Kylie Jenner at the 2020 Vanity Fair Oscar Party. Photo: Toni Anne Barson/WireImage via Getty Images
Forbes Magazine revoked its declaration that Kylie Jenner is a billionaire on Friday, accusing the social media influencer of inflating her income from her cosmetics company, Kylie Cosmetics, as part of a "web of lies."
Why it matters: The accusations undermine the integrity of the entire Kardashian-Jenner business empire, while calling into question the real value of a brand versus its perceived value on social media. They also highlight the murkiness of the heavily under-regulated influencer economy.
- The FTC has begun to call out influencers for false commercialization. But former FTC officials have conceded to Axios that the agency is widely under-resourced when regulating these matters — and has heavily relied on social media platforms to regulate the influencer economy.
By the numbers: Jenner sold 51% of her brand to beauty company Coty in a deal that valued Jenner's company at $1.2 billion in January. But after looking at Coty's public filings over the past six months, Forbes concluded the company is smaller than the family had led media outlets to think.
- Forbes says Coty's filings indicated Jenner's business only generated about $125 million in 2018, far lower than the $360 million it had led Forbes to believe.
- Jenner's representatives told Forbes the media personality's skincare line had $100 million in revenue in its first month and a half in 2019, but filings showed it was on track for $25 million in sales from its launch in May through the end of last year.
What they're saying: "The business was never that big to begin with, and the Jenners have lied about it every year since 2016 — including having their accountant draft tax returns with false numbers — to help juice Forbes’ estimates of Kylie’s earnings and net worth," Forbes' Chase Peterson-Withorn and Madeline Berg wrote.
- "While we can’t prove that those documents were fake (though it’s likely), it’s clear that Kylie’s camp has been lying."
The bottom line: Forbes says that a more realistic assessment of her net worth puts it "just under $900 million" — still a huge number despite the exaggerations about her company's size and the resultant effects of the coronavirus pandemic on its business.