David Choe is an American artist, graphic novelist, and entrepreneur who has built an improbable fortune mostly through his early backing of Facebook. His rags-to-riches story is one of incredible luck and risk-taking resulting in an estimated net worth north of $200 million.
Choe first gained fame in the early 2000s within small alternative and street art circles for his provocative, pop-inspired murals, “dirty style” illustrations, and his confessional graphic novel Slow Jams. His work blends youthful exuberance with graphic sexuality, angst, and anger.
But it was his penchant for gambling large sums of cash that unexpectedly paved the way for his current wealth.
Gambling His Way Into Facebook
The pivotal moment came in 2005 when the graffiti artist was asked to paint colorful psychedelic murals on the walls of Facebook’s first Silicon Valley headquarters. Rather than ask for cash payment which was standard, the entrepreneurial Choe negotiated to be paid in stock options from the fledgling social media company.
At the time, it seemed like a risky bet for questionable compensation given that Facebook was still an unproven small start-up. But Choe’s personality was always inclined to embrace high risks for big potential payoffs, not unlike a poker or blackjack player.
As Facebook began its meteoric rise following its 2011 IPO towards becoming a tech giant worth hundreds of billions, so too did the value of Choe’s stock options skyrocket. From his early Facebook stake, now valued at around 0.25%, Choe is estimated to have earned over $200 million. Not bad for a few weeks of spray painting office walls.
Also read: Eric Persson Net Worth
Big Vegas Wins Fuel Wealth
Choe’s penchant for gambling began early. As a troubled teenager growing up in Los Angeles, he would play blackjack in Las Vegas underage using his parents’ emergency credit card to fund weekend getaways. Even then, the amounts were quite large, ranging from $5,000 to $10,000 per trip.
As he became successful with his edgy artwork and Slow Jams graphic novel in the early 2000s, Choe continued gambling with bigger stakes enabled by his growing creative income. With characteristic brashness, he claims that a series of successful bets in Las Vegas earned him millions more at the tables playing blackjack and betting on sporting events like the Super Bowl and March Madness.
Figures are not definitive, but there are documented accounts of him winning nearly $1 million over one weekend and then returning months later to win multi-millions more. Such sums enabled Choe to purchase a large Los Angeles mansion reportedly valued at $4.25 million along with other extravagant purchases.
Of course, big swings often also result in big losses as Choe openly admits. Just months after purchasing his mansion, he claims to have lost nearly $3 million gambling over another reckless weekend. While owing massive tax payments on his Facebook windfall, Choe once infamously bet and lost $200,000 against a high-stakes poker player just to impress a girl.
So while Choe’s net worth may in truth be lower given speculated gambling losses, his early-stage Facebook options ensure he remains fabulously wealthy off his initial artistic investments.
Leveraging Success Into New Creative Ventures
Having “won the lottery” in his own words from the Facebook deal, Choe has leveraged that success into creating and exploring more passion projects across art and various media platforms.
He continues to produce and sell his signature controversial artworks that now sell for upwards of $100,000 in galleries and auctions around the world. Collectors are drawn to his brash, dangerous, eroticized American street culture themes.
Choe has also dabbled extensively in varieties of animation and digital media when not painting large murals at music festivals and nightclubs. His profane art history video series Color Like a Pirate was popular on YouTube. He created an animated series based on his graphic novel characters called David Choe’s Happy Place.
More recently, David Choe launched his own unfiltered podcast in 2021 called DVDASA featuring candid, rambling conversations with artists, adult film stars, and eccentric personalities often lasting 3 hours or more. It quickly gained a cult following and likely earns decent income from live advertisements and fan donations.
True to his gambling-centric lifestyle, Choe also created his own adults-only card game in 2013 appropriately called Sloppy Seconds filled with explicit illustrations and phrases. The self-published game was quite profitable over several editions.
Still Just Getting Started
Now well into his 40s, David Choe shows no signs of slowing down or tempering the wild, risk-taking approach to life that yielded his massive net worth.
He continues to enthusiastically produce across paint, animation, video, games, and podcasts for devoted niche audiences attracted to his authentic raw perspective. He still loves to gamble with passion pursuing the emotional highs and lows.
With more creative pursuits on the horizon and wide-ranging business investments, David Choe has positioned himself to continue growing his wealth as an artist, showman, and professional gambler for years to come. His rags-to-riches story illustrates how embracing bold risks with skill and timing can sometimes produce arts-fueled fortunes beyond one’s wildest expectations.
FAQs about David Choe’s net worth:
1. What is David Choe’s net worth?
David Choe’s net worth is estimated to be over $200 million. The bulk of his net worth comes from the fortune he earned from Facebook stock he acquired in exchange for painting their offices back when Facebook was still a fledgling startup. His stake is estimated to be around 0.25% which was worth over $200 million at the time of Facebook’s IPO.
2. How did David Choe earn most of his net worth?
In 2005, Choe was commissioned to paint colorful murals on the walls of Facebook’s first Silicon Valley headquarters. Instead of taking cash payment which was standard, Choe negotiated to be paid in stock options from the startup. It proved incredibly valuable as Facebook grew into a multibillion dollar company. His early equity stake earned him over $200 million as the value soared.
3. Did he earn any of his wealth as an artist?
Yes. Prior to the Facebook windfall, Choe earned strong income selling provocative art and from his successful 2008 graphic novel Slow Jams which commanded high prices in galleries. The popularity of his work is what brought the Facebook opportunity in the first place. He continues to earn healthy income just from selling unique artworks.
4. How much has he earned from gambling?
While figures are unclear, Choe has earned many millions from high stakes gambling on blackjack, sports events, and poker over the past 15+ years. However he has also lost many millions. One weekend alone he claims to have won close to $1 million in Vegas but gave a lot of it back in later losses. His net worth would undoubtedly be higher if not for his reckless gambling habits over the years.
5. What major purchases has he made?
With his Facebook and gambling winnings, Choe purchased a mansion in Los Angeles reportedly valued around $4.25 million. He also collects luxury vehicles. However just months after buying the mansion, his gambling debts forced him to take out loans using the house as collateral. This illustrates the extreme financial swings common around compulsive gamblers.
6. Does he have any other successful business ventures?
Yes. In recent years Choe has earned strong income from online animation, popular YouTube video series he created, his explicit card game Sloppy Seconds game, and his cult hit podcast DVDASA. He also continues to earn solid sponsorship revenue from his edgy murals painted at various music festivals and events.
At only in his 40s, David Choe remains a prolific, innovative artist and serial entrepreneur who will likely continue growing his wealth across art and media in the years ahead.