence seems to be his impressive car collection. And yet aside from the fact that he splashes out on a lot of vehicles, the 68-year-old TV host follows a surprising set of rules when it comes to his finances.
Leno, who is originally from New Rochelle, New York, was born on April 28, 1950. His parents were immigrants who grew up during the Depression following the famous stock market crash. And that meant that they were constantly cautious about their cash.
Moreover, their abstemious ways clearly rubbed off on their son. Following high school, Leno studied speech therapy at Emerson College in Boston, Massachusetts, and established a comedy club at the private university in 1973. Then, after he graduated, he began working as a standup comedian.
Leno started making small television and film appearances in the mid-’70s. And in 1977, he performed a comedy skit on The Tonight Show. Then, ten years later, the comedian would regularly appear on the series as a temporary replacement for host Johnny Carson.
When Carson quit after nearly 30 years, though, the long-serving anchor believed that David Letterman, whose own show aired in the later timeslot, would take over. But instead, the coveted position was offered to Leno. And he signed on as the show’s new host in 1992.
But in May 2009 Leno actually left the series and worked on The Jay Leno Show instead. He returned to The Tonight Show ten months later, however, and carried on as host until 2014. During those two decades, the TV host continued with his standup work. And throughout that time, Leno’s wife, Mavis, whom he married in 1980, stood by his side.
Now as the presenter of one of America’s most popular late night shows, Leno has amassed a fortune worth millions. But rather than wave his money around left, right and center, though, the star has just one indulgence: he loves to buy expensive vehicles.
Yes, Leno claims to own 181 cars and around 160 motorcycles. And while he may boast a hugely impressive collection, he doesn’t otherwise like to spend large amounts of money. In fact, the comedian has revealed some surprising news about his pile of cash.
You see, Leno has said that he has never touched his earnings from The Tonight Show. Instead, the star gets by on what he makes from his standup comedy. And he has admitted that he hates to be extravagant.
Leno told Time magazine that “there’s really not” anything he drops significant amounts of money on, other than his beloved cars. “I’m not an experienced person,” he said. “I know I’m pretty wealthy, but I live like someone who’s on their last dime.”
“I take nothing for granted,” he continued. “I don’t take vacations. When you’re in show business, you get to go to vacation places. I enjoy doing philanthropy stuff.” And his desire to help others is matched by his willingness to graft.
Leno explained that even though he’s worth millions, he doesn’t want to lose his work ethic. “I like feeling like if I don’t work this week, I’m gonna go broke,” he said. “People say, ‘Why do you work all the time?’ I go, ‘What do I do on a Tuesday that’s worth this kind of money?’”
And the star added that he hasn’t forgotten the days when he had very little cash at all. “A job comes up, and I always feel like I was broke for so long, I never wanted to be in the position of, ‘Well, how much is that job? Oh no, I’m not…’ It just seems so presumptuous to turn down,” he said. Leno also admitted to CNBC Make It that he’s “just not interested” in buying clothes.
“To me, it seems like a complete waste of money. I just want to have enough clothes to cover legally what parts I have to cover,” the host revealed, adding that all his garments were bought for him during The Tonight Show. “I go to a store now thinking shirts are 40 bucks and [I see] $180. What! Get out of here! That’s ridiculous.”
Leno describes his mentality toward his finances as “really conservative.” And he admitted that it’s something that’s been ingrained in him because of his parents’ upbringing during the Depression. “They just frightened me to death, saying, ‘You gotta save every penny!’ And I’m glad they did,” he said.
The star’s words have caused some debate online, though. Some people praised Leno for being “smart,” with one person commenting, “I love people like this.” But others slammed the comedian and pointed out that he clearly spends heavily when it comes to his vehicles.
“Um, having 181 cars isn’t living like you’re on your last dime,” one Twitter user wrote. Another added, “This word ‘frugal,’ I do not think it means what he thinks it means.” However, fellow comedian Beau Bowden rushed to Leno’s defense.
“I used to work around Jay Leno at an L.A. comedy club,” he tweeted. “If you don’t count his car collection, he does live a very frugal lifestyle. He still uses an audiocassette recorder, that Merv Griffin gave him in 1984, to record his sets. When asked why he doesn’t upgrade, ‘Still works.’”
What’s more, it turns out that Leno’s not the only celebrity who lives a thrifty lifestyle. Kristen Bell and Carrie Underwood have admitted to clipping coupons, while Warren Buffet, who is worth a whopping $80 billion, lives in a house he bought 60 years ago for just $31,500. Besides, Leno says that being careful with his cash makes him feel at ease.
“I own everything. I own my buildings. I own my cars. That way, if it ends tomorrow, I know what I’ve got,” the comedian told CNBC Make It. “It’s a little old fashioned, I suppose, but it seems to work pretty well for me.”
But it seems not every celebrity millionaire is as frugal as Leno. And the king of NBA, LeBron James, is a prime example of a star who’s perhaps more inclined to splash the cash than most. And why shouldn’t he? He’s one of the wealthiest athletes in the world, after all. And prepare to turn green with envy when you see just what he loves to spend it on.
James hasn’t always been wealthy, you see. As a child, in fact, the future NBA star was raised on welfare and used food stamps to feed himself. At one point, he even had to sleep on a couch instead of in a proper bed. On top of this, the young James regularly skipped school and consequently seemed destined for a life of little hope.
All that began to change, however, when a nine-year-old James was signed on to a youth basketball team in his native Akron, Ohio. And he quickly excelled at the sport; indeed, he would end his high school senior year as arguably his team’s most promising player.
Naturally, he then caught the attention of the big leagues. And in 2003 he was the first person to be selected in the NBA draft. James was eventually picked by the Cleveland Cavaliers – a canny move by the team, as his first season proved to be a very successful one. Indeed, the 2003 to 2004 basketball season even saw him honored with the prestigious Rookie of the Year Award.
And throughout his career, James has gone from strength to strength. During his time with the Cavaliers – as well as a four-year-stint with the Miami Heat – the player has earned four MVP awards and won the NBA Championships three times. In addition, he gained gold medals at the 2008 and 2012 Olympic Games.
Perhaps James’ biggest achievement, though, came when he scored an unbelievable 61 points during a March 2014 game against the Charlotte Bobcats. That beat his previous record by five points and took the Miami Heat to a 124 to 107 win. And there’s no doubt that he cemented his title as the undisputed king of the rim in the process.
Thanks to his unparalleled reputation on the court, then, James can commend a hefty salary. In fact, in 2016 the star finalized a three-year, $100 million contract with the Cavaliers. And since his presence in Cleveland was once estimated to bring in around $500 million to the city during the basketball season, we’d say that’s a fairly generous deal.
But James’ NBA salary isn’t the only source of his bountiful income. In his first year as a professional baller, for example, the giant signed a $90 million endorsement deal with Nike. Today, however, he earns roughly $30 million a year from shoe sales. His current deal with the company, meanwhile, is rumored to be worth in excess of $1 billion.
And let’s just say that James’ riches haven’t gone unnoticed. What’s more, they’re something that he’s more than willing to joke about. In 2015 romcom Trainwreck, for one, James proved to be a good sport by playing a hilariously cheap version of himself. “I don’t know how long this could last,” he quips in the movie. “I’m not about to end up like MC Hammer.”
In reality, however, LeBron James is nothing like his on-screen alter ego. Indeed, while the player isn’t one to brag about his riches, he’s not afraid to splash his cash either. And his kingdom is littered with the sort of spoils that dreams are made of.
Let’s start with his houses. In his first year with the Cavaliers, the athlete built his own 30,000-square-foot mansion in Akron at a cost of $9.2 million. And the estate contains all manner of neat toys, such as a dual-lane bowling alley, a recording studio and even a barbershop.
While playing in Miami, meanwhile, James spent $9 million on a 16,700-square-foot property in Coconut Grove. That’s a pad on which he made an impressive $4.4 million profit upon his return to Cleveland. In addition, he purchased a ritzy $21 million Brentwood, Los Angeles home back in 2015.
And like any self-respecting celebrity millionaire, James’ garage is filled with an enviable selection of automobiles. That collection has included the luxe likes of a Porsche 911 Turbo S, a Ferrari F430 Spider and a sleek Maybach 57S. Undoubtedly pride of place, though, is a $670,000 Lamborghini Aventador custom sprayed in the style of his “King’s Pride” Nike sneaker.
The small forward doesn’t just like to splash out on property or cars, either. He’s also a keen fan of tattoos and has been known to get his ink done by NYC-based Keith “Bang Bang” McCurdy – an artist who charges $400 per hour. And with sessions lasting a minimum of two-and-a-half hours, that’s as much as $1,000 a hit.
In addition, James is very smart with his investments. His stake in rapidly growing chain Blaze Pizza, for example, looks set to make him a whole lot more cash. The star also put his cash into Beats Electronics prior to its $3 billion Apple acquisition as well as towards a piece of English soccer club Liverpool F.C. and into his own multimedia company, Uninterrupted.
In fact, his business savvy has even brought him kudos from some serious financial players. Warren Buffett – who is worth an estimated $73.1 billion – told ESPN in 2013, “You have to understand that LeBron is very smart financially. I’ve never heard him say anything that doesn’t make sense.”
But LeBron doesn’t just spend money on gifts for himself. When it came time to pop the question to girlfriend Savannah Brinson, for example, the star is said to have shelled out between $250,000 and $300,000 for a five-carat diamond engagement ring. Brinson would probably say that it’s worth every penny.
And that’s just the tip of James’ generosity. In 2015 the player launched the LeBron James Family Foundation in his native Akron. Specifically, James has teamed up with the University of Akron to offer scholarships of approximately $38,000 for college attendance – a move that could change the lives of up to 2,300 children. Certainly, then, it seems as if the player doesn’t want youths to face the impoverished life he could have had.
So with all the money LeBron James is making, we don’t blame him for splashing his cash on some eye-watering acquisitions. But the extent of his modesty and philanthropy is truly surprising and just makes us love him more. Let’s hope, then, that the king stays the king for years to come.