Arnold Schwarzenegger made his first million long before his first blockbuster. Here's how real estate, startups, and stocks built his $450M net worth.
Updated Aug 1, 2023
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The Austrian Oak needs no introduction. He's a bodybuilding champion, A-list movie star, and the former governor of California. And if that were all he did, it would be impressive enough—but it's far from everything.
Arnold made his first million in real estate when he was 25 years old, after saying hasta la vista to Austria and moving stateside just a few years earlier with barely any English. By then, he’d also been crowned Mr. Universe four times and was the youngest Mr. Olympia ever.
Here's a look at some of the strategies Arnold Schwarzenegger used to build his massive $450 million net worth from nothing, all while living one of the most interesting lives possible.
Source: Total Recall (1990), TriStar Pictures
July 30, 1947, in Thal, Austria
Became a millionaire at
Actor, bodybuilder, former governor
Sources of wealth
Acting career, real estate, stocks, and private equity
Real estate, startups, and stocks
Despite his millions, Arnold Alois Schwarzenegger didn't have a luxurious life in Austria. He was born in Thal in 1947, where he grew up taking sponge baths out of a bucket because his family's home didn’t have running water.
Arnold's warmth and charming personality were not fostered by his upbringing. His father, Gustav Schwarzenegger, was a military police officer for the Nazis in WWII. He was a violent man who often told the jovial Arnold that he didn't believe he was actually his son.
Arnold in his bodybuilding days.
At 14, Arnold started bodybuilding with the hope it'll be his way out of Thal. He was so committed to making progress that he would break into the local gym when it was closed on the weekend to not miss a workout. His dedication paid off—he won his first Mr. Universe at 20, which was also his golden ticket to the U.S.
Since his bodybuilding career didn't pay much—winning Mr. Olympia in 1974 came with a prize of just $750—Arnold needed other ways to pay his bills. Luckily, he proved to have a head for business and investing.
First, he leveraged what he knew by writing books and making fitness videos—pioneering an industry that barely existed—and selling them through his "Arnold Strong" mail order company. Once he saved enough for a down payment, he bought his first apartment building. He then quickly flipped it and bought a better one.
Next, he and a professional bodybuilder buddy decided to capitalize on the trend of European styles sweeping the nation. They started a European bricklaying company in LA and employed up to 16 of their closest friends. Not bad for a 24-year-old who barely spoke English.
By 25—just five years after arriving in the U.S.—Arnold was a millionaire, four-time Mr. Universe, the youngest Mr. Olympia in history, a real estate mogul, and an entrepreneur with two businesses. All of this before he became a Hollywood movie star and a household name synonymous with strength and badassery.
With many memorable roles throughout the 80s and 90s, Arnold Schwarzenegger's career as an actor secured him over $400 million. It was a slow start—his first role was in 1970's Hercules in New York, a C-movie that paid him about $1,000 per week.
His performance in Stay Hungry (1976) alongside Jeff Bridges and Sally Field didn't pay much either, but it did win him a Golden Globe for Best Acting Debut.
He followed that up with a brief return to his roots by filming the iconic documentary Pumping Iron about his mission to win a seventh Mr. Olympia title. After he won, taking the record for most wins, Arnold retired from bodybuilding to focus on acting.
While competing with Rambo star Sylvester Stallone at the box office, Arnold became one of the highest-paid actors of all time over these decades. His biggest win was the Terminator franchise, though he only made $75,000 for the first installment. Schwarzenegger made $23 million for starring in the sequel and $35 million for the third installment.
Arnold was free to name his price and did so for decades. But he didn't blow those paydays on protein powder and creatine. Just as he did early on, Arnold built up his investment portfolio, which now included real estate, startups, stocks, and his own companies and nonprofits. He even invested in a Boeing 747, which was leased to Singapore Airlines.
In 2003, Arnold put his acting career on pause to take on a different role: Governor of California. He won a recall election and finished out the incumbent's term before winning a second term in 2007.
Arnold and Maria Shriver celebrating his election in 2003.
As the Governator, he refused the annual salary of $187,000 for his seven years of service after paying $43 million to finance his own campaign. He also temporarily gave up his movie career, potentially costing himself eight or nine figures. Arnold said that it was an honor serving as governor of the state of California, despite not getting paid.
We got a pretty good look at what Arnold invested in when he became governor in 2003. To paint a picture of Arnold Schwarzenegger's net worth and investments, we must assume some things based on interviews and publicly available information.
Let's take a closer look at these asset classes and what Arnold's investments look like.
Arnold made his first millions in real estate, and it remains close to his heart. One reason he loves it as an investment is the ability to leverage his down payment. On the Tim Ferriss podcast 2015, Arnold shared his secret to getting rich during a decade with infamous inflation.
All together, the former bodybuilder’s real estate wealth reaches over $46 million. Here are a few of the properties that make up his portfolio today.
Commercial real estate
One of Arnie’s most prized jewels is his movie production company, Oak Productions, Inc., which is run out of a Santa Monica building with about a dozen other tenants. Don’t expect this mogul to pay anyone rent, though. Arnold owns the roughly $10 million building.
To further diversify into retail, Arnold partnered with developer Georgetown Co. and retailer The Limited to build a mall in Columbus, Ohio. With the cost of office space in the area at $135.26 per square foot, this 1.7 million square foot building should hold a value of around $230 million. Considering he invested alongside a partner, we estimate he owns 50% of the project, making his stake around $115 million.
Although Arnold and Maria Shriver divorced in 2021, they kept joint ownership in a luxury mansion in Sun Valley, Idaho, where they stayed during a skiing trip. The 18,000 square foot home the couple custom built comes with beautiful mountain views and a stone and wood interior design. With an estimated value of $22 million, his 50% ownership will add another $11 million to the portfolio.
Schwarzenegger at his $12 million home with his donkey.
Arnold won sole ownership of the house he shared with Shriver after they divorced, and what a house it is. The Brentwood mansion the couple bought for $5.1 million in 2002 has a tennis court, seven bedrooms, and 10 bathrooms. Today, similar properties in the area sell for $6 to $15 million, so we think $12 million is a fair estimate for the value of Schwarzenegger's home.
Given his entrepreneurial spirit, it's no surprise that Arnold's investments include several startups and business ventures. He was an early investor in Google in 1999, and he launched a supplement company with Lebron James called Ladder, which he exited in 2020. He has an estimated $72 million invested in startups.
As a man of many talents, Schwarzenegger has many ventures of his own, diversifying his portfolio. Oak Productions funded two of his movies: The Last Action Hero in 1993 and Aftermath in 2017. All told, the company did $137 million in box office sales. With the combined budgets of its two films at $95 million, that's about $42 million in profit.
The Arnold Sports Festival embraces Schwarzenegger's passion for sports with four days of competitions and fitness events. The festival has been held annually in Columbus, Ohio, since 1989, and versions of it have spread worldwide—there's an Arnold Sports Europe, Australia, South America, Africa, and the U.K. With 20,000 attendees on average, we estimate that the festival nets about $2 million each year and that the rights to the event could sell for around $10 million.
In 2020, Arnold joined the ranks of celebrity alcohol investors with a stake in Lobos 1707 tequila. He joined up with Lebron James and three other investors again, so we estimate his stake to be 10% ownership. The value of Lobos is undisclosed, but judging by George Clooney's Casamigos tequila, which sold in 2017 for $1 billion, we can estimate this younger brand is worth about 10% of Casamigos. That puts Arnold's stake at about $10 million.
Arnold with investing buddy Lebron James
Schwarzenegger also recently invested in Dropshyp, which provides B2B connections to East Asian and African suppliers. Arnold invested $4.5 million in the company in 2019, and we can assume it's currently worth around the same.
The mobile game company Scopely, Inc. is another of Arnold's startup investments. It's valued at roughly $700 million and has 87 investors. As a Series C investor, Arnold likely has a smaller stake than earlier investors. We estimate his equity is worth about $3.5 million.
While there are old records from Arnold’s time as California’s governor that disclose his stock positions, there’s not much out there from the past decade. If we look at what he had in 2009, we can see that he invests in a wide range of companies and industries but leaned heavily into blue-chip stocks.
In 2009, the value of these holdings came to an estimated $22.7 million, but assuming an 8.5% annual appreciation, we can say his stock portfolio would now be worth about $61.7 million.
If you hear him tell it, Arnold owes his success to being in the right place at the right time. But even though he gives luck its dues, he also emphasizes the importance of doing your homework, sticking to your plan, and keeping your eyes on the prize.
Arnold Schwarzenegger believes in hard work and big dreams. Here are three pieces of wisdom from his investing journey.
Source: 'Predator' (1987), 20th Century Fox
World-renowned bodybuilder, iconic actor, and successful politician Arnold Schwarzenegger is a multifaceted personality whose triumphs are deeply rooted in relentless discipline and savvy investments. Born in Austria, Arnold Schwarzenegger chose the path of bodybuilding at 14, eventually holding the esteemed Mr. Universe title and becoming the youngest person to win Mr. Olympia. Tagged as the most famous bodybuilder worldwide, Schwarzenegger's journey to acclaim and success began there.
After gaining significant recognition, Arnold harnessed this fame in Hollywood, leading him to work with famous director Ivan Reitman and compete with Sylvester Stallone at the box office. He starred in many iconic films, from Kindergarten Cop to the successful Terminator series. He even won a Golden Globe for his performance in the film Stay Hungry.
Despite his flourishing acting career, Schwarzenegger's ambitions didn't stop at Hollywood's borders. Indeed, his engagement with real estate investments and business ventures underscores his entrepreneurial instincts. His early real estate investments, including his first apartment building and his innovative business school concepts, created a robust real estate portfolio and diversified revenue streams.
Later in life, Schwarzenegger ventured into the political field, becoming the Governor of California. As a member of the Republican Party, his tenure witnessed an unwavering commitment to public service. His children, Patrick Schwarzenegger, and Christopher Schwarzenegger, along with Katherine and Christina, shared in their father's multifaceted life journey.
In summary, Arnold Schwarzenegger, an Austrian-American actor, former professional bodybuilder, and governor, continues to inspire millions after many years of great success. His story, from Thal, Austria, to Pacific Palisades, California, reflects his transformation from a small-town boy to a Hollywood icon and political figure. Given his numerous accomplishments and business endeavors, Arnold Schwarzenegger's estimated net worth stands in the hundreds of millions today.
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