How composer Andrew Lloyd Webber built a billion dollar fortune off 'Cats' and 'The Phantom of the Opera'
British composer Andrew Lloyd Webber has built an £820 million ($1.074 billion) fortune off blockbuster musicals including "School of Rock" and "Cats." Lloyd Webber's biggest hit, "The Phantom of the Opera," has made over $6 billion worldwide. Lloyd Webber owns a Tudor mansion in southern England, a multimillion-dollar London townhouse, and a horse-breeding farm in the English countryside. A film based on Lloyd Webber's musical starring Taylor Swift, Jason Derulo, James Corden, Jennifer Hudson, Ian McKellen, and Judi Dench as GCI cats opened Friday. Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.
It's a good thing that Andrew Lloyd Webber is already rich, because it doesn't look like the highly anticipated film adaption of "Cats" is going to be a hit at the box office. The film earned a meager $2.6 million on opening night, despite its production budget of $100 million, and its "digital fur technology" has been the laughing stock of the internet for months. Lloyd Webber, the prolific British composer behind "Cats," "Phantom of the Opera," and "Jesus Christ Superstar," built a billion-dollar fortune off blockbuster musicals, according to The Sunday Times' Rich List. The success of his shows helped revitalize the business of theater and made Lloyd Webber "one of the most important composers for the musical theater in the last decades of the 20th century," according to PBS. A representative of Lloyd Webber's company, Really Useful Group, did not immediately respond to Business Insider's request for comment on the composer's net worth or career. Keep reading to learn more about how Andrew Lloyd Webber made and spends his billion-dollar fortune.SEE ALSO: Taylor Swift just turned 30, and she's already worth at least $360 million. Here's how the pop superstar makes and spends her ever-growing fortune. DON'T MISS: Billionaires of the 2010s: From Facebook execs to heiresses, here's a look at some of the biggest names to join the 3-comma club in the past decade Lloyd Webber, now 71, was born into the "English upper crust," according to The New Yorker.
The New Yorker's Adam Gopnik described the family's social status as "insecure upper middle, rather than from the very creamy top." Lloyd Webber grew up in London's posh South Kensington neighborhood and attended the prestigious Westminster School. "Our family house was on a noisy, rundown block of mansion flats," Weber told The Wall Street Journal's Marc Myers in 2018. Lloyd Webber's mother Jean taught music at a pre-prep school called the Wetherby in London, according to The Wall Street Journal. His father William served as the director of the London College of Music, according to The Journal. William Lloyd Webber was "happily obscure, making a living writing old-fashioned organ and choral music for amateur church choirs," according to The New Yorker. Lloyd Webber's parents weren't supportive of their son's passion for musicals, however. Lloyd Webber's mother was more interested in the career of a family friend who was an aspiring concert pianist, the composer told The Journal in 2018. Lloyd Webber dropped out of Oxford to write his first musical at age 17.
The show, "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat," premiered 1968, according to The New Yorker. The show's 1970 sequel, "Jesus Christ Superstar," was even more successful. Lloyd Webber's other hit musicals include "Evita," "School of Rock," and "Sunset Boulevard," according to Encyclopedia Britannica. Lloyd Webber's biggest hit, 'The Phantom of the Opera,' has made over $6 billion worldwide.
"The Phantom of the Opera" is the longest-running musical in the history of Broadway, with over 30 years of continuous shows, according to Variety. The New Yorker called the show, which follows the relationship between a Parisian opera singer and the disfigured man who lives under the opera house, "the single most successful piece of theatrical entertainment ever engineered." The New York production of "Phantom" alone generated $1.11 billion at the box office, Variety reported in 2017. The only Broadway musicals with higher all-time profits are "Wicked" and "The Lion King." The Broadway production of "Cats" made over £1 billion ($1.3 billion).
The show opened in 1981 ran 21 years on London's West End, The Guardian reported. Cats also enjoyed an 18 year run on Broadway ending in 2000, before being revived in 2016, according to Vox. The Broadway box office is just one of Lloyd Webber's income streams.
"The Phantom of the Opera," "School of Rock," and "Cats" have all been adapted into feature-length films. The 2004 adaptation of "The Phantom of the Opera" made over $154 million, while the 2003 "School of Rock" film grossed over $131 million, according to IMDB. "Cats" is on track to make between $15 million and $17 million after its release Friday, according to Variety. The composer also participated in NBC's 2018 live television adaption of "Jesus Christ Superstar," for which he won an Emmy for Outstanding Variety Special, Playbill reported. Thanks to his various projects, Lloyd Webber accumulated a £820 million ($1.074 billion) fortune, per The Sunday Times' Rich List. Lloyd Webber doesn't leave the financial success of his shows to chance.
Lloyd Webber works on the marketing campaigns of his musicals just as diligently as he works on their scores, according to The New Yorker. Gopnik called the composer "ferociously smart about everything to do with money and marketing." Not all of Lloyd Webber's investments have paid off, however.
Lloyd Webber and David Beckham were among a group of high profile British celebrities who were heavily fined by the British government in 2018 after investing in a fraudulent film company that promised to evade taxes, Forbes reported at the time. In total, Ingenious Media Group's 170 investors each gave the company a minimum of £100,000 ($130,829), for a total of more than £1.2 billion ($1.57 billion), according to Forbes. Lloyd Webber has been married three times, currently to retired equestrian Madeleine Gurdon.
Lloyd Webber and Gurdon were married at Saint Botolph's church in Suffolk, UK, in February 1991. The couple has three children — Alastair, William, and Isabella — according to IMDB. He also has two children from his first marriage to Sarah Hugill.
Imogen Ann Lloyd Webber and Nicholas Lloyd Webber are the composer's two oldest children, according to IMDB. The composer lives in a 400-year-old mansion in southern England.
The mansion, called Sydmonton Court, sits on a 5,000-acre estate, according to The Wall Street Journal. "It's a wonderful piece of property," Lloyd Webber told The Journal's Marc Myers in 2018. "The house looks overwhelmingly big, but it's really quite livable. There's a big cozy family room, and my art collection is there." The collection primarily consists of English paintings.
Lloyd Webber has a particular affinity for paintings in the Pre-Raphaelite style, The New Yorker reported, which used nineteenth-century realism to portray Biblical and nature scenes. The New Yorker's Adam Gopnik described it as "one of the world's best private collections of the school." Lloyd Webber also owns a £15 million townhouse in West London ...
The townhouse is in London's exclusive Belgravia neighborhood, The Daily Mail reported in 2015. Lloyd Webber's chauffeur was arrested at the townhouse on suspicion of theft after "hundreds of pounds" went missing in February 2015, according to The Daily Mail. ... and a horse-breeding farm called Watership Down Stud.
Lloyd Webber founded the Berkshire-based farm alongside his wife in 1992, according to its website. Watership Down Stud says its foals have won over £20 million ($26.2 million) in prize money in races. Despite his enormous success, Lloyd Webber isn't popular among the theater elite.
"American lovers of musical theater blame Andrew Lloyd Webber for pretty much everything that went wrong on its stages, starting in the early seventies," The New Yorker's Adam Gopnik wrote in 2018. Lloyd Webber also has a "reputation as the guy who dragged the Broadway musical from its vitality and idiomatic urgency back to its melodramatic roots in European operetta—while also degrading rock music to a mere rhythm track," Gopnik wrote. Lloyd Webber's musicals lean toward the melodramatic, rebuking a broader trend in musical theater that valued stories about regular people. The trailer for the film adaption of 'Cats' was even more widely panned.
Insider's Megan Willet called the trailer "terrifying to behold" after it was released in November. The film's animation was criticized for making the cats appear eerily similar to humans. The film itself was similarly panned. 'Cats,' starring Taylor Swift, Jason Derulo, James Corden, Jennifer Hudson, Ian McKellen, and Judi Dench, was released Friday. The film earned a meager $2.6 million on opening night, despite its production budget of $100 million, Insider previously reported. "Cats" was also panned by critics, giving it a 19% score on Rotten Tomatoes. Universal Pictures sent a memo to theaters over the weekend saying it will distribute a new version of the film with improved visual effects, Insider reported Sunday.