Bill Cosby’s Value Demise

By Jill StarbuckPellegrino & Associates

More than fifty years ago, one of the most famous comedians of our time was just beginning his career. Bill Cosby’s career began in the early 60s with stand-up comedy and a starring role in I Spy, a drama television series. But his real claim to fame began in the 1980s with the widely popular television series The Cosby Show, which was based on material from his stand-up comedy acts. The show aired for eight seasons and received a host of achievements including Emmy awards, Golden Globe awards, NCAA Image awards, a Peabody award, and People’s Choice awards. Decades later, the sitcom continues to air and DVD releases for the seasons still sell today. Along with the stand-up comedy acts and the highly successful sitcom, Cosby has appeared in various films and other sitcoms. He has hosted a game show and a kids’ show. Today, he continues to perform stand-up comedy and has many projects in the works.

Cosby’s career and personal life portray him as a nice, fun, approachable, and loving man. He keeps his comedy material clean so that a family could be comfortable attending his show. In real life, he is a family man with several children and has been married about as long as the span of his career. In addition to his acting and comedy career, Cosby is an advocate for education, creating his own cartoon series with Fat Albert and The Cosby Kids and Little Bill, serving on various educational boards, and delivering speaking engagements. His fight for education and morals further make him “America’s Dad.”

As America’s Dad, the recent rape allegations from as many as 20 women come as a huge shock to the public. While Cosby has yet to be indicted, and may never be, the sheer confusion and shock of these allegations creates a negative perception in the eyes of the public. As a celebrity, what the public perceives is what counts the most when it comes to value. Whether guilty or not, the damage has been done. It is unlikely that Cosby will be able to fully recover from this. While the public often forgives celebrities who suffer from addiction, when it comes to sexual offenses, the public is less forgiving. Take for instance Michael Jackson and Penn State’s Joe Paterno where allegations followed them to their deaths. It is likely that Cosby will face the same demise.

Whether Cosby is guilty or not, the public is too confused and hurt to let it go. Both doubters and believers exist, but the image portrayed by Cosby for over fifty years versus the sexual abuse allegations (by many women) he now faces is just too much to comprehend. Further, many other factors in play right now are not helping the situation. For instance, it doesn’t help that Cosby publicly admitted to an affair in the past. Nor does it help that the media implies that the Cosby team is investigating each accuser in the hopes of digging up dirt to make them unreliable resources. In addition, Cosby’s silence makes him appear guilty to some people. Also, the fact that educational institutions dropped him immediately, scheduled shows have been cancelled, and other projects have been put on hold indicate that he is guilty or at the very least that his image has been tainted.

Currently, Cosby’s net worth is $400 million.[1]However, it is likely that his net worth may fall or become stagnant at this point. More than likely it will fall because the demand for his presence will be far lower than he has ever experienced, and he will have to pay lawyers and public relations experts to fight all of the accusations in court or otherwise. While a celebrity’s value naturally starts to fall because of death, ill health, or other problems that face aging celebrities, Cosby’s is likely falling based on accusations and public perception. Unfortunately, at his age, he may not have time to overcome the negativity to stop his value from falling.

[1] http://www.celebritynetworth.com/richest-celebrities/actors/bill-cosby-net-worth/

ICLEF • Indiana Continuing Legal Education Forum, Indianapolis, IN

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