By Matthew Gwyther Monday, 27 October 2014

Victoria Beckham's secret ingredient

Editor's Letter: What made Victoria Beckham the top entrepreneur of 2014?

There are going to be some who scoff at the fact that Victoria Beckham is MT's top entrepreneur in our 2014 list. Some will say she's never been taught how to cut a pattern, or iron a pleat on a fashion course. Others will say she's merely the Eliza Doolittle of that mysterious 21st-century Professor Higgins, Simon Fuller. Doubters will claim she's just the wife of the world's most famously over-tattooed ex-footballer. It's all come to her far too easily.

She is what she is. And what Mrs Beckham is has created a company that is both real and wildly successful. Philip Beresford, who compiles the MT Top 100, is the author of the Rich List, and you don't pull the sequined wool over his eyes. Her numbers are impressive. I, for one, rather warmed to her admission that 'first time around I felt famous, but now I feel successful'.

Beckham's business skilfully leverages fame. The world of modern celebrity can appear vapid and a dubious opium for the masses, but it isn't anything new. Celebrity has long been a powerful commercial tool. Chanel ensured Monroe told us she wore nothing but their product in the sack. The Duke of Wellington was surrounded by a cult of personality that spawned vast quantities of boots'n'all memorabilia. I bet you could buy a Caligula smock, showing him doing something scandalous, from the vendors at the Colosseum.

Celebrities' cachet derives from scarcity, not abundance. They are set apart and rarer than the rest of us. The less they give us of themselves, the more we want. Mrs Beckham rations us when it comes to her radiance. She barely opens her mouth in public and interviews are closely controlled and anodyne. As George Clooney observed when questioning his fellow celebrities who tweet: 'The worst thing you can do is make yourself more available.' That's why Victoria Beckham is, in the old sense, a star, and why, for example, the erstwhile fruit-and-veg seller Gregg Wallace is a down-table sleb - like the cabbages he once hawked: here today and gone tomorrow.

Victoria Beckham's wealth is estimated at £210m. Money is the root of all evil to some, and what makes the world go round to others. MT's resident psychologist, Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, has written about dosh and motivation. Tomas says money is a status-enhancing tool, but that income is a stronger predictor of life satisfaction for men than women, and reminds us that Ari Onassis said: 'If women didn't exist, all the money in the world would have no meaning.' I'm staying schtum on this.

Follow Matthew on Twitter @MatthewGwyther

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