Jimmy Buffett’s business empire went beyond searching for his ‘lost shaker of salt’

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Jimmy Buffett worked hard to build a business based on taking it easy. 

His 1977 song “Margaritaville” spawned an entire “island escapism” brand. As chairman of Margarita Holdings LLC — in which Buffett held a 28% stake — he had resorts, restaurants, casinos, cruises and merchandise, and his business acumen landed him on the Forbes billionaires list for the first time last April. 

Meanwhile, The Margaritaville café on the Las Vegas strip was said to be the top-grossing restaurant in the nation. He had an estimated wealth of $1 billion at the time of his death at 76 late Friday, according to Celebrity Net Worth. 

His stake in Margarita Holdings was valued at $180 million, according to Forbes, but the exact scope of his empire was a secret. Margaritaville Holdings didn’t disclose its finances, and he usually declined interview requests.


Buffett, an accomplished singer-songwriter with hits like “It’s 5 O’clock Somewhere,” “Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes” and “Son of a Son of a Sailor,” amassed around $570 million from his years of touring and his song catalog.

Buffett’s 1992 collection titled “Boats, Beaches, Bars, and Ballads” became one of the best-selling box sets ever and his annual summer concert tours with his Coral Reefer Band became major events, drawing thousands of fans known as “Parrotheads,” who would dress up in Hawaiian shirts, leis, funny hats and other mellow party accessories. Some would follow Buffet’s tour from city to city.

His songs also appeared in movies like 1982’s “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” and 1980’s “Urban Cowboy.”

The songwriter also wrote three bestselling books: “Tales From Margaritaville” and the novels “A Salty Piece of Land” and “Where is Joe Merchant.” 

Buffett did a little acting here and there from the new “Hawaii Five-O,” in which he played a character from his novel “Where is Joe Merchant?” to parts in 1975’s “Rancho Deluxe — he also did the music for the movie — and he played a bartender in 2015’s “Jurassic World.” 

Buffett told the Washington Post 25 years ago, “I’m not about to apologize for being a good businessman. Too many people in music have ruined their lives because they weren’t. I’m not a great singer, and I’m only a so-so guitar player. I started running the band years ago because nobody else could, and I turned out to be good at this stuff. There’s never been any grand plan to this thing. I’m making it up as I go along. … Just trying to work the system while maintaining my ’60s anarchic soul.”

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