The name Bear Grylls typically conjures up memories of the knife-wielding celebrity/survivalist eating a snake in the jungle, peeing on his shirt to stay cool in the desert, or wandering through Alaska with the President of the United States. But it turns out that the man can actually do quite a bit more than just survive apocalyptic scenarios. He’s quite adept at business as well.
While it’s easy to write off a rich celebrity as having made their fortune from the big checks that usually accompany a successful career, in reality many of those in the limelight — especially the savvy ones — typically use that as a jumping off point to self-fund their own business ventures and increase their financial fortunes. And in the case of the Man vs. Wild star, he’s actually got quite a few side projects that help keep that cash flowing even when he’s not in front of the camera. Here are some of the highlights from Bear Grylls’ financial journey over the years that have helped him mint his fortune in spades.
He’s good with money
First things first, whether you’re born a prince or a pauper, you need to have some fiscal abilities if you’re going to turn money into more money. In an interview with Mark Anstead of The Telegraph in 2008, Bear said he was “pretty good with” money, following this rather humble statement up with the fact that he’s not a slave to it and that under all of his chaotic mess he judged himself to be fairly astute and not reckless.
While at first glance this may seem to be a fairly empty statement, it can just as easily be taken as a key factor that has helped keep Grylls on the top of his financial game. Particularly the whole not being a slave to money bit, which is just as important for a bankrupt fellow down on his luck as it is for Scrooge McDuck. It takes a conscious freedom from obsessing over one’s finances for a person to be able to make anything like sound decisions during the highs and lows of life. It’s a struggle that many wealthy celebrities have failed to navigate over the years, and Grylls’ achieving this mindset has surely been a helpful asset in his business ventures.
He’s learned from his mistakes and failures
One of the attributes that tends to set Grylls apart from others is that he seems to have learned as much from his mistakes as he has from his successes. Growing up, he learned the value of money with a rewards system that compensated him with an allowance at the end of the week if he behaved well and did his chores. On the other hand, he was literally fined by his parents as much as five weeks’ worth of allowance as a consequence for bad behavior. Needless to say, he learned the value of money quickly.
Even with this “consequences are real” financial foundation established early on, though, he still managed to squander an inheritance he received from his grandfather when he invested in a friend’s scooter rental business at the tender age of 18. But he learned from his mistake, picked himself up by his bootstraps, and kept doggedly moving forward. Even when he tried to join the SAS, a special ops division of the British Army, he failed at his first go, only to come roaring back with a grit and determination that ultimately won him a spot among the best of the best in the British military. This tendency towards tenacity would go on to help him find financial success throughout his life.
Okay, clearly there’s more to Grylls’ fortune than the fact that he got a big fat paycheck for headlining one of the biggest reality shows to ever air. But while it isn’t everything, the successful survivor’s television career has obviously served as a critical piece in founding his financial fortune. Man vs. Wild, his first blockbuster show, was watched by over a billion viewers. But even in more recent years, the Discovery Channel sensation managed to leverage his burgeoning popularity into several other shows, including Running Wild, in which he has taken numerous celebrities with him on his adventures in the wilderness.
According to The Richest, it is estimated that Grylls raked in a whopping $30,000 per episode, and that was just back during his stint on Man vs. Wild. Since then the numbers, which vary depending on your source, only seem to have gone up. Needless to say, there’s no doubt that Mr. Grylls’ personal fortune has received a healthy boost from the years he’s spent in front of the camera.
He owns an island in Wales
Now we’re getting into some of the more non-traditional moneymakers Grylls has invested in, and this first one is a doozy. Television career aside, the man has also made several savvy real estate investments over time, the most impressive of which has to be the island he owns in Wales. But before you go and get the wrong idea, we’re not talking about a dirt-rich celebrity going out and dropping a ton of cash on a fancy new island just so they can litter their social media feed with tantalizing photos of lounging on the beach.
Bear Grylls actually bought the island in 1999, over five years before Man vs. Wild started up. The island, which he considers one of his best investments, covered 20 acres that came with a cottage in need of renovation. He spent the four years following the purchase scrimping and saving up enough money to make the needed repairs. In 2008, Bear estimated he’d spent £100,000 on the project… and that it was worth a cool million.
He’s a risk taker
Anyone who’s watched Bear Grylls for more than a few minutes can tell that the man doesn’t shy away from a challenge. He’s the definition of a risk taker, even if he tends to balance this out with a sober, conservative approach to handling his money. The situation with the island in Wales is a perfect example.
The Grylls couple bought the paradise fixer-upper when Bear and his wife, Shara, had just gotten hitched. At the time they were trying to decide if they should get a one-bedroom flat in London for a jaw-dropping £200,000. Instead, they decided to go for a three-bedroom barge in the Battersea district that was less than half the price. They simultaneously made the decision — spearheaded by Mr. Grylls — to nab the small island and cottage in Wales, which was also less than half the price of the London flat. While it may have been a heck of a lot to bite off all at once for the couple, the Grylls family managed to keep up both the island — which doubles as a vacation spot and rental — and the houseboat, which they lived in right up until they bought a new luxury London flat in 2015.
He believes in the debit card
Call it old school if you’d like, but when asked how he preferred to pay for things, Gryll’s answer was short and simple: “Debit card because then there’s no risk of getting into debt.” While this approach to credit cards versus debit cards is a debate as old as the hills, the spirit behind the decision is clear. Even when he was still getting started, Bear refused to fall victim to the “swipe and forget it” mentality that plagues the modern consumer-driven world.
While he may have the gusto to buy a fixer-upper island and boat in the same risky move, that doesn’t mean the man spends money at the drop of a hat. In fact, he’s demonstrated an ability to be very cautious in order to ensure that his personal fortune remains in the black no matter how much he might want to borrow a little cash to pick up that latest iPhone or other tech gadget.
The celebrity, the survivor …the author?
While Mr. Grylls has carefully curated his persona as a tough-as-nails survivalist, over the years he’s also built up an impressive side career as an accomplished author. You can see the lengthy list of books written by the survival master here, which includes multiple series of children’s books along with a plethora of other books written on survival skills, advice to his sons on how to live life well, and his own personal experiences, like when he climbed Mount Everest.
A catalog of books that big, all prolifically produced — and as a side hustle no less! — by one man is an incredible sight to behold on its own. However, when the financial factor is taken into consideration, the numbers become staggering. Sure, he might already own an island and be paid tens of thousands of dollars per episode, but when you consider the fact that he’d reportedly sold over three million copies of his books by 2015, the amount of influence that “Bear Grylls the author” has played in building his fortune becomes a bigger deal than just some petty cash on the side.
He invests and pays off his mortgages
Along with his cutting-edge real estate investments and his myriad of books and shows, Grylls has also expressed in the past that he’s a traditional investor as well. Grylls has indicated that at times he’s put his money in individual savings accounts as well as investing in stocks and shares, which he’s smart enough to have other, more informed professionals manage for him.
When asked how he approached his mortgage, back when he lived in the houseboat and owned the island, he was quick to respond that he paid off his main mortgage within years, which freed him up to focus his resources elsewhere. Of course, stopping at a boat and an island would have been fairly uncharacteristic of the developing business titan, and he added that he also diversified his portfolio by purchasing several other cottages around his home country which he rented out, allowing him to add “landlord” to his already impressive list of titles.
For a man who’s spent much of his life showing off his skills by surviving with next to nothing, the guy seems to have nevertheless managed to make bank on his merch sales. According to the Evening Standard, he was estimated to have brought in over three million pounds in merchandising in 2015 alone.
Of course, the question that remains is what exactly does a man who eats maggots and pees on his clothes sell? As it turns out, the Bear Grylls merch line has actually proved to be surprisingly robust over the years, with everything from his famous Bear Grylls Ultimate Pro Knife to compact fire starters, jackets, and even a water bottle that also serves as a lamp and power source. While merch sales are hard to pin down on a consistent basis, there’s no doubt that capitalizing on his fame through the sale of his own products has created some lucrative side income for Grylls over the years.
He doesn’t change currency when he doesn’t have to
While the big ticket items like boats and shows often hog the spotlight with successful celebrities, sometimes it’s the little things that tend to show off their fiscal acumen as much as anything else. While there’s no doubt that Grylls has a boatload of money at this point in his career, he’s made it clear from early on that just because he has more than he needs doesn’t mean he throws money away with the little transactions.
Case in point: he’s tried not to convert the money he earns from his U.S. shows into British pounds because he doesn’t want to lose cash in the transition. Instead, Grylls put his U.S. dollars into an international investment fund, where it can gain value without the need to go through any switch over to U.K. currency. While it seems like a small detail, it comes from a mind that is clearly focused on making the best possible decisions at every turn.
From his savvy investment strategies to his willingness to take a leap of faith and his habit of constantly diving headlong into new business ventures, Grylls has demonstrated a terrific balance of fearless daring and traditional, conservative fiscal decision-making that has helped him grow his personal fortune. But while he’s done his absolute best to make the right choices over the years, there’s one thing that has truly stood out in his success: his tenacity even in the face of adversity and failure.
“My mantra has always been just never give up,” he told CNBC Make It, and the evidence has been apparent from his first bold business decisions. Grylls is always looking forward to the next venture, whether that’s a new adventure-filled series for Facebook Watch or a theme park that is the definition of “James Bond meets Indiana Jones meets Rambo!” The man seems to always be ready for the next opportunity to use his perpetually growing business empire to spread his love of adventure — and that life-changing mantra to never give up.