Elizabeth Taylor – Business Tycoon

Dame Elizabeth Rosemond Taylor – the Hollywood legend known for her beauty, unusual violet eyes, Academy Award-winning film career, eight marriages to seven men, four (by her count) brushes with death, her love of jewelry, and her tireless efforts that raised more than $100 million for AIDS research – passed away at age 79 after a long battle with congestive heart failure.  Taylor, who had spent most of the last 10 years in a wheelchair,  was mentally active and engaged with family and caregivers until the end.

A movie star at age 12, thanks to her role in “National Velvet”. Taylor went on to make at least 50 more movies  over her six-decade career.  These include her Academy Award-winning performances in “Butterfield 8” and “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” – the latter with her then-husband Richard Burton – as well as some famous flops like “The Sandpiper”.

Taylor’s estate, which was built on her movie earnings (she demanded $1 million to play Cleopatra and got it), astute real estate and stock market investments, is estimated to total $600 million.   Her multi-million dollar collection of world-famous jewelry is likely to be sold at auction to support the American Foundation for AIDS Research,  which she founded in the 1980s after her “Giant” co-star Rock Hudson was diagnosed with the disease.

After her film career ended, Taylor launched her first fragrance, Passion, in 1987. The perfumes, which netted $60 million annually, are still licensed with Elizabeth Arden.  “That was really setting the standard. Celebrities had not really done that before,” said William J. Mann, author of How to Be a Movie Star: Elizabeth Taylor in Hollywood.  This let Taylor “keep herself comfortable in her later years,” according to Mann.  “It shows how smart she was.  People think about her as a glamorous movie star.  She was actually a very smart business woman.”

Compare Taylor’s $600 million estate to the other enduring icon of Hollywood’s Golden Age – Marilyn Monroe.  Monroe’s estate was auctioned at Christie’s in October of 1999, netting $13,405,785.

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