With Jerry Oppenheimer, Author of The Kardashians: An American Drama, Crazy Rich: Power, Scandal, and Tragedy Inside the Johnson & Johnson Dynasty
Steve’s returning guest, Jerry Oppenheimer, has written several unauthorized biographies of public figures including Hillary and Bill Clinton, Ethel Kennedy, Jerry Seinfeld, and the power, scandals and tragedy that befell the Johnson and Johnson dynasty. Today, Steve speaks with Jerry about his new book, The Kardashians: An American Drama.
Robert Kardashian – The Start Of It All
While Steve doesn’t really follow the Kardashians, they are emblematic of our culture, so Steve’s interested in knowing how they became a major business empire and how they handle their financial affairs. It all begins with the family’s patriarch, Robert Kardashian, father of the now famous Kardashians.
Robert passed away in the early 2000s and was best known as O.J. Simpson’s mouthpiece during O.J.’s trial in the mid-90s. Robert earned a law degree, practiced for about a decade, and then focused on business. Jerry believes the Kardashian clan gets its entrepreneurial brains from their old man, and certainly not from their mom, Kris, who came from a very blue collar, uneducated background.
Robert came from a wealthy family that ran one of the biggest meatpacking businesses in Los Angeles, but got into trouble for bribing U.S. Government meat inspectors to give them higher grades on their meats. While Robert distanced himself from the operation, his brother, Tom, was convicted, made a plea deal, and was later given a full pardon by none other than President George H. W. Bush. Why? No one knows!
Robert’s Wife, Kris Kardashian
Jerry sees Kris as the complete opposite of her first husband, Robert. As the story goes, Kris’ mother wanted her to marry rich. So Kris first dated a professional golfer who was at least 10 years older than her and moved in with him. Shortly after, she met Robert Kardashian at a race track, cheated on her golfer boyfriend with Robert, and continued to cheat on Robert after the two were married.
Keeping Up with the Kardashians (KUWTK)
In February 2007, the world got to see Kim Kardashian’s infamous sex tape, which is credited with having launched the Kardashians and boosted ratings on their show, Keeping Up with the Kardashians, which launched in October 2007. Sources say Kim’s mother, Kris, was behind her daughter’s sex tape getting out in the public domain, and made millions out of it.
Jerry sees Kim as the superstar of the family and a major celebrity. But her success is a mystery to him because he sees no discernible talent in her. Instead, he attributes the Kardashians’ success to their savvy use of social media, and being at the right place, at the right time, shortly after the world got its hands on the first iPhone.
Today, the Kardashians are collectively worth about $100 million, with money coming in from every episode of KUWTK, their cosmetics and fashion ventures, and lucrative modeling assignments and appearances.
Next, Jerry briefly walks through the other members of the clan: Kourtney, the eldest and least scandalous; Khloe, who apparently isn’t Robert’s biological child but the fruit of Kris’ philandering; son Robert Jr. who’s been in the news for his affair with singer Blac Chyna; and step sisters Kendall and Kylie Jenner who have developed a hugely successful clothing line with PacSun.
Waning Star Or Next U.S. President?
While the Kardashians have made a fortune, Jerry believes their stars are waning and their businesses aren’t doing all that well. That said, Kris shares the same reality TV background as Donald Trump and is toying around with foraying into politics once KUWTK ends. Jerry ends with having us imagine what it would be like to have a Kardashian in the White House… heavens no, for the love of country!
Disclosure: The opinions expressed are those of the interviewee and not necessarily United Capital. Interviewee is not a representative of United Capital. Investing involves risk and investors should carefully consider their own investment objectives and never rely on any single chart, graph or marketing piece to make decisions. Content provided is intended for informational purposes only, is not a recommendation to buy or sell any securities, and should not be considered tax, legal, investment advice. Please contact your tax, legal, financial professional with questions about your specific needs and circumstances. The information contained herein was obtained from sources believed to be reliable, however their accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed. All data are driven from publicly available information and has not been independently verified by United Capital.
Steve Pomeranz: A few years ago, I interviewed my next guest about the Johnson and Johnson dynasty. It focused on the power, the scandals, and the tragedy that befell them. Jerry Oppenheimer has gone on to write about the Clintons, Ethel Kennedy, and Seinfeld to name just a few. But today, believe it or not, I’ve asked him to talk to us about his new book, The Kardashians: An American Drama.
Now, like many of you, I don’t really follow them and never really know what they’re up to, but they surely are emblematic of our culture and this being a show about money, I’m always interested in how people get theirs. Let’s see what we can unearth. Jerry Oppenheimer joins me.
Hey, Jerry. Welcome back to the show.
Jerry Oppenheimer: It’s my pleasure. Thank you for being here again.
Steve Pomeranz: You know, I know a lot of what is written about the Kardashians focuses on their zany lifestyle and the controversial activities and the things they’ll do just for money. But it all started with their father Robert Kardashian, who became famous during the O.J. trial. Tell us a little bit about him.
Jerry Oppenheimer: Well, one of the reasons I found this story fascinating because I must say that I found the Kardashians as a T.V. Show fame. I always wondered how the shallow, exhibitionistic, narcissistic, banal people were able to become a major business empire. So, that goes back actually to the patriarch, Robert Kardashian, who was the father, is the father of the famous Kardashians today. Robert passed away in the early 2000s and was best known as being O.J.’s mouthpiece during that trial in the mid-90s, but in fact, he was really an entrepreneur. He had gotten a law degree at University of San Diego law school but never really practiced law. He was always interested in running a business and making money. He teamed up with O.J. Simpson on some failed businesses and I think today, Kris and Kim and that whole gang that has been so successful really got there business entrepreneurial brains from the old man.
Certainly, didn’t come from Kris because she came from a very blue-collar, uneducated background, which I discovered when I started researching the book.
Steve Pomeranz: Now the Kardashian family, before Robert, has some scandal to it itself. There was a family member convicted of bribery.
Jerry Oppenheimer: Mind-boggling. Mind-boggling. The Kardashians actually made their money—I’m talking about Robert Kardashian’s family, not Kris who came from …who married into that family—they were in the meatpacking business in Los Angeles. One of the biggest of the meatpacking firms out there. In the mid-70s, federal prosecutors began looking into corruption in that industry and caught in the net was Craig Western Packing, which was the Kardashians meat packing firm. What in essence they were doing was bribing U.S. Government agriculture meat inspectors to give them higher grades on their meats in exchange for money.
Steve Pomeranz: Oh my.
Jerry Oppenheimer: And so, housewives in L.A. Would go to Ralph’s Supermarket, a big chain in L.A., and buy a steak they thought was prime and it turned out to be a lesser quality. They didn’t know it and that’s only because they were paying it off. Tom Kardashian, Robert Kardashian’s brother, uncle of today’s famous Kardashians and former brother-in-law of Kris Jenner, was arrested, convicted, made a plea deal for paying off these meat inspectors. Spent 20 years under a dark cloud and in the 90s was given a full and complete pardon by none other than President George H. W. Bush.
Tom Kardashian, in extensive of interviews with me, said that didn’t come about as result of making big campaign contributions to Bush. It’s actually a mystery-
Steve Pomeranz: As to why.
Jerry Oppenheimer: -why he got that. There were only a few pardons that were given out by Bush in the end of his term. Tom Kardashian said, we didn’t give any big contribution, so who knows why.
Steve Pomeranz: Part of the-
Jerry Oppenheimer: I tried to get government documents and they wouldn’t release them.
Steve Pomeranz: Part of the big mystery about the whole Kardashian family is just how the Kardashian family is so successful. I want to get into that. Tell us about his wife Kris, who we all know.
Jerry Oppenheimer: Aside from … She’s the complete opposite of Robert, who was her first husband. She graduated from high school, had no ambitions to go on to college. Her mother taught her you have to marry rich. She went after the first guy, who was a professional golfer on the PGA Tour, was at least decade older than her, moved in with him. She then met Robert Kardashian at a race track of all places where she was betting at a $2 window. He came on to her, she came on to him, and they suddenly had a relationship going behind the back of the professional golfer who she was living with. So, there was this whole tawdry lifestyle of Kris Kardashian/Jenner that even continued during her marriage to Robert Kardashian when she cheated on him.
Steve Pomeranz: Yeah, in the book, and I don’t want to get into any details, but in the book, there was a lot of cheating, a lot of affairs, and so on. Doesn’t seem to be very much to stop them from doing exactly what they felt like at given moment.
Jerry Oppenheimer: During that marriage, the big investment unknown at the time but now known today, was having those children because they became the stars of the reality show.
Steve Pomeranz: I know Ryan Seacrest was involved early on, and he was looking to put on a show similar to the Osbourne family.
Jerry Oppenheimer: Exactly.
Steve Pomeranz: The Ozzy Osbourne thing. He picked up the show, there’s a lot in the book about that that’s very well-written. But the show was … The network E picked up the show, but a very, very scandalous tape was released at the very same time. Tell us about that.
Jerry Oppenheimer: Well, the tape is really what sparked Seacrest’s interest in the show even though he wouldn’t publicly acknowledge that. Some months before that show aired was the first time E became so successful… has been now on its 10th year. Kim Kardashian, the second-born of Robert and Kris’ children appeared in a sex video with her then-boyfriend and like her friend Paris Hilton, it launched her. It launched her fame. Paris and Kim were good friends. Paris’ mother and Kris were good friends and Kris followed the Paris business plan of pushing and being behind. She won’t admit that but being behind the Kim sex tape and the Kim sex tape is what attracted, in a way, Ryan Seacrest to this family, which was now Kris and her new husband, Bruce Jenner, and the kids. So, the sex tape that launched Paris Hilton’s infamous career also launched the Kardashians.
Steve Pomeranz: Well, the tape was made in 2003, the show started in 2007, so it seems-
Jerry Oppenheimer: Someone mysteriously released it. At a time when Kris Jenner was beginning her negotiations with Ryan Seacrest.
Steve Pomeranz: Though everyone denies any-
Jerry Oppenheimer: Yeah, yeah. But there’s no doubt because I interviewed people who had knowledge of the situation, that Kris was behind her daughter’s tape getting out there in the public domain.
Steve Pomeranz: Alright, so we all know-
Jerry Oppenheimer: And making millions by the way.
Steve Pomeranz: Well, this is it, I mean, we all know what the show has become and how much of a celebrity almost every person in this family, especially the girls, have become. The Kardashians are a money machine. Now, I want to admit that I’m a total nerd here. I actually had to go out and print the family tree. I have it here in front of me. All the pictures and everything to know who was who and who begot who. It’s like reading the Bible or something.
Jerry Oppenheimer: I have at the beginning of the book, by the way, the cast of characters, which goes on and on and on.
Steve Pomeranz: Alright so, let’s start with Kim. She’s the superstar of the family. What makes her stand out and why, besides the tape, why does she continue to be so successful?
Jerry Oppenheimer: That says something about our culture. It’s a mystery to me. There’s no discernible talent there. There’s nothing but self-promotion. There’s nothing but the background of the sex tape. There is her nudity, which is constant. I mean this woman is more nude than dressed in photos and pictures. It’s funny, I have in the book, how she went on a vacation to the Caribbean or somewhere. I forget where it was now. And during a three-day weekend, took 6,000 photos of herself with her camera and put them on social media. She has a huge following on social media. So does the whole family. Now I think that is part of the key to their success and why Kim is so famous. And why Khloe and the whole bunch of them are so famous, is because that show started 10 years ago when the iPhone was first introduced to the world.
Steve Pomeranz: Oh, interesting.
Jerry Oppenheimer: When the Facebook generation, social media was blossoming. They were at the right place, at the right time and their bizarreness was acceptable by young teenagers and mothers. It is mind-boggling and unbelievable and together they’re all worth close to $100 million.
Steve Pomeranz: Now I want to get to that. So, Kim, in your book, you mention that Kim was worth or reportedly worth around 51 million.
Jerry Oppenheimer: Exactly, less. By the end … She was on the cover of Forbes. Talk about her being one of the top-earning celebrities. Where she was beaten by Taylor Swift who was number one with $117 million.
Steve Pomeranz: Well, Taylor Swifts got some talent.
Jerry Oppenheimer: Exactly, exactly.
Steve Pomeranz: But what comprises that 51 million, in other words, how much does she get paid per episode and per personal appearances and the like?
Jerry Oppenheimer: I think she’s making about $75 million per episode … $75,000.
Steve Pomeranz: Yeah, thank you. I was going to go, whoa.
Jerry Oppenheimer: $75,000 an episode plus she generates money from all of her various interests. Cosmetics, fashion, they’re all on that now. Even the youngest of the two girls who Kris had with Bruce Jenner are huge subjects on the red carpet and are generating huge amounts of money.
Steve Pomeranz: So, you wrote here they get a million dollars … She gets a million dollars for personal appearances. That seems to be pretty outrageous. I don’t know.
Jerry Oppenheimer: Yeah, it’s outrageous and possibly an exaggeration but that’s the number that’s out there. I do know that she’s gotten as much as $35 and $40,000 for showing up at a bar mitzvah party
Steve Pomeranz: I think she charged, according to your book, $2,500 if you wanted to have your picture taken with her.
Jerry Oppenheimer: Exactly. As I show in the book and I’m sure you’re aware the Kardashian ink is not as good as it was. I mean the bubble may be bursting-
Steve Pomeranz: Well, I want to get into that in a minute, hang on. Cause I want to go down the list, I’ve got my family tree here. So, I got Kim and we talked about Kris, we talked about Robert, what about the other sisters? They have their own lucrative brands. Kourtney, for example, she’s the eldest and I guess the least scandalous.
Jerry Oppenheimer: She’s the eldest and the least scandalous. She has several kids, based on an affair, not a marriage with a guy. In fact, most of the Kardashian women have been involved with African-American men. Kourtney was involved with a Jewish guy. She kind of stays out of the mainstream of the scandal tabloid world. But the other two, one of them is Khloe. There were certainly all of these stories about Khloe, not being the … possibly being the illegitimate daughter of O.J. Simpson and Kris. I prove that to be wrong but I did interview people that told me that Khloe was not the biological daughter of Robert Kardashian. In fact, I interviewed the minister who was Kardashian’s close friend who actually officiated the union of Kris and Robert and he told me, Robert, I confided in him that she was not his biological daughter but in fact, he was going to raise her as his own. He was a loving nice guy. He’s one of the few guys …few characters and that story comes out as someone you can respect in a way,
Steve Pomeranz: Now Khloe is worth about 11 million. Kourtney is worth about 15 million. Again, they’re taking money from every time, I think Khloe wrote here, is making $40,000 an episode. Personal appearances, 75,000. She got $13,000 for making a product endorsement on Twitter. I think you wrote here that Kendall and Kylie are the more attractive, physically, the Kardashian sisters. They’ve developed a hugely successful clothing line with PacSun. Also, Kendall is very young and she’s a fashion model, now, right?
Jerry Oppenheimer: Exactly and a very successful, very pretty … But what’s interesting is that some of the deals that have been made have gone down.
Steve Pomeranz: Yeah, I want to talk about that now. Go ahead.
Jerry Oppenheimer: For example, the Kardashian Kollection with Sears, for example, ended badly.
Steve Pomeranz: They made a lot of money on that, I think, $30 million dollars but inevitably, people get fatigued with regards to these kids, and that fatigue translates into less viewers, less readers, less magazines sold, less advertising. And that’s happening now. However, and we only have a minute left, now three of them are pregnant I understand. My young producer, Erica, informed me of that when I was preparing for this.
Jerry Oppenheimer: That’s the latest gossip.
Steve Pomeranz: So, you think that’s going to take them … I feel like I’m watching an episode of EDtv. Remember that with Matthew McConaughey? You know, we’re following his life. Are we going to be following these people into old age? You think this-
Jerry Oppenheimer: The three being pregnant is not a shocker to me having spent two years looking and delving into this family. What is more surprising is Kris’ plan for the future when the show will eventually end.
Steve Pomeranz: Yeah, I guess we have to end on that note and tell us, pray tell Mr. Oppenheimer, what the next stage of Kris’ life is going to be.
Jerry Oppenheimer: Last year, during the presidential campaign and the debates, she began watching with great earnest and saw that she could do exactly what the President of the United States … today’s president can do. They both, she and Trump, both come out. Have the same DNA, they both come out of the reality T.V. World, they’re both entrepreneurs. She plans to get into politics.
Steve Pomeranz: Yeah, oh boy. Okay. I’m going to leave it there.
Jerry Oppenheimer: Okay. But just imagine what the Kardashian White House would be like.
Steve Pomeranz: I have to leave it there.
And now Kanye wants to run for president, my producer is telling me right now. So, yeah. Alright, so my guest is Jerry Oppenheimer. The book is The Kardashians: An American Drama and if you want to stream this and want to pass it along to your friend. If you want to post it on Twitter and let’s do the Kardashian thing here, let’s get it out there and-
Social media. We’ll, of course, post this on Facebook and all of the social media that we’re involved in and also, of course, don’t forget to go to our website, stevepomeranz.com. Jerry, it was a great interview, thanks for sharing.
Jerry Oppenheimer: My pleasure, Steve. Thank so much.