Irv Gotti is $100 million richer — with $200 million in additional funding readily available to sponsor his upcoming TV and film ventures — thanks to a massive deal, signed with Olivier Chastan’s music rights and brand management company, Iconoclast.
“It was the best time [to sell], because they gave me so much,” the Queens, New York native (and proud owner of Visionary Ideas Entertainment) born Irving Domingo Lorenzo Jr., tells Billboard of selling his 50 percent ownership stake of Murder Inc.’s past music recordings, while retaining ownership of his company. “It was a very high multiple and I’m moving towards producing and owning my first movie which I wrote, am going to direct and am producing.”
Gotti is understandably excited about the new windfall, particularly when he compares it to the $1 million figure he was once offered by Universal Music Group for his masters. “God himself is holding my hand right now and I’m not letting go.” he says. “I sold my past to ignite my future. I’m building Visionary Ideas Entertainment into a multi-billion dollar entertainment company. Instead of going to the investment circle and maybe raising $100 million, I did it myself, and I’m betting on myself.”
Above all, the millionaire-mogul is grateful for his latest blessing after the death of his dad, Irvington Domingo Lorenzo Sr. “He was a cab driver — I watched him work the graveyard shift and early in the morning to provide for his family,” Gotti says.
Billboard caught up with Gotti for an upbeat phone call about the new deal and upcoming business plans, during which the magnate unveiled his long-term vision for Visionary Ideas Entertainment — which includes creating opportunities for young people and supporting his own family.
How did you craft this $300 million deal?
I raised $5 million for me to shoot my movie, and I used my music catalog as collateral. When I did that, it opened up a can of worms. My good friend Zach Horowitz, who used to be the CFO for the Universal Music Group, called me and was like, ‘Irv, are you interested in selling [your catalog]?” My guy Walter Jordan was always telling me, ‘Irv, you’ve got money there.’
Then Zach said he knows Oliver Chastan, and he’s the best and pays top dollar. We met and it was a love fest — Oliver felt my energy and the deal didn’t take long, a couple months. I’m a very spiritual person, and it’s God and my dad who passed away on Nov. 1 looking out for their boy. It’s very surreal, but I would give every dollar of the $300 million to get my dad back. But he’s with me and I feel his presence.
I’m so sorry for your loss.
He developed cancer. My last words to him were, “Don’t worry about nothing, I’m gonna take care of everybody that comes from you and [Mom, Nee Nee Lorenzo].” My man smiled at me, the tears rolled.
I’m inspired because I’m never going to not live up to my word. He died like an hour later. This deal is one step towards my promise to Papi. Everyone knows me to be a hard worker and thinker. I made Universal Music Group probably $1 billion with my work with JAY-Z, DMX, Ja [Rule] and everything. I tell everybody, ‘If you thought I worked hard for them then, now I’m set up for me and my family, the Domingo family.’ There’s a fire burning in me that’s crazy, and that’s why I’m up at 6 in the morning like, ‘Yeah, I’ll be there.’ It’s my money now — so you know you’re gonna work extra hard when it’s your money. We did our best for other motherf–kers, and now it’s for us.
What can you share about your development deal with Paramount Global and BET?
The relationship I have is with Viacom/CBS, which includes BET, Showtime and the different entities. I can safely say to you that my relationship with the boss of Viacom/CBS, Bob Bakish, is a one-in-a-million relationship, because of his love and belief in me. It’s basically through him that I’m crafting deals where he will enable me to own it. The movie, Tales Presents: We Made It in America, he’s allowing me to pay my own money and own it, and then Paramount will distribute it. But at the end of the day, I own it.
The CEO of BET, Scott Mills, we’re in talks now to build a business model where they will license all of my TV, scripted and unscripted, for X amount of years — and then after X amount of years, I own it outright. The entertainment industry is music, TV and film, right? The music business is the lowest form, and I just bagged $100 million for s—t I did 20 years ago.
Why do you think the music industry ranks lowest?
It’s just the facts. More money is made in TV and with movies than music. It’s a non-disputable fact. We love the music industry and I love the music industry. There’s money to be made. But [it’s dwarfed by] the money made from TV and film. If I have 100 episodes of television and I own it, they’ll probably put a worth on it at $300 or $400 million. With $300 or $400 million, I could sell it at a 10 to 20 multiple. That’s three to six billion. This is why Tyler Perry is a billionaire. That’s why I sold my masters and did this deal with Iconoclast.
Now I’m set up to own my s—t. I’m trying to have Visionary Ideas be how DreamWorks was with different filmmakers, writers and producers. They can now come to me if they want to make a TV series or a movie. I’m gonna f–k with my Benny Boom’s, Little X’s and Christian Robinson. Christian Robinson did ATL and that’s a good movie. It we make these movies for 5 million or less and they do 30 or 40 million, it’s a huge success.
Also, I want to make sure this is correct. I only owned 50 percent of my masters and Universal Music Group owned the other 50 percent. When it came time for us to terminate the deal, Universal Music Group offered me $1 million. I basically said, ‘What? That ain’t nothing, yo. F–k you. My s—t is worth more than that.’ They explained to me that it was only CD sales. I would like to thank the good Lord for streaming. Streaming has made my masters worth way more.
Patience is a virtue.
Thank the good Lord for Apple, Spotify, Tidal, Amazon and all of the places that people stream. Now, you don’t have to buy anything. But when you listen, it generates money. Now, I sold my masters, producer royalties and my publishing. I sold it all.
Why did you feel safe to do that?
I gave them my past. But I know I’m about to produce a great soundtrack for every movie that comes out. I’m about to break new artists [into the mainstream]. I’m about to produce their music. So I’m going to build another [legacy], and this time I own 100 percent.
With my new distribution deal with Kevin Liles, I’ll be like DreamWorks where I can do music, TV and film at the highest level because I have distribution situations with all of those entities. I grew up as the youngest of eight kids. When I signed this deal and got $100 million, it was very surreal. The little kid in me is overjoyed.
What are the three biggest things fans should tune in to catch on your new Murder Inc. Documentary with BET premiering Aug. 9?
Probably the biggest one is the whole Ashanti relationship thing gets discussed — and not just by me, but every artist, worker and employee talks about it, and the dynamics of it. It ain’t me, it’s all of them. I want people to see.
The second biggest thing is the whole feds case [in 2005], and how they came after me and why they were trying to do that. That [experience] brought me closer to God because I was like, ‘Help me God, please help.’ The feds have [about] a 98 percent conviction rate. So with me beating the feds, I’m especially special. It’s truly a great story of redemption. The story of being on top of the world and having everything taken from you and risking going to jail for the rest of your life, beating the feds and rebuilding, reinventing myself with not music, but with TV and now films; content that will make me a billionaire.
The next biggest thing, it shows my family dynamic. It shows me and Papi. What BET loved about it is I put myself in the place of a normal kid, not taking life serious. But then my dad got laid off, because he was approaching the age to get his pension. They fired him for having a [drink]. It was f–ked up. It had been 20 years, it was because he was gonna have his pension.
Artists are pushing more and more for ownership of their masters — what are your thoughts on that?
Artists should want to own their masters. Let me tell you about a conversation that changed my dynamic.
I’m really good friends with Marc Lasry for over 20 years — he’s a multi-billionaire and owns the Milwaukee Bucks. I’m at his house over this last summer, he has a f–king huge mansion in Connecticut. I was like, “Man, I’m like Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg and David Geffen rolled into one motherf—-r.”
He was like, “Wow that’s amazing. You said everything but the right thing.’ It stopped me in my tracks. He said, “Who owns it?’ You can’t sell what you don’t own.
Are you open to burying the hatchet with Ashanti, moving forward and working together again?
Yes. I’m in a different space. I got all this bread. I ain’t mad at nobody. We could bury the hatchet. We could work together. I don’t care, let’s get money. I don’t want to be the only billionaire. She’s mad that I say we were together — she doesn’t want anyone to know we were in love. I’m not ashamed of whatever I’ve done in my life. I don’t regret my relationship with Ashanti. That’s how I felt. Watch the documentary. I’m curious to see what her crazy fans are gonna say. My artists said it was kind of f–ked up because when Ashanti hit, they felt ‘Irv was with Ashanti and he didn’t pay attention to us like maybe he could’ve. Of course he didn’t let Ja [Rule] fall.’
JAY-Z and Nas talk [too]. Nas talks about why he didn’t stay with Murder Inc. All of the 50 Cent [s–t] gets talked about. The documentary is absolutely brilliant, and I love that BET put Tales season three on right after. It’s off the charts. The “Survival of the Fittest” episode is ridiculous. [Laughs.] Ja Rule’s song is on there, “Put It On Me.”