Gloria Vanderbilt, an American artist, actress, author and fashion designer, has passed away at the age of 95 as a result of stomach cancer. Gloria was the great-great-granddaughter of the railroad tycoon Cornelius Vanderbilt.
Despite being a member of one of America’s most notoriously wealthy families and an heiress to her father’s fortune (or whatever remained after he gambled away most of it), Gloria built her own empire. She maintained various gigs as a model, actress and artist and wrote numerous articles, novels, poems and memoirs throughout her life. Her big break, however, came in the form of designer denim, which was having a major moment in the 1980s. After folding a dress business and going to work for Indian designer Mohan Murjani, Gloria proposed to launch a line of jeans for the brand, embroidered with her signature and swan logo on learning that the corporation had excess denim fabric sitting in a factory in Hong Kong. Leveraging her name and socialite status, she modeled the collection herself. The line took off and became the highest-selling denim brand, reportedly generating some $100 million annually, and earning Gloria some $17 million in profits between 1978 and 1984 (it soon, however, lost that title to Calvin Klein and its infamous Brooke Shields campaign). Other apparel and a perfume line also followed. Nine West Holdings acquired the rights to her name in 2002, and the Gloria Vanderbilt jeans line still exists today, though likely nowhere near as profitable, as the range is now offered at discount chains like JCPenney and Costco.
No Trust Fund for Anderson Cooper
Television personality and CNN news anchor Anderson Cooper, Gloria’s son from her fourth and final marriage, has publicly claimed for years that he’s no trust fund baby. Indeed, in 2014, news broke that Gloria had disinherited her son from an estimated $200 million fortune, but unlike many of the celebrity estate stories you might read here, this one doesn’t seem to have any bad blood. According to Cooper, his parents had told him since a young age that there will be no trust fund and that he considers coming into an inheritance a “curse.”
Cooper has followed in his mother’s self-made footsteps, building his own brand and name in the media industry. In fact, Cooper has previously publicly stated that he’s totally fine with not inheriting any money, as reliance on an inheritance may have hindered him from working as hard as he did. Of course, this isn’t exactly your typical rags-to-riches story, as both mother and son had a hefty financial cushion to fall back on had something not gone according to plan.
Is There Actually Any Money Left?
Interestingly, an article by The Wealth Advisor points out that it’s possible that there might not actually be any family fortune left to be inherited, let alone the $200 million purported in the headlines. Little is known about how much Gloria’s endeavors actually earned her and how much of what she inherited is actually left.
According to The New York Times, in 1995, the Internal Revenue Service hit Gloria with a tax bill of $2.7 million, leading her to sell two of her homes to satisfy the judgments and moving into a small apartment owned by Cooper. Many speculated the move was an indication of financial trouble.
On the other hand, it’s possible that various strategic investments have amassed Gloria a hefty sum of money. In that case, it’s not publicly known whether her two other living sons are set to inherit any of it. And, though the Vanderbilt family has quite the philanthropic track record, there isn’t any indication that Gloria has left any or all of her money to charitable causes. Only time will tell if the details of her estate will remain private or eventually make headlines.