Hip-Hop Moguls: Beyond The Hype

As rap music has exploded, so too have the fortunes and businesses of some of today's hottest young music executives

on the music business,” says Miller through a top row of gleaming gold teeth, each set with a diamond big enough for any would-be bride to covet.

The No Limit empire now spans music, film, clothing, sports management, real estate and toy merchandising (Master P dolls and No Limit bicycles). Combined revenues of No Limit Records and No Limit Film for 1998 are estimated at over $160 million. No Limit Gear-for which Miller purchased Los Angeles-based clothing manufacturer Nexis rather than rely on licensing-is expected to bring in $10 million this year. Each company is a separate entity, with Miller serving as CEO and owner. His real estate concern, New Orleans-based PM Properties, owns over 100 properties across the U.S., including the homes of several No Limit rappers and executives.

Ironically, Miller has divested himself of ownership of No Limit Sports, the most embattled of his ventures, due to his desire to play in the NBA. Players aren’t permitted to own sports agencies and, at press time, Miller was in training camp with the Toronto Raptors. No Limit Sports, which represents nearly two dozen pro football and basketball players, came under intense scrutiny for its negotiation of 1999 Heisman Trophy-winning running back Ricky Williams’ contract. The contract, worth between $11 million and $68 million, stipulates that Williams perform at an All-Pro level to reach the top salary. Such incentives are not new to football. However, they are typically reserved for players without the bargaining leverage of a Heisman Trophy. So far, the deal has not panned out for Williams. The running back has been hampered by injuries in the f
irst quarter of the season.

“As an agency, their work will be judged by how effectively they negotiate contracts over the long run, not by a single contract,” says sports agent Bill Strickland of Washington, D.C.-based Stickland and Ash. However, others in the industry believe that No Limit Sports can’t afford many more questionable contracts for high-profile players. The Williams contract negotiations underscore the need for Miller to identify seasoned and talented executives to run his various enterprises. “I’m just trying to build a great team,” says Miller.

No Limit Films, officially launched in 1998, has had a significantly better profile than the sports arm. In its first year, No Limit Films grossed $41 million from its two theatrical releases, I Got the Hook Up and Foolish, and several straight-to-video releases. “Our films may not be on the radar screen by Hollywood standards, but all of them make money,” says Jeff Clanagan, president of L.A.-based No Limit Films. “I have the luxury of not needing to go to Hollywood begging people to produce our films.”

Clanagan just inked a deal with Trimark Pictures to produce five $2 million films for straight-to-video and broadcast release. In addition, USA Networks recently purchased the television rights to No Tomorrow-which stars Master P and Pam Grier and cost $850,000 to make-for $1 million. No Limit’s latest project for theatrical release, Lockdown, a prison drama, is expected to hit theaters

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