What's at Stake in Kim Kardashian's Divorce From Kanye West: Family, Branding and $2.1 Billion
"The first night I slept at Kanye's house… I won't say the date because I'll get in trouble, but years and years ago, he slept with the heat on and socks, and I was like, 'OMG, I met my soulmate,'" Kim Kardashian said in 2018 at the Create & Cultivate Summit, gleefully recalling how she knew Kanye West was "The One."
There are a slew of reasons aside from a sensitivity to cold why she—and we, for that matter—thought they were meant to be. And when you feel as though you've found your soulmate, you don't say "I do" expecting to ever break up.
But that is what has come to pass between Kim and Kanye, their differences having become too irreconcilable of late, his previously unflagging support of her sputtering to a point where Kim finally decided that enough was enough.
After months of leading increasingly separate lives, Kim filed for divorce Feb. 19. She is seeking joint legal and physical custody of their four children, North, 7, Saint, 5, Chicago, 3, and Psalm West, 21 months.
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Not that news of their split comes as a complete shock if you've been following the highs and lows of their marriage for the past few years. Last summer Kanye tweeted, "I been trying to get divorced since Kim met with Meek at the Warldolf [sic] for 'prison reform,'" the rapper—maybe serious, maybe not—implying that something untoward was going on between his wife, who has taken up the cause of criminal justice reform in recent years while pursuing her own legal studies, and the previously incarcerated artist Meek Mill.
"Meek is my man and was respectful," Kanye added in the since-deleted thread. "That's my dog. Kim was out of line."
Kanye has been open about re-embracing his religious faith, his Sunday Services becoming a hot ticket pre-pandemic, but after years of openly championing every artistic decision his wife ever made, he started sounding uncharacteristically judgmental about what Kim chose to wear and the sort of pictures she posted online, the sexy selfies she's been known for since the dawn of Instagram seemingly no longer his cup of tea.
Following his outburst about Meek, Kim took to social media to reiterate to her almost 200 million followers that her husband has bipolar disorder and that, if people could refrain from judgment for a second, they'd do well to remember that the situation was "incredibly complicated and painful" and, when it comes to mental illness, "the individual themselves have to engage in the process of getting help no matter how hard family and friends try."
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There had been highs since—including their tropical getaway with the kids in August and Kanye's out-of-this-world 40th birthday gift for Kim, a message read by a hologram rendering of her late father, Robert Kardashian, who died in 2005—but overall their life together was on a downswing.
A source told E! News that Kim wanted to start divorce proceedings last year but tried to give their marriage a chance for as long as she could. While she's been primarily in their Los Angeles-area home with the kids, Kanye has been spending most of his time on his sprawling ranch in Wyoming, one of two similarly priced properties he purchased less than two years ago outside Coty after he discovered Jackson Hole to be a restorative place to get away. Nevertheless, the source says they are committed to co-parenting, and they will always be willing to come together for their children.
"They grew apart," the source said. It wasn't more dramatic than that.
However, after close to seven years of marriage and four children together, there was some paperwork to be done.
And neither was interested in a messy split or any surprises popping up along the way. Another insider told E! News that Kim waited to file for divorce until after she and Kanye—communicating right now solely through their lawyers and assistants—had reached an agreement as to the division of their assets.
Even while they were personally focused on growing their family and creating new spheres of branding and influence, there were always unromantic details that needed to be sorted out, just in case. Which, of course, is entirely common when it comes to people with a sizable amount of money.
And these two had a lot before their $2.8 million wedding in Florence in 2014, and have exponentially more to their names now. But their most visible assets—such as their family home in Hidden Hills, Calif., that Kim's mom Kris Jenner proudly informed the world was worth $60 million—make up a relatively small fraction of their combined net worth, which stands at $2.1 billion, according to Forbes.
"You'd think with a number that huge and a divorce that big it would be super complicated," Forbes staff writer Madeline Berg tells E! News. "It's actually pretty simple because both Kanye and Kim are these successful independent entrepreneurs."
When Kim's KKW Beauty brand was valued at $1 billion last June, Kanye took to Twitter to congratulate her. "I am so proud of my beautiful wife Kim Kardashian West for officially becoming a billionaire," he wrote alongside a carefully composed photo of two garden tomatoes and some flowers. "You've weathered the craziest storms and now God is shining on you and our family. So blessed this is still life / So I made you this still life / We love you so much."
Last month, Coty bought 20 percent of KKW Beauty for a reported $200 million, bringing Kim's personal fortune to an estimated $750 million, including $250 million from Keeping up with the Kardashians, modeling, her mobile app and other ventures. She launched her SKIMS line of shapewear in 2019 and Nordstrom added the brand to its stock a year ago. Not surprisingly, when they rolled out face masks last May, they sold out immediately (and Skims donated 10,000 masks to COVID-19 relief efforts).
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While Kanye's said to be worth roughly $1.26 billion ("It's $3.3 billion since no one at Forbes knows how to count," the rapper apparently texted Forbes after it reported that sum last year), much of that is made up of his Yeezy shoe empire, which he owns 100 percent of and produces in collaboration with Adidas, collecting 11 percent of the revenue.
He founded his label G.O.O.D. Music in 2014 and, in a bid to regain control of his master recordings, in 2019 he sued Universal Music Group to get out of his contract. A separate suit he filed against Sony/ATV-owned EMI was settled that fall. Bloomberg reported that Valentiam Group, which specializes in putting a value on such things, had estimated his music catalog to be worth roughly $110.5 million.
"My children will own my own masters, not your children, my children," he tweeted that September, also promising that he would return the 50 percent share he had in his G.O.O.D. artists' masters to the musicians.
"You can't have old rules for new games," Kanye told Billboard at the time. "No other business in the world would suggest you don't adapt to a completely new supply chain and income sources."
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Their tangible holdings include two homes in the celeb-favored gated community/city of Hidden Hills, having purchased a smaller house for $3 million next to the 15,000-square-foot mansion they bought in 2014 for $20 million and spent at least $20 million renovating over the course of three years.
They added to their real estate portfolio in 2018, buying a four-bedroom condo in a Miami Beach high rise for $15.5 million. Then it's Kanye who reportedly bought the Wyoming properties, Monster Lake Ranch for $14 million in September 2019 and Bighorn Mountain Ranch two months later for $14.5 million.
"We love Wyoming," Kim told Jimmy Fallon on The Tonight Show in 2019. "It's always been such an amazing place. My husband did just buy a ranch there. His dream and his vision is to move there." As for her, "I love L.A.," she acknowledged. "So I envision summers, I envision some weekends [at the ranch]. It's the prettiest place you've ever seen in your entire life...We've had this dream of getting this ranch and just spending our summers there and getting away."
According to documents reviewed by Forbes, their assets also include $5 million in art, nearly $4 million in vehicles, $3.2 million in jewelry and $300,000 worth of livestock living in Wyoming.
"Those assets, the real estate, the toys, and splitting that up is going to be where it's a little more complicated," Berg says. "They do have a prenup. I assume they're going to split it equally. It sounds like a pretty amicable divorce. Neither party will walk away wanting for anything. If someone doesn't get a house in California, they can buy another one."
Meanwhile, the pair obviously enhanced each other's profile over the past decade, since they first confirmed that they were a couple in 2012. Kanye has waxed poetic over the unparalleled reach of Kim's influence as a fashion icon and business and social media mastermind, while Kim has called her husband nothing short of a genius. They've been on the cover of Vogue as a couple and Kim's whole family has spent a considerable amount of time as walking advertisements for the Yeezy brand. And while he obviously was already a multiplatinum-selling recording star before coupling with Kim, his platform grew wider when he started to appear on Keeping Up With the Kardashians, which will be wrapping up this spring after its 20th season.
Together, their pop culture footprints only multiplied.
"Any time a vocal pop culture icon doubles up with another icon, all factors immediately zoom to a higher level," said branding expert Jade Dressler, who explained to E! News that Kanye brought Kim to a new tier of fashion and culture credibility, making her "not just an influencer, she's also a tastemaker."
Dressler continued, "A split enhances her brand...An empowered woman, especially a celebrity, at the core of any brand is a golden asset." And in her opinion, Kim showed an impressive side of herself in how she handled the media maelstrom surrounding her problems with, and eventual split from, Kanye.
"If she continues to handle the split with finesse, her brand—character, story and product offerings—will only be enhanced," Dressler said. "I expect that her latest interests in politics, law and wellness issues open up even more brand opportunities for her."
While Yeezy has a devoted following and did $1.3 billion in sales in 2019, Berg from Forbes ventures that Kim's got the stronger brand name at the moment. "There are more Kardashians than there are Kanye Wests, and they each have successful business endeavors, and they're not going anywhere," she says. "If anything, I think Kanye West may suffer a little bit. I think a big part of the Yeezy brand was supported by Kim, and she has a stronger social media following. She has a bigger presence right now, at least than Kanye West. So it will be really interesting to see kind of how active he is, how public he is. And then, what happens with Yeezy from there. "
As for what to do with KKW Beauty, W obviously standing for West, Dressler had some ideas as far as a creative new logo or even a name change—but obviously that, like every other life-altering decision she's made lately, will entirely be up to what Kim feels is right.