The world-famous Studio 54 made millions in its first year during the late ’70s. Ever wonder what Steve Rubell net worth was during the hype of his club?
In 1977, an article in New York Magazine revealed that Steve Rubell net worth was estimated between $12 million and $15 million.
That is based on his businesses, including his world-class nightclub, Studio 54, which he opened in Manhattan with New York businessman Ian Schrager.
Aside from Studio 54, other contributors to Steve Rubell net worth were the restaurants he grew from a single establishment to six branches of Steak Lofts. Eventually, he made his way into the hotel business through the influence of the hotel restaurateur Mark Fleischman.
Steve Rubell’s success as an entrepreneur went through a number of troubles. Still, he eventually made it back to the top of his game and left a legacy that modern-day business and finance gurus like Grant Cardone were likely to quote and look up to.
Steve Rubell’s Life And Beginnings
Early Years And Family
Steve Rubell was born to a Jewish family on December 2, 1943, and was raised in the heart of New York with his younger brother, Donald. He picked up his father’s love for tennis, who played as a pro. Rubell had the talent for the sport but decided not to follow in his father’s footsteps.
Rubell took up business and finance at Syracuse University in New York. He first met his future, life-long business partner, Ian Schrager, after joining Sigma Alpha Mu and becoming fraternity brothers. After his graduation, Rubell proceeded to enlist for the US Army.
Becoming An Entrepreneur
Steve Rubell joined the New York National Guard, which is part of the United States Army. He served in a military intelligence unit and finished one tour of duty before returning to New York.
Perhaps he owes his strategic mind to his short time in the army because Rubell was no honor student but had great business instincts.
In 1971, Rubell worked for a brokerage office in Wall Street. He got paid $20,000 back then, which is equal to $134,000 today. But he quit the job that same year.
According to Rubell, it didn’t sit well with him because Wall Street was practically cheating people. Jobless, he returned home, Rubell took a $13,000 loan from his parents and started his own restaurant.
In 1974, Steve Rubell managed to expand his Steak Loft restaurant to four different branches in just three years after borrowing money from his parents. His restaurants were producing an annual revenue of $6 million; he already had plans to open six more locations in the future.
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The Rise and Fall Of Studio 54
Rubell’s next business venture reunited him with his college fraternity brother, Ian Schrager, a practicing lawyer in New York. Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager bought the historic 1920s building, the Gallo Opera House in Manhattan that CBS Network owned until 1976.
The theater building housed radio and television programs for many years, shows like What’s My Line? The $64,000 Question, Video Village, Password, To Tell the Truth, Beat the Clock, I’ve Got a Secret, Captain Kangaroo, and the soap opera Love of Life until 1975. By ‘76, CBS moved their studio.
The Disco Hype
Studio 54 is described as an otherworldly, fascinating place. That is the initial impression you’ll get from the club’s visitors who experienced a night of entrancing music, freedom, and fun.
Studio 54 had an impressive list of patrons and clientele. Celebrities like Elton John, Michael Jackson, and Cher were just a few of the most famous stars who frequented the place.
Donald and wife Ivana Trump were also regulars. Other notable personalities were famous designers Valentino, Halston, and former first lady, Jackie Kennedy.
In just a year after opening Studio 54, the club made $7 million. Steve Rubell net worth was quoted that same year at $12 million to $15 million from all his businesses combined.
Studio 54’s One Rule
Vogue Magazine lets out the club’s only rule on an article they posted in remembrance of its establishment in the late ‘70s. It said, “Anyone who was allowed in was totally free inside.”
A simple statement that incited both excitement and anticipation to clubbers who would try every trick in the book just to get inside. The same statement triggered fights and chaos right at the club’s door when people got turned away.
The euphoric freedom that Studio 54 offered incurred both the good and the bad. there was nothing to stop the young and the elite from indulging themselves in unsavory habits. Selling liquor without the proper permit was the least of Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager’s worries.
How The Club Ended
A tiny slip of the tongue triggered the fall of Studio 54. Perhaps drunk from success, Rubell could never take back his egotistical answer to how much his club made. Schrager narrated this during his interview with New York Magazine’s, Vulture. Rubell bragged that “only the Mafia makes more money than the club.” That remark put them under suspicion of tax fraud.
In just six months, Rubell and Schrager were officially charged with tax evasion, obstruction of justice, and skimming no less than $2.5 million of unreported income in June of 1979.
Schrager was mortified at the thought of going to jail for over three years on top of losing almost everything they built. They sold the club while they were still incarcerated and had to live at a halfway house, a place for the homeless, for a few months before starting again from scratch.
Founding Morgan Hotels
The pair still had friends who were willing to help the former Studio 54 owners to start new. But they turned away these offers and decided to take up a new venture from the limited resources.
They struck a deal with Mark Fleischman, buying off his rundown hotel at 37th Street and Madison. With the help of real estate developer Philip Pilevsky, they managed to turn the third-rate hotel into the classy Morgans Hotel that charged $200 for a night’s stay.
Steve Rubell Net Worth – Frequently Asked Questions
What Was Steve Rubell Net Worth?
Before his venture into the hotel business, Steve Rubell net worth was estimated at $12 million to $15 million, accumulated from his Steak Lofts restaurant chain and disco clubs, including the famous Studio 54.
How Much Did It Cost To Get Into Studio 54?
Entering Studio 54 cost about $20 in 1977, which is around $90 in today’s money. Paying for the entrance is easy; getting a thumbs up from the doormen is a different story.
How Long Did Studio 54 Last?
Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager bought the old CBS theatre building and turned it into an exclusive disco club on April 26, 1977, and it was officially closed by February 3, 1980.
Was Steve Rubell Married?
Many questioned Steve Rubell’s orientation, but he did mention a past relationship during one of his many interviews. At the time, Rubell was in the middle of establishing himself as an entrepreneur, and he decided to prioritize his business goals.
Steve Rubell Net Worth – Closing Thoughts
There is no doubt that Steve Rubell was one of the most successful entrepreneurs of the 1970s.
Regardless of how Studio 54 turned out, Rubell had other ventures he started from almost nothing and turned into a great success.
Before his passing in 1989, Rubell founded Morgans Hotel, which opened in 1985, and established the Palladium in New York City with the prominent club owner, Peter Gatien.
Steve Rubell net worth before his death is a mystery, but his achievements speak for themselves.
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Over 200 articles, essays, and short stories published across the web.
Marjolein Dilven is a journalist and founder of Spark Nomad, a travel platform, and Radical FIRE, a personal finance platform. Marjolein has a finance and economics background with a master’s in Finance. She has quit her job to travel the world, documenting her travels on Spark Nomad to help people plan their travels. Marjolein Dilven has written for publications like MSN, Associated Press, CNBC, Town News syndicate, and more.