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Photo Illustration: Aaron J. Thornton/Getty; Angela Weiss/Getty; Aïda Amer/Axios

This was the week that Kylie Jenner ratified her billionaire status beyond any doubt, even as fellow 20-something Taylor Swift found herself continuing to battle The Man over rights to her own work.

The big picture: Jenner and her family have always had complete control over her image and her work product. As someone who made over $100 million by the age of 21, Jenner was under no pressure to sell the company that was generating all those profits, which meant that she could wait for a suitably desperate suitor to come along.

  • Swift, by contrast, signed a six-album deal with Big Machine when she was 15 years old. While her father was smart enough to buy some equity in Big Machine as part of that deal, he's no Kris Jenner, and Swift herself didn't have megastar sisters blazing a trail in front of her.
  • The result was that Swift had very little leverage earlier this year when she tried to regain control of her early music. In the end, Big Machine was sold to her arch-enemy Scooter Braun, who bought the label with the assistance of private-equity giant Carlyle Group.

Jenner was a trailblazer in her category, more or less inventing the concept of an asset-light, direct-to-consumer company making products sold primarily to her millions of Instagram followers.

  • While her older sisters largely monetized their celebrity the old-fashioned way — being paid by brands to endorse or model products — Jenner realized that she could make much more money by creating her own brand and owning it 100%.
  • Swift is more old-fashioned (and, arguably, talented). She was fighting Spotify, for instance, insisting on the primacy of album sales — long after almost all other artists had embraced streaming.

The capitalists on the other side of these deals also differ greatly.

  • Coty, the French cosmetics giant, has made a very public bet on Jenner's future. Its interests are aligned with hers, and Jenner continues to hold all the cards. After all, if she gets bored or annoyed with the direction of Kylie Cosmetics, she can stop publicizing it and move on to the next thing. Coty can't move on: It's already $600 million in the hole and needs Kylie Cosmetics to continue to grow if it's going to reap a return on its investment.
  • Carlyle made a bet on Swift's past, rather than her future — and did so by teaming up with her music industry enemy. That move ended up drawing the ire of Elizabeth Warren and also irked Swift so much that she now states that she wants to re-record all those old albums, thereby depriving Braun and Carlyle of much future income.

The bottom line: If you want to buy someone's entire life's work, it's best to do it with their consent.

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Dominion sends cease and desist letter to My Pillow CEO Mike Lindell

Photo: Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

Dominion Voting Systems on Monday sent a cease and desist letter to My Pillow CEO Mike Lindell over his spread of misinformation related to the 2020 election.

Why it matters: Trump and several of his allies have pushed false conspiracy theories about the company, leading Dominion to take legal action. It's suing pro-Trump lawyer Sidney Powell for defamation and $1.3 billion in damages, and a Dominion employee has sued Trump himself, OANN and Newsmax.

Off the Rails

Episode 5: The secret CIA plan

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer, Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Zach Gibson/Getty Images

Beginning on election night 2020 and continuing through his final days in office, Donald Trump unraveled and dragged America with him, to the point that his followers sacked the U.S. Capitol with two weeks left in his term. This Axios series takes you inside the collapse of a president.

Episode 5: Trump vs. Gina — The president becomes increasingly rash and devises a plan to tamper with the nation's intelligence command.

In his final weeks in office, after losing the election to Joe Biden, President Donald Trump embarked on a vengeful exit strategy that included a hasty and ill-thought-out plan to jam up CIA Director Gina Haspel by firing her top deputy and replacing him with a protege of Republican Congressman Devin Nunes.

Updated 4 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

  1. Health: CDC director defends agency's response to pandemic — CDC warns highly transmissible coronavirus variant could become dominant in U.S. in March.
  2. Politics: Empire State Building among hundreds to light up in Biden inauguration coronavirus tribute.
  3. Vaccine: Fauci: 100 million doses in 100 days is "absolutely" doable.
  4. Economy: Unemployment filings explode again.
  5. Tech: Kids' screen time sees a big increase.