The William Shatner Guide to Business Diversification

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I recently spent “an evening with William Shatner” in Montreal , courtesy of a Groupon deal which offered tickets at less than half of the face price. Not being a trekkie or a rabid fan, I was not intimately familiar with his body of work.  I had however seen enough of him to know that he was a funny and charismatic man, so I was interested to see what an “evening” with him would entail. 

The show, which was 3 hours long (far exceeding my expectations) had the 80 year old Shatner recounting carefully selected stories about his past, while an interviewer occasionally prodded and guided him.  Mr. Shatner did not disappoint – he was self-deprecating, eloquent and entertaining.  And, while the stories were meant to reflect positively on his life, his career and choices were also indicative of an extremely ambitious individual who had spent a lifetime seizing opportunities.  The results of his attitude of saying “Yes”, which he is trying to inspire in others through his show and latest book "Shatner Rules", have contributed to a fascinating, multi-faceted career and, perhaps unexpectedly, have led to a very diverse set of properties and holdings, some of which include: 

  • His IMBD profile lists him as having acted in 197 films and television series, including Star Trek and Boston Legal, a lesser known lead role in Alexander the Great and a number of guest appearances on TV shows and “schlock” films (The Horror at 37,000 Feet).  For his most recent (but sadly cancelled) TV show, “Shit my Dad Says” , Shatner commanded $150,000 per episode. Many of his shows continue to be in syndication. 
  • Two documentaries, including one called “The Captains” that unites all the captains of the Star Trek series spinoffs.  He is also currently the host of two television series: “Shatner’s Raw Nerve” and“Weird or What.”
  • 4 “musical” albums, including “The Transformed Man”, “Has Been” and most recently “Seeking Major Tom”. 
  • Almost 30 fiction and nonfiction works and a comic book adaptation.  Many of these have become bestsellers.
  • Several commercials, most notably as the “chief negotiating officer” for Priceline.  This, perhaps inadvertently, has led to his greatest source of wealth.  His Priceline shares, which he accepted in lieu of payment for his work on the commercials, are purported to be worth millions.
  • Voice work on Star Trek video games.
  • A 150 hectare farm in Kentucky where he breeds and shows American saddlebreds.
  • A myriad of other appearances include theatre, concerts, shows, poker, charity events etc.
  • A significant online presence and active involvement in social media.  His Twitter account  has 800,000 followers.  He also has a YouTube channel called "The Shatner Project" which boasts an impressive 32,000 subscribers and over 9 million upload views.  His Google account, although temporarily shut down in July (apparently due to their inability to verify his identity) is back up.  He currently has over 80,000 followers.  And of course there is the official website - williamshatner.com

William Shatner, at 80 years old, is one of the most recognizable names on the planet.  He is extremely ambitious (some have referred to him as egomaniacal), however he is also not afraid to make fun of himself, and in fact thrives on being self-deprecating.  His success did not come easy, though and in fact, after the last season of the original Star Trek series ended in 1969, Shatner found it difficult to find work.  It was bad enough that he found himself living in a camper and would take any odd job that he could find.  His luck turned when Star Trek start gaining cult status in the mid-seventies.  This led to the resurrection of Star Trek with the production of 6 films, and spawned more spinoffs than any other franchise in the history of television.   Since then Mr. Shatner, along with his willingness to take risks, has become a savvy businessman and has built an impressive and diverse body of work.  In the words of Captain Kirk: “Risk... Risk is our business. That's what this starship is all about. That's why we're aboard her.”

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