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The incredible life of Jimmy Choo founder Tamara Mellon

Business Insider 13/05/2015

Tamara Mellon © Business Insider Tamara Mellon

Tamara Mellon, the co-founder of luxury shoe brand Jimmy Choo, is one of the wealthiest women in Britain with a net worth around £180 million ($360 million).

She is also arguably one of only two women on The Sunday Times Rich List of the UK's 1,000 wealthiest people who made her own fortune, rather than inheriting it or being married to someone rich. (The other being is Harry Potter author JK Rowling, whose net worth is £570 million.)

She had an affluent start to life. Her father is stuntman and Vidal Sassoon owner Tom Yeardye. Her mother is Chanel model Ann. But she rose to the top of the fashion industry through her own business acumen and eye for trends.

She's so ruthless she once sued her own mother over Jimmy Choo's assets that she claimed didn't belong to her. And she ended her partnership with the company founder who's name was used for the luxury brand company, in a bitter corporate divorce.

Her personal life has been just as colourful. She met her banking heir husband Matthew Mellon in Alcoholics Anonymous, only to part ways after allegations of drug taking and affairs.

Here, Business Insider details her life through pictures and excerpts from her book "In My Shoes" and interviews with Vogue and the New York Times.

© Provided by Business Insider
  • Tamara Mellon was born Tamara Yeardye in London, on July 7, 1967
  • She is the daughter of former Chanel model Ann Yeardye née Davis and entrepreneur Tom Yeardye, who co-founded the hair salon chain Vidal Sassoon. Here he is in 1973.
  • In 1976, Tamara's family relocated to Beverly Hills and lived next door to Nancy Sinatra.
  • Her father became a stunt double for actor Rock Hudson at the time.
  • She alternated summers between California and the UK because she attended British boarding school. She first went to Brigidine Convent School in Berkshire, then St Mary's School in Heathfield.
  • She finished her studies at 18 at the now-defunct finishing school Institut Alpin Videmanette in Switzerland. Princess Diana also went there.
  • She told The New York Times that she initially worked on a market stall selling T-shirts after school but "turned her life around in her 20s" after getting a job at Phyllis Walters PR. The PR group was responsible for press for the Versace safety-pin dress Liz Hurley wore to a film premiere in 1994.
  • She then moved to Mirabella, a now defunct women's magazine owned by Rupert Murdoch. It paved the way for her to take up the accessories editor role at Vogue in 1990.
Vogue © Business Insider Vogue
  • From there, she recognised the demand for high-end designer accessories and approached little-known bespoke shoe-maker Jimmy Choo about launching an off-the-shelf shoe company in the early 1990s.
  • After agreeing to become the co-founder of Jimmy Choo's new company, Tamara got a £150,000 ($234,840) loan from her father to find Italian factories to make the products. Tamara and Choo launched Jimmy Choo Ltd in 1996.
  • However, during this time, she was struggled with alcoholism. She did, however, meet her future husband — banking heir Matthew Mellon — at an AA meeting.
  • She and Matthew married in 2000, in Blenheim Palace.
Jimmy Choo © Business Insider Jimmy Choo
  • By 2001 Jimmy Choo became an empire worth £500 million ($783 million), selling in stores such as Harrods and Saks Fifth Avenue. It also became a favourite amongst celebrities such as January Jones.
  • The same year, Jimmy Choo sold his 50% share in the company to private equity firm Equinox Luxury Holdings. He claimed his name was "exploited" by Tamara and he set up a new label elsewhere. Tamara remained tight-lipped about the split. She told the NYT that “no one can force someone to sell their shares. It was Jimmy’s decision. And he sold his name to the business.”
  • Tamara carried on working at Jimmy Choo and retained her 50% stake. In 2002, she and her husband had a daughter Araminta, known as "Minty."
  • But their marriage had problems. Matthew Mellon spent an undisclosed period of time in rehab.
  • There were also rumours that Tamara had an affair with Australian fine art and design dealer Oscar Humphries. She said their relationship started after she and Matthew separated. Here he is with socialites Brigitte (l.) and Charlotte Holmes a Court.
  • However, after five years of marriage, Tamara and Matthew divorced in 2005.
Nicole Hanley © Business Insider Nicole Hanley
  • By 2006, Mellon met designer Nicole Hanley, whom he later married. He remains on good terms with his ex-wife. Tamara even attended their wedding in 2010.
  • Meanwhile, as she described in her 2013 book "In My Shoes," Tamara was having night sweats and panic attacks over the fight with the private equity groups Lion Capital and Towerbrook Capital.
  • Jimmy Choo was also making her seriously wealthy. In 2007, she entered the Sunday Times Rich List with an estimated wealth of £99 million ($154 million), the 64th richest woman in Britain.
  • With more money came more problems. In 2008, she sued her mother for pocketing £5 million ($7.8 million) worth of Jimmy Choo assets that Tamara claimed were not rightfully hers. Mellon won the lawsuit. She does not speak to her mother to this day, even though Ann Teardye told the Daily Mail that all she wants is to see her grandchild Minty (pictured here with Tamara).
  • Tamara also dated Christian Slater for two years. But she broke it off in 2009.
  • She was even linked to Kid Rock, but said later they were "just friends."
Alexa Ray Joel © Business Insider Alexa Ray Joel
  • In 2009, Tamara decided to move to New York to be closer to ex-husband Matthew, the father of Minty. Here she is with Minty (l.) and Billy Joel's daughter, Alexa Ray Joel.
  • Back in Britain, in 2010, Tamara was awarded an OBE by the Queen for services to the fashion industry.
  • A year later, she sold her stake in Jimmy Choo for $135 million (£86.6 million).
  • She has since launched her a clothing and shoe label under her own name, Tamara Mellon.
Michael Ovitz © Business Insider Michael Ovitz
  • That year, she started dating Hollywood talent agent Michael Ovitz. She's linking arms with him here.
  • He is the former president of Walt Disney and one of the most powerful men in entertainment. He has been a talent agent and career advisor for Martin Scorcese and David Letterman. Here he is with Jack Nicholson.
  • In March 2015, Mellon and Ovitz got engaged.
musician Olivia Palermo and 90's It Girl Tamara Beckwith, and Minty. © Business Insider musician Olivia Palermo and 90's It Girl Tamara Beckwith, and Minty.
  • Tamara now spends a lot of her time with her daughter and her friends. Here she is with (L-R) musician Olivia Palermo and 90's It Girl Tamara Beckwith, and Minty.
  • She's goes out to a lot of awards dinners and charity functions with her fiancé.
  • She also spends a lot of time sunbathing ...
  • ... alongside her daughter Minty.
  • She also makes sure she stays up to date with the latest fashion trends.
  • And makes sure everyone on Instagram knows about it.
  • Above all, she spends an incredible amount of time with her daughter, who she is "proud of every day."

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