Any other business

5 famous businesses that bizarrely hired celebrities

9 min read

18 November 2014

Former deputy editor

The following A-List faces are immediately recognisable for their work in music, films, technology and in some cases trying to change the world, but we can't help but wonder what the recruitment process – and salary negotiations – these global companies must have faced to fill these senior executive positions.

Kevin Bacon is eagerly plugging 4G – and all things British – on behalf of EE, reality TV stars can often be seen on social media mentioning miscellaneous businesses and their merchandise – which they will have likely received for free in exchange for said mention – and Jessica Alba was promoting the delights of Windows Phone 8 when the OS launched.

The following five celebrity hires, however, are slightly more official, prestigious and bizarre…

Al Gore, board member, Apple (and senior adviser to Google)

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Sitting in The White House may have been all in a day’s work for former vice president of the United States of America, Al Gore, but seemingly technology is where his heart really belongs. He joined Apple’s board of directors back in 2003 after being elected at a meeting.

At the time, ex CEO Steve Jobs, said: “Al brings an incredible wealth of knowledge and wisdom to Apple from having helped run the largest organisation in the world – the United States government – as a congressman, senator and our 45th vice president.

“Al is also an avid Mac user and does his own video editing in Final Cut Pro. Al is going to be a terrific director and we’re excited and honoured that he has chosen Apple as his first private sector board to serve on.”

There you have it – a love of editing, Mac and a political background and you too can secure your career at Apple. Beyond that though, Gore fought to see every classroom in the US connected to the internet and joined the company having also served as a senior adviser to Google, and is said to own Apple shares worth £30 million.

Will.I.Am, director of creative innovation, Intel

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Real Business spoke of smartwatches recently, revealing they’re not yet mainstream, despite Microsoft’s best efforts ten years ago.

However, former Black Eyed Peas frontman, Will.I.Am, wants to change that. He was on Alan Carr’s Chatty Man show earlier in the year demonstrating a smartwatch – which allows calls, social media and  music storage without requiring a phone – that he claims to have designed and funded independently.

Perhaps his development expertise came from being appointed the director of creative innovation at Intel three years earlier.

When he secured the position, he said: “Teaming up with the scientists, researchers and computer programmers at Intel to collaborate and co-develop new ways to communicate, create, inform and entertain is going to be amazing.”

Deborah Conrad, Intel vice president and chief marketing officer, added: “We’re thrilled to tap into the limitless creativity will.i.am brings to the table. He’s not only a brilliant artist and producer, but also an innovator pushing the bounds of technology professionally and personally.

“We share a strong interest in innovation around music, art and lifestyle, and are excited to join forces to establish an authentic, emotional connection with consumers.”

It may have been a good fit, as the songwriter is still on the team.

Alicia Keys, global creative director, BlackBerry

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Back in January 2013 when BlackBerry revealed its BlackBerry 10 OS, which was designed to compete with iPhone and Android, the appointment of Alicia Keys was also announced.

The Grammy Award-winning singer took to the stage alongside former CEO Thorsten Heins corporately dressed in a suit and sporting slicked back hair, and spoke of her joy at being appointed the company’s global creative director, a role that would see her command business initiatives to drive engagement and brand perception, while working with developers, retailers and entertainers.

In other words, she was hired to make BlackBerry cool again, but made a huge social media error just days later by tweeting from her iPhone.

Of her career move, Keys said: “Staying connected has become a vital part of my creative process. I have been using the BlackBerry 10 for a few weeks now, and I’m truly inspired by its innovation. This is such an incredible age to be living in, with such profound advances in communications and technology.

“As global creative director, my goal is to inspire creativity with this platform, and I’m so excited to jump right in.”

She jumped right out again in January 2014, as a BlackBerry statement, said: “We have enjoyed the opportunity to work with such an incredibly talented and passionate individual.”

Ashton Kutcher, product engineer, Lenovo

He played Steve Jobs on the big screen, and seemingly the Two and Half Men star wants to emulate the Apple visionary in the real world.

The comedy actor had his eye on the business scene for a number of years, having founded A-Grade Investments back in 2011, a firm that has provided funds to Spotify, Airbnb, Foursquare and Uber, and is an adviser to events app YPlan having discovered the service while in London.

In October 2013, Kutcher was announced as the product engineer for Lenovo alongside the release of the Yoga Tablet. His role is said to involve working with engineering teams globally to develop and market the range of devices with feedback and decisions around design, software and usage.

“This partnership with Lenovo brings together my love of technology and design that makes your life better. I can’t wait to dig in and help Lenovo develop future mobile computing products, starting with the Yoga Tablet,” he said. “Lenovo is all about innovation and strong leadership. Entrepreneurship is part of their DNA, and I couldn’t ask for a better fit.”

The partnership continues, although it did take Keys just one year to depart from BlackBerry.

U2, board of directors, Fender

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When not busy with Band Aid, Bono and fellow U2 band member The Edge can be found on Fender’s board of directors.

The company’s co-chairman claimed the duo would help to “build a company to meet its potential as a business and brand.”

The two rockers are arguably in the best place to know about the quality of instruments, and were appointed to help the 68-year-old music firm with strategy and marketing concepts to increase fan engagement.

The Edge, said: “This is something of a kid in a candy store situation for me. I’ve been a fan of Fender guitars from the beginning, playing them on all the most important U2 tours and albums. But I’m most interested in working with the Fender design team on some new ideas.”

Bono added: “I’m excited to be part of developing newer technologies with Fender, as well as helping protect the jobs and commitment to excellence of their age-old craft.”

Will they lead they company to Elevation? We’ll have to wait and see.