Bringing the human calculus onto the balance sheet always gets messy, but while it’s clear that the southern rock icon lived at the scale that fit him, the biggest meal ticket stayed on the other side of the split.
Strip away all the algorithms and financial planning really revolves around discovering just how strongly your client weighs money over other life priorities. On that basis, the people advising the late Gregg Allman probably made some tough decisions over the decades, sacrificing the smart career choices to let the client follow his groove.
After all, no strictly dollar-driven life plan would ever give a swamp-rocking piano player — no matter how legendary he is in his native land — the leeway to divorce a bona fide superstar like Cher in the first place.
In the most optimistic scenario, a half century on the road might have left Allman with $5 to $10 million in accumulated wealth to show for nine gold and four platinum albums. A more realistic estimate is probably much lower.
His ex-wife may have earned as much as $300 million across her career thanks to the same number of hit albums, the Oscar-winning Hollywood career and endless time headlining in Las Vegas. Occasional rumors notwithstanding, it’s extremely likely that she managed to keep a whole lot more of that cash than Allman did over the years.
On a pure financial basis, marrying Cher was the greatest thing Allman ever did and letting her pull the plug on their marriage was his greatest mistake.
He could have died with half of that massive fortune to his name instead of a few million dollars for his kids to split. But real life is what gets in the way of the balance sheet, and realistically speaking, a world where he’d stayed with Cher would have strained his character and hers beyond the breaking point.
Dramatically unequal partners
Similar math governs any relationship where one spouse has all the earning power. Even when the less financially dominant partner is miserable, the money tends to be good enough to maintain the domestic status quo beyond the point where love dies.
The amount of time that the relationship can continue on purely fiscal terms depends on the personalities involved and the amount of money at stake. A more volatile spouse will leave early, especially if it doesn’t mean sacrificing a whole lot of lifestyle in the process.
Either way, Cher never really let herself get trapped with a gold digger, so if Allman were the type to chase dollar signs, he would have needed to work to keep the relationship vibrant and his name on the accounts.
What really happened, of course, was that she pulled the plug when his drug use deteriorated. After that, he married four more times, racking up significant alimony and child support along the way.
Maybe he was ultimately satisfied with the way his life turned out. That’s for the people closest to him to decide. Given the obvious delight the youngest kids gave him, it’s fairly clear that the decades after Cher weren’t bad at all.
And from all appearances, he had a lot of fun. While his highest-earning years hit a wall roughly when her career was shifting from folk-singing goofball to full-fledged diva, fans kept paying to see him.
The problem, of course, was that splitting a tour or a hit record six or seven ways isn’t really the fastest way to rack up a huge fortune. That’s probably why he went solo through the late 1980s, but even then, the split with a backing band was pretty thin compared to Cher pocketing the bulk of her ticket sales in Vegas and around the world.
She chose to work alone. He liked to jam with his brother and their friends.
Her only known vices are outrageous fashion, motorcycles and younger men. He had some expensive habits that tend to drain any bank account — and left him on the sidelines while the scale of recording contracts created superstars.
Granted, Allman evolved with the industry just like Cher did. Toward the end, he was anchoring big music festivals and probably doing well on the business side as well as getting his cut of the performance fees.
But by that point, he was old and sick, making money keeping his legacy audience happy. While his costs were paid, he wasn’t getting extremely rich.
Not a bad life
That’s okay. Allman leaves behind a bunch of kids who play roughly his flavor of music — with one or two exceptions — and a comfortable lifestyle down in Georgia.
The kids probably won’t inherit a lot, but their own needs seem to be relatively modest. They’re more or less cut from the Allman mold.
Gregg himself made a fair amount of money, wasted almost all of it and left some cool cars, the music and a lot of stories behind.
When he was topping the charts, it was a different world. Back then, it took three members of the band to afford a $225-a-month rental mansion, and even then they ended up getting evicted.
The band ended up buying the property and turning it into a non-profit museum to store their legacy. The real estate is appraised at around $1 million and the memorabilia may be worth another $2.5 million.
Cher booked that much on one moderately successful movie. That’s the difference of scale we’re talking about here.
But the money really gets abstract for most people beyond a high-net-worth baseline — maybe $3 to $5 million and the lifestyle it supports — so it’s really unclear how much happier the extra wealth makes Cher or how much regret we could realistically expect a Gregg Allman to feel over losing it.
Cher works so hard because she’s driven. Sonny left her with less than nothing in the divorce. She’ll never go back there.
Allman already lived like a rock star. Adding a few zeroes to the balance sheet wouldn’t have changed that outcome much at all. He lived and died on his own terms. His kids will do the same.
He never seriously approached Cher about getting back together. He had enough. If you have clients who regret not staying in a bad relationship or reaching for something better, he might be the example that convinces them otherwise.