How Gene Simmons Once Made His Girlfriend Diana Ross $20 Million Richer
Entertainer, businesswoman, diva, and mom are all terms used to describe Diana Ross.
The legendary singer started out as a member of the Supremes and later went on to have a successful solo career in music and film. Though Ross’ talent is what ultimately led to her achievements, there were many people who had a huge hand in her success, including her ex-boyfriend, Kiss rocker Gene Simmons.
Diana Ross stayed loyal to Motown
Born and raised in Detroit, Ross was friends with local singers in the neighborhood, including Smokey Robinson. As a teenager, she formed a girl group called the Primettes with Florence Ballard, Mary Wilson, and Barbara Martin. She, Ballard, and Wilson would later go on to become the Supremes, and they landed a record deal at Motown.
Berry Gordy, head of the famed label, launched the group to the world and guided their early careers. During the Supremes’ reign and eventual shift to Diana Ross and the Supremes, Berry and Ross engaged in a romantic relationship that lasted for several years. Then, in 1971, she married Bob Silberstein.
Even after leaving the Supremes, breaking things off with Berry, and low sales on her solo projects, Ross stayed loyal to the label that catapulted her to fame. By 1979, Ross sought to have more control over her own business affairs and opened up her own office.
Gene Simmons advised Diana Ross to cut ties with Motown
Ross and Silberstein divorced in 1977, and she went on to date others, including Gene Simmons. They were together around the time she was on shaky ground with Motown. By 1980, her contract with the label expired and according to Diana Ross: A Biography by J. Randy Taraborrelli, Simmons proved to be a noteworthy advisor.
Ross discussed her Motown-related problems with Simmons, and he said to her, “Get the hell away from there. What are you, nuts?” Neither felt she was getting paid enough and Simmons, who was business savvy, encouraged her to cash in on her popularity after the release of the Diana album.
He reportedly urged her to let one of his people “talk to” Berry to renegotiate her contract. “So, one morning, Berry got a visit from this person, a heavyset rock and roll manager type. He said he represented Diana and was willing to give Barry an opportunity to match a $20 million offer she had recently received from a competing label,” wrote Taraborrelli.
Berry, aghast at being pressured, turned down the offer and said he’d speak directly to Ross. She made her demands and the back and forth dragged out, and many believed Simmons’ representative had been bluffing about an alternative deal.
Tired of relying on Motown and Berry to tell her about her own finances, Ross was serious about making a change. At the time, it’s said she was only getting about $200,000 from Motown.
Ross left Motown for greener pastures
After “Endless Love” came out in 1981, several labels were vying for Ross’ attention, and just like that, RCA offered her a $20 million contract. They came in with the highest bid, and Ross admitted she didn’t want to lose her friendship with Berry over business.
After 20 years on Motown, Ross parted ways with the label and severed her professional relationship with Berry. She signed the deal with RCA which was one of the largest of its kind during that time. Many think that Simmons’ helped strongarm the arrangement that changed Ross’ fortune.