Streaming

Steve Banerjee's Wife Irene Sold The Chippendales Brand Prior To Her Death

She inherited the male strip club empire following her husband’s arrest.

Annaleigh Ashford plays Irene Banerjee in 'Welcome to Chippendales' via Hulu's press site
Erin Simkin/Hulu

Hulu’s true-crime dramatization, Welcome to Chippendales, follows the story of how founder Somen “Steve” Banerjee let nothing stand in the way of his male-stripping empire. When the lengths he went to maintain his success turned violent, Banerjee (Kumail Nanjiani) eventually ended up behind bars on multiple charges, including several for his role in orchestrating the 1987 murder-for-hire plot against Chippendales choreographer Nick De Noia (Murray Bartlett). Before Banerjee died by suicide in his prison cell in October 1994, the businessman transferred ownership of Chippendales to his wife, Irene (Annaleigh Ashford).

According to The U.S. Sun, she reportedly sold the brand for $2.5 million, though it’s unclear exactly when the company changed hands. However, a Chippendales brand representative recently confirmed to Entrepreneur that “a private equity of owners” has run the brand since 2000, and Irene died of cancer in 2001. Later that year, Chippendales closed its New York location.

Among those who have been listed as investors over the years are former boy band manager Lou Pearlman, per The New Yorker, as well as Kevin Denberg, the latter whom the brand credits with beginning “a new model for the sexiest live show in the world,” in part by taking the show to Las Vegas in 2002. According to his LinkedIn, Denberg left his nearly two-decade-long role as Chippendales managing partner in December 2020.

Erin Simkin/Hulu

Brand reps also noted to Entrepreneur that Chippendales is still “thriving” today, citing a permanent Las Vegas show — in a $10 million custom complex, no less — as well as a world-touring dance troupe. “The Chippendales are STILL performing to sold-out houses at our home at the Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas (for over 20 years), as well as our domestic and international tours,” the rep noted in a statement.

Though the Banerjee family is no longer involved in Chippendales, Steve and Irene’s son, Christian, founded his own male revue, Strippendales, in 2020. “Nobody was brave enough to send out male strippers. And nobody monetized it like my father did,” the 31 year old said in a March 2022 interview with the New York Post. “I’ve always had this connection with my dad, even though he wasn’t living, through Chippendales. I think he’d want to push me in this direction. He’d want to continue his legacy through his son.”

However, his late parents didn’t leave behind the fortune they’d promised either. “My mother used to say, ‘You don’t have to work a day in your life. There’s money in Swiss bank accounts,’ ” Christian recalled. But when lawyers went to recover the funds in Switzerland, there was nothing, according to The Post. Added Christian, “The only person who would know is my dad, and he’s dead.”