35 Famous Accountants to Surprise & Inspire

When you think of an accountant, you probably have a very specific image in your mind about the work. But this list of famous accountants and celebrity accountants will blow that image away! These famous CPAs have either turned their hands to a creative career, increased their wealth ten-fold, or made accounting history. The ones that may surprise you the most are the ones who used their skills as an accountant to build wealth and fame!

Celebrity Accountants

1. Mick Jagger

It’s hard to imagine, but Mick Jagger was an avid student of finance and accounting at the London School of Economics. Apparently, this was his fall back plan in case his side gig singing in a band didn’t work out. This just goes to show how accountants—even would-be accountants—are very practical-minded!

2. Robert Plant

You can probably agree that the British rock band Led Zeppelin wouldn’t have been the same without lead singer Robert Plant, but that’s almost the way it turned out. Plant was two weeks into a career as a chartered accountant before he bailed to go back to college and pursue music, of all things.

3. Bob Newhart

Bob Newhart’s droll sense of humor entertained fans for decades. But before his days of stand up and acting in his self-named TV show, he worked as an accountant at gypsum company giant, United States Gypsum. Apparently, Bob Newhart was destined to succeed at anything he put his hand to.

4. John Grisham

John Grisham has spent decades behind a desk, but not always writing courtroom novels. Nope. He acquired a BS from Mississippi State University and set his sights on a career as a tax lawyer, before eventually turning to trial law. His real-life tax and legal experience makes his novels incredibly realistic and, quite frankly, fun to read.

5. Janet Jackson

It may come as a shock to learn that Janet Jackson studied to become an accountant in her early days at college. It’s very likely that, since she has such a natural instinct for showmanship, she would have made headlines even then.

6. Kenny G

Saxophonist Kenny G may have been motivated to keep his long locks trimmed had he pursued his planned career as an accountant. Graduating from the University of Washington with degree in hand, he was all set to crunch numbers until a record deal enabled him to spend his life in music.

7. John D. Rockefeller

Before founding Standard Oil, John D. Rockefeller worked as an accountant. He started out as a bookkeeper at the tender age of 16, working hard and long into the wee hours of the night. This experience served him well as he eventually became an accountant and, subsequently, one of the richest men in history.

8. Thomas J. Pickard

Thomas J. Pickard is well-known as the former director of the FBI. He graduated from Saint Francis College in Brooklyn, New York, with a BBA in Accounting and went on to obtain his MBA in taxation. He is a CPA, one of many reasons that made him so desirable as a top choice as director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

9. Eddie Izzard

Eddie Izzard, a hugely famous British comedian, was once a hugely failed accounting student. Izzard attended the University of Sheffield as the son of an accountant. He flunked all of his tests, however, and was unable to convince the institution to permit him to retake them.

10. J.P. Morgan

J.P. Morgan, a legendary banker and financier, was one of the most powerful bankers of his day. Morgan, who was born in 1837, started his career as an accountant in 1857. After working for many businesses, he went it alone in 1895 and founded J.P. Morgan & Co. His company's assets grew to be worth billions of dollars over time.

11. Kevin Kennedy

Kevin Kennedy, a former Major League Baseball manager and Fox Sports and ESPN broadcast personality, is another unusual accountant. Kennedy had previously created a reputation for himself as the manager of the Texas Rangers and the Boston Red Sox, earning the nickname "Skipper" from his Fox colleagues after joining the network in 1999. However, he, like the others on this list, had a second identity as an accountant. Kennedy, on the other hand, didn't let his accounting skills go unused. While still coaching in the lower levels, he reportedly assisted his players in completing their tax forms for a little extra cash.

12. Gibby Haynes

Gibby Haynes is the lead vocalist of a cult psychedelic band, as well as a former accountant. Surprisingly, Haynes had a promising career as an accountant until he discovered his wilder side. The singer was selected "Accounting Student of the Year" at Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas, where he studied accounting. He also got a position at Peat Marwick, one of the area's most prestigious accounting companies.

13. D’Lo Brown

When it comes to unexpected accountants, D'Lo Brown, a former professional wrestler and current TNA Wrestling road agent, is hard to beat. Brown, who was born Accie Julius Connor in 1970, rose to prominence as a professional wrestler for the World Wrestling Federation (and later, World Wrestling Entertainment) between 1997 and 2003.

14. Arthur Blank

Arthur Blank, a billionaire businessman and philanthropist, has a variety of financial skills to assist him manage his wealth. After graduating from Babson College in 1963 with a degree in Business Administration and Accounting, he began working for Arthur Young and Company as a senior accountant. Blank's current net worth is believed to be $1.3 billion, making him one of the wealthiest ex-accountants in history.

15. Julia Sweeney

Best known for her long stint as a Saturday Night Live cast member in the early 1990s, Julia Sweeney is also known from her work in hit films, The Coneheads and Pulp Fiction. Surprisingly, though, Sweeney previously worked as an accountant for Columbia Pictures and United Artists after studying economics at the University of Washington.

16. Lee Van Cleef

Lee Van Cleef was a character actor best remembered for his performances in classic westerns such as The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly and For a Few Dollars More. Before that, he also worked as an accountant and served in the US Navy as a minesweeper.

17. Peter Falk

Falk trained as a certified public accountant and worked as an efficiency specialist for the State of Connecticut's Budget Bureau before finding success in acting. Peter Falk had a lengthy career in television and cinema, but he is most remembered for his portrayal as Columbo's rumpled investigator.

18. Walter Diemer

You've probably enjoyed more than your fair share of “Double Bubble” bubble gum. But did you know that this special bubble gum was created due to the efforts of a former accountant? Walter Diemer worked as an accountant for a business named Fleer, which experimented with gum bases. Diemer accidentally produced a sort of gum that could stretch without breaking.

19. Chuck Liddell

Chuck Liddell is a certified accountant who is credited with helping to popularize mixed martial arts (MMA). In 1995, he graduated from California Polytechnic University with a bachelor's degree in business and accounting.

Famous Accountants

20. Alexandre Bilodeau

Alexandre Bilodeau, a Canadian hero from the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver, won a gold medal in men's moguls on home soil. He added a second gold medal to his collection four years later in Sochi, as he successfully defended his championship. Bilodeau is a KPMG accountant who studied accounting at Concordia University.

21. Navdeep Bains

Navdeep Bains is the former Minister of Innovation, Science, and Economic Development in Canada. He is a member of the Canadian Parliament. He has an MBA from the University of Windsor and is a CPA Ontario FCPA, FCMA credential holder.

22. Josiah Wedgwood

In 1772, Josiah Wedgwood invented the first accurate system for tracking bottom-line expenses and earnings, making him the father of cost accounting. During a period of economic crisis, Wedgwood put his system to the test on his own ceramic business. It was so successful that it revealed his top clerk's embezzlement scheme. Wedgwood's pottery company weathered the time's economic crisis and continues to sell classic ceramics and crystal-ware to millions of shops throughout the world today. The importance of effective accounting in ensuring a company's long-term viability cannot be overstated.

23.Frank J. Wilson

Al Capone, a mobster from Chicago, is known across the world for controlling organized crime in the United States during the Prohibition era. He never had any bank accounts and never filed a tax return, although he was able to earn up to $100 million in secret. A valiant crew of Internal Revenue accountants, led by Frank J. Wilson, combed through more than two million financial documents to eventually bring Capone to justice behind bars.

24. Bernadine Coles Gines

Bernadine Coles Gines graduated from New York University with an MBA in 1947 and went on to become the first African American female CPA in New York in 1954. Ruth Coles Harris, her sister, became Virginia's first African American female CPA in 1963.

25. Bert N. Mitchell

In 1965, Bert N. Mitchell became the 100th African American Certified Public Accountant, eventually founding Mitchell & Titus LLP, the country's biggest black-owned CPA business.

BONUS 10 – Big 4 Namesakes

If you are interested in accounting, you may be familiar with what is known as the Big Four accounting firms. Deloitte, Ernst & Young, KPMG and PwC are the four biggest accounting firms in the world. Their current brand names reflect a number of combinations & mergers, but at their core they reflect the names of some of the founders. While the namesakes may not be recognizable on their own, together they have certainly impacted accounting and the world:

  1. William Welch Deloitte
  2. Alwin & Theodore Ernst
  3. Arthur Young
  4. Piet Klijnveld
  5. William Peat
  6. James Marwick
  7. Reinhard Goerdeler
  8. Samuel Price
  9. Edwin Waterhouse
  10. William Cooper

Are you considering becoming an accountant – whether famous or not? Monroe offers Accounting & Business degree programs at various levels to fit anyone: Associate, Bachelor & Master. Request more information from Monroe College or apply today!