Is Russell Simmons Broke?!? Leaked Whatsapp Messages With Daughter Appear To Imply Major Financial Problems For The Disgraced Mogul

Some absolutely wild and damaging allegations about Russell Simmons are being exposed today by his daughter over social media. Earlier today, Russell’s daughter Aoki Simmons posted screenshots of an alleged Whatsapp conversation with her father to Instagram. In addition to revealing an absolutely horrible rift between Simmons and his two daughters, the conversation appears to imply that Russell Simmons is “literally broke.”

If true, it would be absolutely stunning – almost unbelievable fall – for a guy who was once the epitome and embodiment of the highly-successful serial entrepreneur who turned everything he touched into gold. A guy who by most accounts, including our estimation here at Celebrity Net Worth, was once worth hundreds of millions of dollars thanks to multiple massive business sales.

Earning a Fortune

Russell earned his first significant fortune as the co-founder, alongside Rick Rubin, of Def Jam Recordings. Def Jam almost single-handedly popularized rap music in the mainstream thanks to artists like LL Cool J and the Beastie Boys.

In the mid-1990s Russell sold half of his stake in Def Jam to Polygram for $33 million. In 1999 Russell sold his remaining stake in Def Jam to Seagram for $130 million. That’s the same as around $240 million in today’s dollars. By that point Rick Rubin had already sold his half of the company to Universal Music Group for $120 million.

Not ready to rest on his laurels, Russell went on to found several more businesses. His umbrella company, Rush Communications, operated a credit card company, a concert promotions business and an artist management business that represented some of the biggest names in music.

In 1992, Simmons launched the clothing line Phat Farm, introducing hip-hop-inspired clothing into the mainstream fashion industry. The brand later gave rise to Baby Phat, which was led by his then-wife Kimora Lee Simmons. He sold Phat Farm in 2004 for $140 million (roughly $225 million in today’s dollars).

Also in 1992, Simmons co-created the HBO television series “Def Comedy Jam” with Stan Lathan. Over the ensuing years, Def Comedy Jam would play a significant role in launching the careers of several comedians who would go on to become huge stars, including Martin Lawrence, Chris Tucker, Dave Chappelle, Kevin Hart, Eddie Griffin, and Katt Williams.

Losing a Fortune (Allegedly)

Russell and Kimora Lee’s relationship beginnings is actually somewhat of a red flag in hindsight. By her own account, Kimora was “16 or 17” when she first started dating Russell. She was a sophomore in high school. He was 35 years old.

They married in 1998 and separated in 2006. Their contentious divorce was not finalized until 2009.

Russell spent the next few years building new businesses and forging a reputation as somewhat of a Christian vegan yogi guru who espoused the benefits of meditation, animal rights and social equality.

Unfortunately, his image and empire came crashing down in 2017 after several women came forward with accusations that he had sexually assaulted them in incidents dating back to the 1980s. Seven women accused him of sexual harassment or assault and six women accused him of rape.

The allegations led to significant personal and professional repercussions for Simmons. He voluntarily stepped down from his multiple businesses, HBO removed his name from the “Def Comedy” series, and a planned book was cancelled. Russell, who has vigorously denied the allegations, became somewhat of a pariah in the very circles he used to dominate.

Along the way, it appears that Russell’s family life has also been in turmoil. The turmoil bubbled over into the public square this weekend after one of his daughters, Ming, posted a Father’s Day swipe at Russell on Instagram. He responded with a swipe of his own and then today his other daughter Aoki went nuclear with her own Instagram swipes.

Aoki posted a series of screenshots of a Whatsapp conversation she allegedly had with Russell at some point recently.

According to the alleged conversation, Russell appears to complain that Aoki never features him in social media posts and instead features his “piece of shit” ex-wife Kimora (her mother), who “has stolen my money and the love of my kids.” In response Aoki says:

I’ll never speak to you again until you DIE. Don’t ever say that again. She DID NOT STEAL IT. YOU LOST IT… Understand?! YOU LOST IT with your actions…

In another screenshot, Russell appears to say:

I’m literally broke… not sure what I’m supposed to do…Your mother and Tim took what equals 250 million dollars of my money…

The “Tim” in that conversation is Kimora’s current husband, former Goldman Sachs banker Tim Leissner. Tim Leissner is somewhat notorious on his own outside of Russell and Kimora thanks to his involvement in the 1MDB scandal in which Malaysian fugitive Jho Low allegedly masterminded a $4.5 billion fraud against Malaysia’s sovereign wealth fund.

Leissner’s role in the 1MDB scandal began in 2009. Over the next several years, Leissner and Low worked together to bribe officials at 1MDB and the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (ADIA) in order to secure bond deals for Goldman. The bribes were paid through shell companies and offshore accounts, and they totaled hundreds of millions of dollars. Along the way Leissner and a partner earned $200 million in fees from the scheme.

Leissner pleaded guilty in 2018 to conspiring to launder money and conspiring to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) in connection with the 1MDB scandal. Leissner admitted to bribing officials in Malaysia and the United Arab Emirates to get bond deals for Goldman, and he was ordered to forfeit $44 million. Goldman Sachs, his former employer, eventually agreed to pay $3 billion in fines.

Apparently at some point Russell and Kimora invested in the beverage company Celsius (the same Celsius that in March was ordered to pay Flo Rida more than $80 million). It seems as though that investment yielded 3.9 million shares in Celsius, half of which appears to have been set aside for Kimora in their divorce settlement.

When Leissner was charged over his connection to the 1MDB scandal, apparently Kimora used those 3.9 million Celsius shares as collateral for his bail.

In 2019 Russell sued Leissner. In his lawsuit, Simmons claimed that Leissner transferred 3.9 million shares of Celsius energy drink company to his own account and to the account of a shell company controlled by Leissner. Simmons says that he was unaware of the transfers until after Leissner was arrested in 2018.

In March of 2021 Russell sued Kimora for fraud. In May 2021 Russell sent a letter to Kimora in which he said:

I am shocked and saddened to see how your side has behaved in response to my repeated attempts to get an agreement from you to rightfully and legally reaffirm my 50% of the Celsius shares..which have been locked up with the government after being used for your husband’s bail money.

In April 2022 PepsiCo made a $550 million investment in Celsius.

The lawsuits between Russell, Kimora and Tim appear to be unresolved as of this writing. And perhaps that’s the crux of Russell’s apparent financial problems. Perhaps he believes he owns half of that stake in Celsius and has not yet been able to liquidate the position in sales like the one to Pepsi last year. It’s not known what percentage overall of Celsius’ outstanding equity 3.9 million shares would constitute, but it’s presumably significant.

Aoki Simmons referenced the lawsuit in a final message to her father:

Everytime I spoke to you you would yell and scream about a legal situation that I can’t even respond to because I AM NOT INVOLVED, I am your child, not your lawyer… You were putting so much anger and range on me every phone call. Cursing screaming and god knows what else… You are being blocked for not respecting my boundaries. I asked you 10 million times to not talk to me about this lawsuit again. Happy holidays I love you.

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