$9 million and a 1991 ballad

In today’s Exponential Investor…

  • Highest Paid Athletes in the World
  • Highest-Paid Dead Celebrities in the World
  • The same song in 2050

I made a four-day-long commitment last week.

It started on Thursday and culminated on Sunday evening.

It was a commitment to watch every round of the Masters. Good news is that golf is much like test cricket – you can have it on in the background as ambient noise and not miss too much.

Then as the work day completed on Thursday and Friday I would grab a couple “coldies” and settle in to a favourite tournament of mine. Saturday and Sunday it was wall-to-wall viewing. I explained to my wife that the Masters is effectively the “Grand Final” of golf.

She was very understanding.

A young gun Aussie, Cameron Smith, ended up at 15 under and tied for second. That’s pretty tough with that number. But considering how well the ultimate winner Dustin Johnson played… well, Smith wouldn’t be too disappointed.

Needless to say, pro-golf is big business. And for Johnson’s efforts in winning on Sunday he walks away with all the glory of being a Masters winner and also a cool $2.07 million for his troubles.

Even tied for second, Smith gets $1.242 million.

Even down at 25th, Englishmen Ian Poulter and Danny Willett, Irishman Shane Lowry and South African Charl Schwartzel each pocket $101,200.

Fascinated by lists

Every year you find a splattering of golfers up amongst the list of the world’s highest earning sportspeople.

Tiger Woods is number 8 on Forbes’ “Highest Paid Athletes in the World”. Rory McIlroy is at number 14. Phil Mickelson at 25, Jordan Spieth at 52… I expect Johnson to leap into the mix in the next version.

These sorts of lists I absolutely love. I don’t know why, but it’s just fascinating to see the kinds of money that flow around the world from place to place. It’s not even the numbers that are fascinating to watch, but it’s where these numbers end up.

Take for instance another list I saw yesterday of “highest earners”.

It was Forbes’ “Highest-Paid Dead Celebrities of 2020”.

Prince was in at number 10 earning $10 million. That was thanks to still selling albums, the equivalent of around 700,000 in the US alone according to Forbes.

John Lennon was in at number 9. A cool $13 million off to his estate. Every time one of his songs is streamed, or played in a TV or movie, his estate gets a clip.

Kobe Bryant was in a number 6 which surprised me. But that was thanks to Nike moving loads of his merchandise and an autobiography he had out. That’s $20 million to his estate.

Number 2 I didn’t expect either… Dr. Seuss. Yep, The Cat in Hat is big business today. $33 million to his estate.

No surprise at number 1 though. Michael Jackson. Like a lot of the musicians, it’s ongoing royalties from his owned music that helped bring in $48 million to his estate.

This list sparked tremendous discussion this morning as I shared it with my publisher – both of us having an affinity to “these sorts of lists”.

He made note that “John Lennon’s kids are doing alright”.

That sparked something inside my brain. I know Lennon had kids, but I couldn’t quite remember who they were. But I also vaguely recalled one of them, who looked a lot like Lennon and had a really big, successful song themselves back in the early 90s.

I decided to investigate further.

Saltwater wells in my eyes

It didn’t take long to remember. Sean and Julian Lennon were his kids. Both musicians in their own right, but it was Julian’s song that I couldn’t quite remember.

My publisher reminded me.

Julian Lennon’s song, from 1991 was “Saltwater”.

Do you remember the song? I do, it was huge at the time. Even now it’s a ripping song. Very “Lennon-esque”.

We both decided to find the film clip on YouTube in listening and remembering the song. I remembered the tune right away. But what I had forgotten was the concept behind the song and what he was actually singing about.

Did you know that Lennon’s 1991 hit “Saltwater” was actually about climate change?

Not kidding. Do what I did this morning, and go have a look for yourself on YouTube – just search for “Saltwater Julian Lennon”.

It’s unbelievable, even prophetic. People walking around with face masks on in the first 45 seconds.

The things that really struck me though was this was from 1991. Now admittedly I was only eight at the time, but I don’t recall overly at that time being a huge debate about climate change.

However, there was. It got me thinking, in 30 years, has the conversation changed? Aren’t we exactly talking about the exact same things that were topical back in the early 90s when it comes to climate change?

Car pollution, city pollution, wearing face masks… it’s all a little bit, “been there done that”.

The question I have is will we be having the exact same conversations in another 30 years’ time? Will musicians be making important statements about how we have to save the planet in 2050?

Will anything have really changed?

Of course, we know that change is happening. All major car makers are changing their production lines to electric and “green” powertrain propulsion. Governments are implementing emissions restrictions. The world is finally “going green”.

However, are we really going to make that big an impact? Sure, more affluent countries might be fast-tracking their “green recoveries”. But what of the still developing world? Where it’s still cheaper and easier to get access to “dirty energy”.

What about global shipping freight? Last I checked, ships aren’t electric, and there’s not a great push for them to be either. Planes also aren’t about to switch to electric power. They’ll be more efficient sure, but what if that’s just offset with an increase in journeys and volume?

I do believe that an energy transition is taking place. And I believe it will very much change the way in which we consume energy. But I don’t see it being a fast transition. It makes me think that writing off the big energy companies of the past isn’t such a wise move.

They’ve got the time and runway to adapt and change. They’ve also got the financial might to still not only be competitive in a “new energy” world, but also dominant. It also makes me think in another 30 years, we’ll be right back here again, where climate change, global warming, whatever you want to call it, will still be something people want to get into a song and dance about.


Sam Volkering
Editor, Exponential Investor

Category: Energy

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