While her place as a sexual revolutionary is assured, her dynamism, ambition and lifeaffirming philosophy would not be out of place in the corporate boardroom. Ironically, of all the many faces Madonna presents to the world dancer, impresario, producer, singer, actress, entertainer and artist — the one she tries most assiduously to disguise is that of successful businesswoman. She is quoted as having once said, "Part of the reason I'm successful is because I'm a good businesswoman, but I don't think it necessary for people to know that." "Get OUT", she ordered director Alex Keshishian when his camera crew tried to film a business conference during the infamous Truth or Dare documentary (released as In Bed With Madonna outside the USA), which recorded her Blonde Ambition Tour in 1990.
The girl who arrived in New York with a fistful of dollars is, and has been, a publisher, music mogul, TV executive, merchandising magnate and film producer and one of the richest women on the planet, estimated to be worth between $300 and $600 million. "She's a great businesswoman," says Seymour Stein, the record company mogul who first signed her. "She's very smart and she trusts her instincts, which are great."
Her success has certainly impressed the business community. While politicians, feminists and other moral commentators debated the graphic sexual content of her 1992 book, Sex, senior professors at Harvard Business School beat a path to her door. They wanted to know the secret of selling 1,500,000 copies of a $50 book in a matter of days. She considered, but eventually turned down, their invitation to address students and faculty. If she had given a lecture, as she originally intended, they would have learned that, once the hype and controversy of her artistic career is stripped away, Madonna is just like them, an embodiment of the drive, enterprise and can-do culture that has powered the American dream.
She is every inch the conventional self-made tycoon: cautious in her investments, conservative in her spending, controlling every part of her multi-million dollar empire. "Sometimes," says Sir Tim Rice, the co-creator of the musical Evita, in which she played the lead role in the film version, "it was as if you were dealing with General Motors."
Indeed, Madonna is a classic capitalist, conforming to all the rules, never putting a foot wrong, running her life like clockwork. Like a typical cigar-chomping company chairman, she is the first to arrive and the last to leave, her schedule full, her day disciplined, while every evening she religiously sits down and lists her goals for the next day: The engineered controversy and deliberate chaos she causes in her artistic life contrast with the order and regimentation of her business routine. However, the bottom line always shadows her creative effort. "She is not just a businesswoman but an innovator and creator," observes Bert Padell. "Money comes second, creation comes first."
Even her joshing sense of humor would not be out of place in the executive washroom. "I'll give you sixty," she told Padell during an early morning phone conversation. As he launched into an explanation of a financial issue, the phone suddenly went dead. When he redialed, she laughingly told him, "See? I told you sixty seconds. My time is valuable."