Have U2 gone too commercial?

Bono and his Elevation Partners invests in ForbesIt’s been all over the news in the past few days. Elevation Partners, an investment group that Bono is involved in, buys up a large slice of Forbes. Forbes magazine often gets referred to as the “bible of capitalism”. At the same time U2 Unlimited, the company that holds all the rights to the U2 master tapes, moves to Holland to avoid a change in Irish tax laws, rising a lot of criticism from Irish politicians. And to top the bill, there’s that damn “U2 Tower” no one in Dublin really seem to want, other than some politicians and the band themselves. The Guardian does a great job of summing up all the controversies in this article.

A lot of criticism is being voiced over this. Is this the same Bono that helped stage Live Aid, or the Drop the Debt campaign? Surely he could not possibly be avoiding taxes by moving a company to the Netherlands, right?

And once again, we got thinking about this. Bono is often criticised for being involved in all this charity fund raising money, but then being obviously, some would say filthy, rich himself. Avoiding tax schemes and investing in the “bible of capitalism” surely can’t help this. But is it fair? Does having a lot of money and preaching against world poverty make you come across as a hypocrite? It’s certainly what the press makes it out to be.

It’s a discussion that’s often raised and that probably everyone has an opinion of and we’re interested in hearing it.

Fire away.

50 thoughts on “Have U2 gone too commercial?

  1. I am so tired of this. there even was an article in an austrian newspaper last week. all crap talk. I am tired of newspapers and their jorunalists. wtf. there still is such an incredible hatred towards the band in the media, it’s amazing really. and it’s beginning to seriously bore me.

  2. I am so tired of this. there even was an article in an austrian newspaper last week. all crap talk. I am tired of newspapers and their jorunalists. wtf. there still is such an incredible hatred towards the band in the media, it’s amazing really. and it’s beginning to seriously bore me.

  3. Agreeing with Bernhard here. With all the suffering, war, sickness and god knows what in the world, you’d think the papers would have something better to talk about.

    I’ve always have kind of a confused feeling about these “hypocrisy” shouters. To me it always seemed very jealousy tainted in a way that means they really can’t give a rat’s ass whether Africa gets their debt dropped or not, it’s just unfair to them that Bono, who puts his efforts in to this should have so much money.

    People are very quick to condemn him, just stepping over the fact that they really are clueless as to how much resources Bono puts into all this anyway. I call it resources, not money, because most of what he puts into it can in my humble opinion not be put down in a monetary value. Time, for example. Time taken away from family and friends. How often during the tour did Bono fly back and forth between or in countries to talk to yet another politician, to be back just in time for a quick rehearsal and then straight onto the stage. Often, we’ve wondered… does Bono even sleep? He sure doesn’t seem to be.

  4. Agreeing with Bernhard here. With all the suffering, war, sickness and god knows what in the world, you’d think the papers would have something better to talk about.

    I’ve always have kind of a confused feeling about these “hypocrisy” shouters. To me it always seemed very jealousy tainted in a way that means they really can’t give a rat’s ass whether Africa gets their debt dropped or not, it’s just unfair to them that Bono, who puts his efforts in to this should have so much money.

    People are very quick to condemn him, just stepping over the fact that they really are clueless as to how much resources Bono puts into all this anyway. I call it resources, not money, because most of what he puts into it can in my humble opinion not be put down in a monetary value. Time, for example. Time taken away from family and friends. How often during the tour did Bono fly back and forth between or in countries to talk to yet another politician, to be back just in time for a quick rehearsal and then straight onto the stage. Often, we’ve wondered… does Bono even sleep? He sure doesn’t seem to be.

  5. Bono/U2 have a right to be as wealthy as they like. especially if we want to continue to see reasonably priced live awesomeness, sponsor free. but FORBES? i am dying on the inside.

  6. Bono/U2 have a right to be as wealthy as they like. especially if we want to continue to see reasonably priced live awesomeness, sponsor free. but FORBES? i am dying on the inside.

  7. I think buying up part of Forbes is a smart move if you want to CHANGE what the magazine stands for, and what the magazine prints. If you have the money, and the opportunity is there to buy into Forbes and have a say in what it prints and how it prints — do you stand back and not take that chance to make changes? Of course not! You spend your money, buy a big slice, give Forbes a conscience, and make changes from the inside.

    We’ve been here before. Remember Bono and the World Bank? What a storm in a teacup that was.

    It’s not capitalism that’s the problem per se, rather it’s the people who run it. I’m happy for Bono to be in charge of big business, because he has a conscience and he’ll push for FAIR TRADE.

    My advise is wait and see how this pans out. The real controversies will begin in the near future, when Forbes starts publishing articles on fair trade!

    Yeah, Bono could just donate his money to charity. But that’s just buying buckets to bail water out of a leakey boat. Use that money to buy out the boat company instead, and make changes from the top.

    Bono’s quite the economic ninja, subtly sidestepping into the world of capitalism to sabotage it from within. As I say, protest smartly, not loudly.

  8. I think buying up part of Forbes is a smart move if you want to CHANGE what the magazine stands for, and what the magazine prints. If you have the money, and the opportunity is there to buy into Forbes and have a say in what it prints and how it prints — do you stand back and not take that chance to make changes? Of course not! You spend your money, buy a big slice, give Forbes a conscience, and make changes from the inside.

    We’ve been here before. Remember Bono and the World Bank? What a storm in a teacup that was.

    It’s not capitalism that’s the problem per se, rather it’s the people who run it. I’m happy for Bono to be in charge of big business, because he has a conscience and he’ll push for FAIR TRADE.

    My advise is wait and see how this pans out. The real controversies will begin in the near future, when Forbes starts publishing articles on fair trade!

    Yeah, Bono could just donate his money to charity. But that’s just buying buckets to bail water out of a leakey boat. Use that money to buy out the boat company instead, and make changes from the top.

    Bono’s quite the economic ninja, subtly sidestepping into the world of capitalism to sabotage it from within. As I say, protest smartly, not loudly.

  9. I personally don’t think Elevation Partners bought Forbes Media Group to reinvent Forbes Magazine. I really do think they bought it because it made business sense. I don’t think even Bono would slap down $250-300m just to make a point.

    I don’t really see why making clever business investments conflicts with being involved in things like Live Aid, Jubilee or Drop the Debt though.

  10. I personally don’t think Elevation Partners bought Forbes Media Group to reinvent Forbes Magazine. I really do think they bought it because it made business sense. I don’t think even Bono would slap down $250-300m just to make a point.

    I don’t really see why making clever business investments conflicts with being involved in things like Live Aid, Jubilee or Drop the Debt though.

  11. Investmentgroups are run by financial professionals, who are only interested in safe investments and making a reasonable (= sh*itload of) profit, I’m sure Bono knows a lot about a whole lot of things, but surely he will let the ‘suits’ do this kind of business for him, under the condition that they keep him informed about the who, what, where (and how much :-)). Forbes might not be the cleverest of choices though, because of their ‘it’s all ’bout the money’-image that sort of clashes with B’s ‘it’s all ’bout the people’-thing.

    That said: it actually IS all about the money and it’s kind of naive to think that philantropists like Bono shouldn’t try to make more profit by taking their business elsewhere or making investments. It is a fact that the companies that generate higher profits donate a bigger PERCENTAGE of their money to charitable organizations and are more willing to participate in environmental and/or third world projects (maybe it’s that ugly guilt-thing, but who cares?). And money is still the main thing that all these charities need to get anything done. So, obviously, the more money you make, the more you can (and will, apparently) give away. And, sadly, NOT: the less money you make, the less charitable organizations will need, because all the money that you didn’t make will make poverty history. No, no such luck I’m afraid.

  12. Investmentgroups are run by financial professionals, who are only interested in safe investments and making a reasonable (= sh*itload of) profit, I’m sure Bono knows a lot about a whole lot of things, but surely he will let the ‘suits’ do this kind of business for him, under the condition that they keep him informed about the who, what, where (and how much :-)). Forbes might not be the cleverest of choices though, because of their ‘it’s all ’bout the money’-image that sort of clashes with B’s ‘it’s all ’bout the people’-thing.

    That said: it actually IS all about the money and it’s kind of naive to think that philantropists like Bono shouldn’t try to make more profit by taking their business elsewhere or making investments. It is a fact that the companies that generate higher profits donate a bigger PERCENTAGE of their money to charitable organizations and are more willing to participate in environmental and/or third world projects (maybe it’s that ugly guilt-thing, but who cares?). And money is still the main thing that all these charities need to get anything done. So, obviously, the more money you make, the more you can (and will, apparently) give away. And, sadly, NOT: the less money you make, the less charitable organizations will need, because all the money that you didn’t make will make poverty history. No, no such luck I’m afraid.

  13. Wow flygirl, you put my thoughts into words better than I’ve ever managed to do.

    Get outta my head you! ๐Ÿ˜‰

  14. Wow flygirl, you put my thoughts into words better than I’ve ever managed to do.

    Get outta my head you! ๐Ÿ˜‰

  15. Bono, Bono, Bono, Bono.

    *I’m* tired of Bono, and I *am* Bono.

    Oh, wait, I’m not.

  16. Bono, Bono, Bono, Bono.

    *I’m* tired of Bono, and I *am* Bono.

    Oh, wait, I’m not.

  17. All i can say is, if he makes a difference to help out poverty, how does his own business interests affect his charity work. I don’t remember Bono telling rich people to pay taxes that are high and not to make a profit all in the name of Africa. He is not trying to be Mother Teresa. He is a Celebrity with a lot of money. In most of our eyes, he has TOO much money. But that still does not affect anyone in Africa where he is trying to help promote AIDs awareness.
    What I get concerned with is, when will U2 stop being a band and Bono goes into business full time or politics. I would be more worried about that.
    Does Bono still have the fight the drive to be a lead singer in a rock band? That is my big worry.

  18. All i can say is, if he makes a difference to help out poverty, how does his own business interests affect his charity work. I don’t remember Bono telling rich people to pay taxes that are high and not to make a profit all in the name of Africa. He is not trying to be Mother Teresa. He is a Celebrity with a lot of money. In most of our eyes, he has TOO much money. But that still does not affect anyone in Africa where he is trying to help promote AIDs awareness.
    What I get concerned with is, when will U2 stop being a band and Bono goes into business full time or politics. I would be more worried about that.
    Does Bono still have the fight the drive to be a lead singer in a rock band? That is my big worry.

  19. On a related issue…what do you think about a couple of recent articles about U2 (and The Rolling Stones) moving the band’s business (U2 Limited) to the Netherlands to avoid a change in Irish law in regard to the tax rate given to artists. Really, this is about avoiding taxes…taxes that surely pay for social services in the country U2 calls home. Out of all of U2’s business dealings that have been written about…this one seems to bother me the most. In America, legal tax avoidance is referred to corporate welfare and that is what this smells like to me.

  20. On a related issue…what do you think about a couple of recent articles about U2 (and The Rolling Stones) moving the band’s business (U2 Limited) to the Netherlands to avoid a change in Irish law in regard to the tax rate given to artists. Really, this is about avoiding taxes…taxes that surely pay for social services in the country U2 calls home. Out of all of U2’s business dealings that have been written about…this one seems to bother me the most. In America, legal tax avoidance is referred to corporate welfare and that is what this smells like to me.

  21. I was surprised that no one picked up on that, because it is mentioned in the article, and I found it the more surprising info too.

    Basically it comes down to Ireland previously capping tax paid, and now removing that cap, hence why they move it to the Netherlands where apparently after calculations, it becomes less.

    Thinking about that, that means U2 will indirectly be paying for -my- dole. Rock!

    I kind of like the idea of the Netherlands being stamped as tax break country. That’s ironically funny.

  22. I was surprised that no one picked up on that, because it is mentioned in the article, and I found it the more surprising info too.

    Basically it comes down to Ireland previously capping tax paid, and now removing that cap, hence why they move it to the Netherlands where apparently after calculations, it becomes less.

    Thinking about that, that means U2 will indirectly be paying for -my- dole. Rock!

    I kind of like the idea of the Netherlands being stamped as tax break country. That’s ironically funny.

  23. so, if you wanna do charity work, you should be a bad businessman? *shakes head* People are stupid.

  24. so, if you wanna do charity work, you should be a bad businessman? *shakes head* People are stupid.

  25. My thinking is kind of along the same line as flygirl. Bono stepping up activity in this kind of area coincides with stepping up his activism – almost like the business ventures are financing the charitable ones. As far as moving their tax base to Ireland, Bono’s just one guy out of four there – and the others have never claimed to be Mother Teresa (not that Bono is either ๐Ÿ˜‰ ). I don’t see what the big brouhaha is…

  26. My thinking is kind of along the same line as flygirl. Bono stepping up activity in this kind of area coincides with stepping up his activism – almost like the business ventures are financing the charitable ones. As far as moving their tax base to Ireland, Bono’s just one guy out of four there – and the others have never claimed to be Mother Teresa (not that Bono is either ๐Ÿ˜‰ ). I don’t see what the big brouhaha is…

  27. Oops, I really should proofread web comments – I meant moving their tax base OUT of Ireland. ๐Ÿ™‚

  28. Oops, I really should proofread web comments – I meant moving their tax base OUT of Ireland. ๐Ÿ™‚

  29. I think the business decision to buy into FORBES was not so much for the magazine but its web property. The magazine has close to a 900,000 circulation, its ad revenue is trending down and it’s privately held, so it’s the only real target for a private equity company.

    It also looks like JP Morgan were walking it around the block a couple of times.

    But the business model is to take something that’s well established and make something new out of it via new, consumer driven media. Not an original idea, but it’s all about timing.

    Private equity is usually defined as buying something, taking it private if not so already, fixing it up, and then selling at a profit. The devil’s in the details but Elevation probably got a deal, though they’re probably locked in for enough time to try and make it work. And as minority owners, it could be tougher to sell later.

    Even if (2) Elevation partners sit on the board, the editorial point of view will not change, which is not what it’s known for anyway- it’s FORBES rankings of the world’s richest people etc… Though I suspect that its editorial commentary will have more economic arguments for developing markets in the future ;-o

    U2 set up its many subsidiaries to use any legal means to avoid taxes, its artists royalties were pretty much tax free up to now. Most wealthy individuals will do that, but it’s getting tougher with the EU tax directives. Setting up trusts via the Netherlands is one of the few places that it can be done, for now. (The IKEA fortune is set up via Netherlands as a quasi-charitable trust).

    Making money and more importantly, keeping it, isn’t wrong, it’s a question of what is done with it. With money comes influence- people Bono is trying to influence probably listen better to those who are like them- people who make money.

    Good topic of discussion….

  30. I think the business decision to buy into FORBES was not so much for the magazine but its web property. The magazine has close to a 900,000 circulation, its ad revenue is trending down and it’s privately held, so it’s the only real target for a private equity company.

    It also looks like JP Morgan were walking it around the block a couple of times.

    But the business model is to take something that’s well established and make something new out of it via new, consumer driven media. Not an original idea, but it’s all about timing.

    Private equity is usually defined as buying something, taking it private if not so already, fixing it up, and then selling at a profit. The devil’s in the details but Elevation probably got a deal, though they’re probably locked in for enough time to try and make it work. And as minority owners, it could be tougher to sell later.

    Even if (2) Elevation partners sit on the board, the editorial point of view will not change, which is not what it’s known for anyway- it’s FORBES rankings of the world’s richest people etc… Though I suspect that its editorial commentary will have more economic arguments for developing markets in the future ;-o

    U2 set up its many subsidiaries to use any legal means to avoid taxes, its artists royalties were pretty much tax free up to now. Most wealthy individuals will do that, but it’s getting tougher with the EU tax directives. Setting up trusts via the Netherlands is one of the few places that it can be done, for now. (The IKEA fortune is set up via Netherlands as a quasi-charitable trust).

    Making money and more importantly, keeping it, isn’t wrong, it’s a question of what is done with it. With money comes influence- people Bono is trying to influence probably listen better to those who are like them- people who make money.

    Good topic of discussion….

  31. Picking up where Mika left off, I think that the question of what’s being done with money is important, but equally (if not more) important is what the money does to the person who’s making it. The thing the separates the Bonos and Bill Gateses of the world from other power-money brokers is how they act themselves–if anything, the only way money has changed them is to make them more aware of people who don’t have it and can’t get it, and more determined to help those who don’t start the game on equal footing.

    And the overarching thing to remember about Mr. B, as e points out, is that for all the money he may generate, he donates more of himself in the fight for his cause than anyone with his kind of fortune and fame could reasonbly be expected to. I’m pretty sure that, despite what I’d like to think I’d do if I were in his position, I wouldn’t be nearly the steward he is. And neither would any of his loudest critics, I would imagine.

    Oh, and he also finds time to front a band. Not bad.

  32. Picking up where Mika left off, I think that the question of what’s being done with money is important, but equally (if not more) important is what the money does to the person who’s making it. The thing the separates the Bonos and Bill Gateses of the world from other power-money brokers is how they act themselves–if anything, the only way money has changed them is to make them more aware of people who don’t have it and can’t get it, and more determined to help those who don’t start the game on equal footing.

    And the overarching thing to remember about Mr. B, as e points out, is that for all the money he may generate, he donates more of himself in the fight for his cause than anyone with his kind of fortune and fame could reasonbly be expected to. I’m pretty sure that, despite what I’d like to think I’d do if I were in his position, I wouldn’t be nearly the steward he is. And neither would any of his loudest critics, I would imagine.

    Oh, and he also finds time to front a band. Not bad.

  33. ‘I don’t believe in riches but you should see where I live… I believe in love.’

    I think I like Bono’s approach to fighting poverty, which is generating wealth instead of simply distributing money.

    Cheers…

  34. ‘I don’t believe in riches but you should see where I live… I believe in love.’

    I think I like Bono’s approach to fighting poverty, which is generating wealth instead of simply distributing money.

    Cheers…

  35. “And to top the bill, thereโ€™s that damn โ€œU2 Towerโ€ no one in Dublin really seem to want, other than some politicians and the band themselves.”

    Did U2 want the tower to begin with? As I recall, they originally hoped to save the Hanover Qauy site from redevelopment.

  36. “And to top the bill, thereโ€™s that damn โ€œU2 Towerโ€ no one in Dublin really seem to want, other than some politicians and the band themselves.”

    Did U2 want the tower to begin with? As I recall, they originally hoped to save the Hanover Qauy site from redevelopment.

  37. I too try to do make the world a little bit beeter, donate money AND try whatever I can to avoid paying taxes.

    I just do it on a much smaller scale ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Can’t blame them …. but the papers have to be filled every day and U2 still sells…

  38. I too try to do make the world a little bit beeter, donate money AND try whatever I can to avoid paying taxes.

    I just do it on a much smaller scale ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Can’t blame them …. but the papers have to be filled every day and U2 still sells…

  39. And can someone please tell me where I can purchase those line breaks you’re all using above???

  40. And can someone please tell me where I can purchase those line breaks you’re all using above???

  41. And a packet of line breaks just for you roeli :-]

    @Kelly. No idea, really whether they want it or not. Only a few people that can answer that question, and I don’t really talk to any of them on a regular basis (not on an irregular one either, come to think of it). I assumed that if they didn’t want it, they would have just moved on at this point.

  42. And a packet of line breaks just for you roeli :-]

    @Kelly. No idea, really whether they want it or not. Only a few people that can answer that question, and I don’t really talk to any of them on a regular basis (not on an irregular one either, come to think of it). I assumed that if they didn’t want it, they would have just moved on at this point.

  43. the press disturbs me. they have a moratorium on the band’s children, the issues surrounding the postponement, medical concerns, but if they can find any writer to bastardize any other subject concerning them or their intentions or put a slant or conspiracy connection on their business and music dealings, it’s open season.

    i’m tired of hearing they’re rich and famous so are free open targets. i’m poor and not, but were this done to me, i’d have some people in court for invasion of privacy and defamation.

    maybe the cry of hypocrisy should be for the press, not them.

    everyone’s already said much of what i would say, and i could pour on the sychophancy here. but these men have done more good for more years and held their heads high thru all that has been slung at them by both fans and critics alike. it’s not going to stop, and the press will always be louder about their assessment of what these men are doing wrong than by what they are doing right. it’s like reporting today’s history based on “facts” from CBS/NBC/ABC/CNN/VH1 – sources are dodgy at best, unsubstantiated, and “reliable” (sic).

    i’ve been on their official fansite the last few days, and there is no mercy on these subjects inspite of any real reasons surrounding them, which really are none of anyone’s business i feel. facts are becoming ridiculous. and one fact i was told was that Bono was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, America, and they weren’t kidding, they read it in an article! All are american citizens according to another source i’m told. the mad crap that people believe just because journalists write it. no one cares how these men or their families or business associates feel, just that they are open targets. how sad.

    what breaks my heart is that as a fan, the chasm,the security, the velvet ropes between people they can trust and not trust are becoming longer and wider everyday. i’m a new fan, just this tour, and that breaks my heart.

  44. the press disturbs me. they have a moratorium on the band’s children, the issues surrounding the postponement, medical concerns, but if they can find any writer to bastardize any other subject concerning them or their intentions or put a slant or conspiracy connection on their business and music dealings, it’s open season.

    i’m tired of hearing they’re rich and famous so are free open targets. i’m poor and not, but were this done to me, i’d have some people in court for invasion of privacy and defamation.

    maybe the cry of hypocrisy should be for the press, not them.

    everyone’s already said much of what i would say, and i could pour on the sychophancy here. but these men have done more good for more years and held their heads high thru all that has been slung at them by both fans and critics alike. it’s not going to stop, and the press will always be louder about their assessment of what these men are doing wrong than by what they are doing right. it’s like reporting today’s history based on “facts” from CBS/NBC/ABC/CNN/VH1 – sources are dodgy at best, unsubstantiated, and “reliable” (sic).

    i’ve been on their official fansite the last few days, and there is no mercy on these subjects inspite of any real reasons surrounding them, which really are none of anyone’s business i feel. facts are becoming ridiculous. and one fact i was told was that Bono was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, America, and they weren’t kidding, they read it in an article! All are american citizens according to another source i’m told. the mad crap that people believe just because journalists write it. no one cares how these men or their families or business associates feel, just that they are open targets. how sad.

    what breaks my heart is that as a fan, the chasm,the security, the velvet ropes between people they can trust and not trust are becoming longer and wider everyday. i’m a new fan, just this tour, and that breaks my heart.

  45. Philanthropy is all nice and well, strong business and ecenomic growth helps the impoverished more than charitable handout.
    I guarantee Bill Gates has done more for society by building Microsoft into the mega-billion dollar company it is, than the few hundred million he’s giving away to select charities.
    It baffles me how people actually think that earning a lot of money is somehow necessarily a symptom of greed.

    Think of the jobs a corporation like U2 has created. Think of the advances in the visual arts and digital media they’ve helped pioneer and bring to the masses.

    Bottom line is. Four high school kids were smart enough to become the biggest band in the world. Not only did they provide livelihoods for themselves, but created the wealth for countless other people. And that my friends is a good thing.

  46. Philanthropy is all nice and well, strong business and ecenomic growth helps the impoverished more than charitable handout.
    I guarantee Bill Gates has done more for society by building Microsoft into the mega-billion dollar company it is, than the few hundred million he’s giving away to select charities.
    It baffles me how people actually think that earning a lot of money is somehow necessarily a symptom of greed.

    Think of the jobs a corporation like U2 has created. Think of the advances in the visual arts and digital media they’ve helped pioneer and bring to the masses.

    Bottom line is. Four high school kids were smart enough to become the biggest band in the world. Not only did they provide livelihoods for themselves, but created the wealth for countless other people. And that my friends is a good thing.

  47. As much as I’m deeply interested in all of what they do, and as much I will never criticize anything they do; can we just leave them alone? If they moved to The Netherlands to pay less taxes; don’t they have the right to do so?
    Don’t we just love their music, and can’t wait for the new album? Just let them be!

  48. As much as I’m deeply interested in all of what they do, and as much I will never criticize anything they do; can we just leave them alone? If they moved to The Netherlands to pay less taxes; don’t they have the right to do so?
    Don’t we just love their music, and can’t wait for the new album? Just let them be!

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