In Greek mythology, the Fates controlled the destinies of men. In Hollywood, that power lies with 37-year-old Scooter Braun and 63-year-old Kris Jenner. Between these two omnipotent managers, they don’t even need a third fate to help them out.
Somebody somewhere makes things happen for famous people, crafting their career trajectories and carefully spinning stories when stars spin out. And for a specific subset of world-famous celebrities, that somebody is Jenner and Braun — master managers strategically plotting the rise of their clients until they’ve reached ubiquity. The Jenner-Braun web is an expansive one, spanning industries (music, film, reality TV, cosmetics, modelling) and generations (Jenner’s first client was her former spouse, Olympian Caitlyn Jenner, in the '90s) — the only competition they have when it comes to world dominance is each other.
What does it mean to manage Ariana Grande, the artist single-handedly breaking chart record after chart record and massage the chaotic life of Justin Bieber for the press? Who has the energy to manage all of those Kardashian scandals? And most importantly, who is more powerful? Scooter Braun, who was mentored by record producer Jermaine Dupri and entertainment entrepreneur Steve Rifkind as he transitioned from club promoter to A-list entrepreneur and business owner, or Kris Jenner, who literally birthed the modern-day version of a celebrity — six times? And just how much money do these two have control over?
I. The Empires
Both Braun and Jenner (née Houghton, formerly Kardashian) are self-made managers without college degrees (Braun dropped out of Emory College, and Jenner skipped college to become a flight attendant) who profess to be guided by faith and family. Here's who's on Mama Jenner and Papa Braun’s current roster.
Scooter Braun: Ariana Grande, Kanye West*, Justin Bieber, Carly Rae Jepsen, Karlie Kloss, Martin Garrix, and Tori Kelly. (*West has famously said he can’t be managed, but prior to that proclamation, during the Life of Pablo era, Braun was his manager, and his mother-in-law Jenner is probably the closest thing to it these days, for better or worse.)
II. The Money: How Much Are They & Their Clients Worth?
Rough total net worth of clients: $1.56 billion
Rough total net worth of clients: $410 million
It’s unclear exactly what percentage of their clients’ earnings go to Braun and Jenner, but, notably, each also owns their own management company, placing them in the highest earning bracket as managers, according to a Billboard study from 2015. According to that study, it’s industry standard for someone in their role to take 10-20% commission as their salary. An E! Online story from 2015, when Jenner unsuccessfully tried to trademark “momager,” reports she was commanding 10% at the time. There are no specific reports of Braun’s cut.
III. The Scandals: What Newsmaking Incidents Have They Weathered?
Where to begin? Name a scandal, and they’ve dealt with it.
These 14 people (who, reminder, don’t even comprise all of Braun and Jenner’s clients) also come with a hefty amount of baggage. There’s a sex tape, a few DUIs, racist comments, political no-no’s, cultural appropriation, deaths, armed robbery, breakups, blackmail, stalkers… and, of course, a well-known conspiracy theory or 10.
These two have moved mountains for clients. Both of them seem to have the same go-to — instead of a basic apology, they urge their clients to lean into the drama. In October 2007, about three months after Kim’s sex tape was leaked, KUWTK premiered its first season. Episode 4 featured Kim owning her sexuality by posing nude for Playboy. After Bieber went bad in 2014 following an arrest in Miami for a DUI and drag racing (among other antics), he admitted to his mistakes and recommitted to his Christian faith, later releasing the biggest album of his career, 2016's Purpose. He appears on the cover of the LP with a huge cross tattoo decorating his chest, and many of the songs are about his connection to God. He even became best friends with his posh pastor, Carl Lentz.
After Kendall Jenner appeared in a Pepsi commercial that hijacked the Black Lives Matter movement, she said she felt “stupid” for her involvement, and then Pepsi apologized to her. She pivoted from being the face of a failed campaign with racist undertones to the victim of unwarranted backlash. In the summer of 2015, Grande faced her own controversy when she licked a donut and mocked obesity in America. At the time, a comeback seemed impossible — especially considering that she already had a damning diva reputation. Grande apologized for her behaviour, noted that she was disgusted by her own actions, and pointedly reminded everyone that the donut shop video was taken without her consent. Cut to 2019, and Grande is on top of the world. (She quite literally is in her music video for “God Is A Woman.”) In the past 12 months she’s released 7 singles, two albums, and is headlining music festivals. She’s doing so much that it makes it difficult to even recall a time where the public wasn’t fully obsessed with Grande and her pony-tail. She solidified her reborn reputation after she ended her fast engagement with comedian Pete Davidson — shortly after the sudden passing of her ex Mac Miller — and immediately released “thank u next,” in which she addressed both men, and other exes, with gratitude and perspective. Kloss managed to get married just a few months before her big debut as the new host of Project Runway in a ceremony that was private yet well-documented. (As far as the Braun clients, like Jepsen, Kellly, and Garrix, who haven’t yet had scandals — that we know of —they can sleep well knowing they’re in good hands should that day come.
Braun and Jenner don’t wait for the public to forgive and forget — they just find a new narrative for them to obsess over.
IV: The Impact: How Have Kris & Scooter Changed The Industry?
The effects of Braun and Jenner’s managing strategies are not clear because we, the public, are in the eye of the storm. We never see the actual private damage from the shitstorms that rip through these celebrities’ lives. That’s why we know these two are good.
Braun’s so good that he even appeared on Time’s 100 Most Influential in 2013 for being a man who “sees what others don’t,” in regards to finding fresh talent. (This accolade came before Bieber’s image overhaul.) “My job is not to be the all-star quarterback, but to be the coach,” Braun told Complex in an interview in 2015. “My artists’ wins are their wins, and their losses are my losses. That’s the job, that’s what a coach does. A hundred years from now, people probably won’t even remember me.”
Also in 2015, Jenner told Haute Living her initial goal when she turned her family into a brand. This ability to transform a typical family — okay, her first husband was O.J. Simpson’s lawyer, so maybe not “typical”— is Jenner’s legacy. “My focus at that time was to develop something my kids could have for the rest of their lives—something they could create for themselves,” she said. “And I learned quickly that all my kids have the most amazing work ethic. They all stepped up to the plate and showed me they were frickin’ amazing!” Of course, Jenner is herself a central figure in the series now, showing that managers don’t have to always live in the spotlight. They can carve out a public space for themselves, too.
Other managers have surely learned a few tricks from Jenner’s bag — a notable one being her innate ability to squash multiple controversies at one time, as she did in the New York Times article that dropped the day before KUWTK's season 16 premiere. (In it, her family addressed the Kylie's involvement in the Tristan Thompson-Jordyn Woods cheating scandal, Kendalls's involvement in Fyre Fest, and the drama around Khloé's controversial wellness spon-con posts.) Later that same day, West also revealed that he, and his choir, would be performing their Sunday Services at a sunrise time slot at Coachella. West had previously had reported drama with the music festival and was replaced as a headliner by none other than Grande, Braun’s client. Now, Grande and West will each have history-making appearances at the festival: Grande is the youngest solo female headliner ever, and I’m pretty sure there’s never been a sunrise hip-hop-church fusion performance before.
V: The Power: Who Really Has It?
In a podcast interview with Janet Mock, Jenner shared her secret for success: “I turned my 15 minutes into 30, somehow.” The businesswoman and mother of six did this through building franchises centred around her family as they grew up. Together, the Kardashian-Jenners have led nine TV shows, launched countless business ventures and collaborations (some, like Kylie Jenner Cosmetics, far more successful than others, like Khroma Beauty), and show no signs of pumping the brakes. After all, Jenner now has 9 — soon to be 10 — grandchildren to turn into global brands. But Jenner isn’t really in the business of working well with non-relatives. Remember the girl group BG5? Miley Cyrus’ best friend, Mandy Jiroux was a member, and later said she was not allowed to wear or sing what she wanted under Jenner’s control.
As a momager, this is both her strength and her weakness. Jenner has the unique skill of transforming family members into lucrative money-making machines — Braun can do that to a charismatic, talented stranger. Jenner’s formula isn’t usually viable for the long term, (Hollywood is littered with the tragic detritus of toxic show-parent relationships), but it works for her.
Braun, meanwhile, does not manage any of his actual children (he has three with wife Yael Cohen, ages 4, 2, and a newborn), but after discovering a pre-teen Bieber on YouTube, it does feel like he raised him. "I made a promise to him when he was 13 that I would never give up on him,” Braun told the WSJ. Magazine in 2017 of Bieber’s well-publicized 2014 breakdown. “I plan on keeping that promise."
What we’ve learned in this powerhouse audit is that a good manager finds clients early, and acts as a father figure to them. But a great manager, she literally is their mother figure. Braun may have more clients, but it’s Jenner who has cultivated an actual billionaire — and who deserves a Nobel Prize in scandal damage control.
But, going deeper, the true reveal is that the real power doesn’t lie in comparing Jenner and Braun to each other. The locus of their genius lies in the fact that the are suspiciously intertwined. Jenner’s boyfriend, Corey Gamble, used to be Braun’s employee (he was Bieber’s road manager). Garrix attended Kendall’s 20th birthday party with Bieber in tow. Jenner appeared in Grande’s record-breaking music video for “thank u, next.” West has looked to Jenner and Braun both for life and career counsel. Bieber briefly dated Jenner’s oldest daughter, Kourtney (Also, remember when Bieber dated Sofia Richie, who would then go on to date Scott Disick, Kourtney's ex? Yep.). Kim and West took a selfie with Hillary Clinton at a fundraiser for her 2016 campaign hosted by Braun. There’s even a Taylor Swift connection thanks to Kloss, who is friendly with the Wests and Swift.
Imagine the meetings that go down between Braun and Jenner. Jenner on one side of the conference table with her “Rich As Fuck” luggage, and Braun on the other, texting and plotting the rise of his latest musical discovery. They look up at each other and wink, because they know the ultimate secret to success: Fate’s fake, get a manager.