Accounting: What a rockstar, comedian, and MMA fighter have in common


Franciscan friar and mathematician, Luca Pacioli, is often regarded as “The Father of Accounting.” But accounting records actually date back more than 7,000 years, with a vast amount of artifacts found in Mesopotamia, where early farmers invented a system consisting of small tokens to count and account for the goods they produced. 

Pacioli’s contribution lies in documenting and developing double-entry accounting. Released in 1494, it served as the world’s only guide to the credit-and-debit system. And with it, Pacioli sealed his place in history. Still today, the method helps to ensure accurate financial records and reduces errors and fraudulent activity. 

But here’s a different list of famous accounting-related figures. They’re all household names in their respective fields, but their accounting connections may be lesser known facts among fans and supporters. 


Accounting degree holders 

John Grisham, author

When he arrived at Mississippi State University in 1975, life wasn’t great for the would-be novelist. He had transferred between several schools, changed his major three times in three semesters, and lost so many hours that no one could determine how many credits he actually had. When he finally graduated in 1977, Grisham received a B.S. in accounting. 

Bob Newhart, comedian

In his 1988 biography, the funnyman said that if he didn’t dabble in comedy, he’d still be an accountant. Newhart even worked for two years as an accountant for USG Corporation, which specializes in manufacturing construction materials. “I didn’t say to myself, ‘Oh, here’s a great void to fill. I’ll be a balding ex-accountant who specializes in low-key humor.’ That’s simply what I was,” he said this about his career.

Chuck ‘The Iceman’ Liddell, mixed martial artist

Often credited for helping to popularize the sport, the Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) and Ultimate Fighting Champion (UFC) fighter received his B.A. in business and accounting in 1995. Liddell held the most knockouts record, seven of which were consecutive. He retired in 2010 and was the UFC’s Vice President of Business Development for seven years. 


Almost accountants

Mick Jagger, musician

It’s probably hard imagining the Rolling Stones frontman as anything other than the Rolling Stones frontman. But once upon a time, Mick Jagger was a business and accounting student at the London School of Economics on a government grant before committing to his music career.  

Robert Plant, musician

In the case of the lead singer and lyricist of Led Zeppelin, it was his father who wanted him to become a chartered accountant. He tried it out at King Edward VI Grammar School for Boys but found himself abandoning his studies in just two weeks, switching to pursue music full time instead. 


Famous accountants

Cynthia Cooper

After growing increasingly suspicious of internal accounting entries, Cooper and her team investigated in secret and unearthed more than $3 billion in fraud at WorldCom, the largest fraud scandal in U.S. history at the time. When asked about her persistence for going against her then-employer, she said, “I think a combination of values—instinct based on years of public accounting and internal audit experience, fraud training, and an obligation I felt to shareholders—all came into play in my decision.”  

John Pierpont Morgan

Morgan always had a knack for numbers and attended The English High School of Boston, which specializes in mathematics to prepare students for careers in commerce. By 1900, Morgan worked with 24 different companies responsible for half of the country’s railroads, totaling more than 100,000 miles of track. We know of his legacy today as JPMorgan Chase & Co, the oldest and largest financial institution in the U.S., with more than $2 trillion in assets. 

Frank John Wilson

Dubbed the “Father of Forensic Accounting,” Wilson took on a six-year investigation to put Al Capone behind bars. The American gangster never had bank accounts to avoid paper trails, but that was no match for Wilson’s patience in combing through 2 million documents to find enough evidence to indict Capone on 23 counts of tax fraud. 


Sorry, Ms. Jackson?

According to 2018 findings, the number of accountants and auditors in the U.S. stood at 1.26 million, while the forecasted revenue was at $156 billion. We throw into the mix Ms. Janet Jackson, whose net worth is an estimated $190 million. Why? She is frequently quoted saying, “If I wasn’t singing, I’d probably be, probably an accountant.” We scoured the internet to find the source but without success. Do you know where it came from?


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