March 10, 2012
Cover Girl with Ca-Ching
Atlantan Sara Blakely Makes the Forbes Billionaire List at #1,135
By James Oxendine
Spanx founder Sara Blakely not only makes Forbes magazine’s 25th Anniversary Billionaire List, but lands the cover with her business moxie for unmentionables.
Atlanta's newest (and youngest) female billionaire, Spanx founder Sara Blakely, has been recognized by Forbes magazine with a coveted March issue cover story. Inside the pages, a rags-to riches-saga clearly demonstrates that Blakely made her money the old fashion way--not by inheritance, marriage (though she’s now married to former Marquis Jet mogul-turned-investor Jesse Itzler, who describes her in the Forbes story as “50% Lucille Ball, 50% Einstein”), or help from a single investor. Instead, she earned every penny herself by ushering a new generation of women and red carpet starlets into her modern-day smoothers and shapers. As the Forbes article points out, her ubiquitous brand Spanx is as synonymous with its product category as Kleenex is to facial tissues.
Sara Blakley, the 41-year-old founder and 100% owner of the privately owned, Atlanta-based Spanx, is following in the footsteps of other larger-than-life Atlanta moguls like Ted Turner with her innovation and creativity and philanthropic endeavors. Since founding Spanx in 2000, the Clearwater, Florida, native has parlayed a $5,000 life savings account and her hunch about re-inventing hoisery into a business that graces the shelves of haute retailers like Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue and Bergdorf Goodman. Blakely, (a drop-out lawyer and former office-supply sales girl) also attracted the attention of moguls like Virgin Airline’s Richard Branson for his mogul-wannabe reality show Rebel Billionaire, where she placed as runner-up in in 2004, and media queen Oprah Winfrey, who featured Spanx on her uber-popular “Oprah’s Favorite Things” show.
In return, Blakely has gifted Oprah’s Leadership Academy with a $1million contribution from The Blakely Foundation. Blakely has also enjoyed the perks of her riches: she and Itzler jet between six residences with their young son Lazer; they are able to hire an in-residence former Navy SEALS personal trainer to whip them into shape; and Blakely has been known to buy the whole house dinner at her favorite local Japanese steakhouse, as Forbes reports. However, over the years she has also generously donated $17.5 million to both local and international charities.
Blakely, who attributes her meteoric rise to Atlanta's entrepreneurial environment, and her Spanx CEO Laurie Ann Goldman (formerly of The Coca-Cola Company) have big plans for doubling international business over the next three years. They also hope to develop a bricks-and-mortar retail business sometime in the future, with the possibility of the first stand-alone Spanx store being located in Atlanta. Judging from her pink-splashed, Dorothy Draperesque corporate headquarters, housed in the sleek Sovereign Tower, Buckhead, the future stores will probably be as boldly stylized and eye-popping as her Spanx garments are functional and discreet. Now if she could just buy the Atlanta Hawks…
For Spanx products and info about The Blakely Foundation visit: www.spanx.com.
See the full Sara Blakely profile in Forbes magazine here: www.forbes.com/sites/clareoconnor/2012/03/07/undercover-billionaire-sara-blakely-joins-the-rich-list-thanks-to-spanx/
Other Atlantans on the 2012 Forbes Billionaires List:
#61. Anne Cox Chambers, $12.5 B, 92, media
#157. Jim Kennedy, $6.3 B, 64, media
#546. Bernard Marcus, $2.3 B, 82, Home Depot
#634. Ted Turner, $2 B, 73, cable television
#913. Arthur Blank, $1.4 B, 69, Home Depot
#960. S. Truett Cathy, $1.3 B, 91, Chick-fil-A
See the full 2012 Forbes Billionaire List here: www.forbes.com/billionaires/list/
THIS JUST IN:
A svelte and stylish Sara Blakely also graces Vogue magazine's March 2012 "shape issue" (with Jennifer Lopez cover). In the two-page story with photo of Blakely in printed Proenaza Schouler dress, Lanvin bag and Marc Jacobs heels, she dishes about her figure-enhancing Spanx empire and some of her "feminine funky" fashion choices (Fendi, Gucci, Prada, Tom Ford, Valentino, etc). Blakely was also recently named one of Time Magazine's Style & Designs "All-Time 100 Fashion Icons."