Oprah Winfrey earned an estimated $165 million US in 2011-12, putting her atop the Forbes.com list of the world’s highest-paid celebrities for the fourth year in a row.
She may have given up her day-time talk show and be struggling to gain an audience with her new television network, but Winfrey still has a bevy of Harpo productions raking in the cash. Among them are syndicated TV shows such as Dr. Phil, Rachael Ray and The Dr. Oz Show as well as her still-popular O magazine.
Forbes highest-paid celebrities
- Oprah Winfrey, $165 million.
- Michael Bay, $160 million.
- Steven Spielberg, $130 million.
- Jerry Bruckheimer, $115 million.
- Dr. Dre, $110 million.
- Tyler Perry, $105 million.
- Howard Stern, $95 million.
- James Patterson, $94 million.
- George Lucas, $90 million.
- Simon Cowell, $90 million.
Winfrey is taking to the airwaves again with shows like Oprah’s Lifeclass and Oprah’s Next Chapter in an effort to boost ratings at OWN, Forbes notes, but the magazine estimates she will not remain the highest-paid celebrity in coming years. That's because it plans to revise its method of ranking to exclude earnings from syndication.
Movie director Michael Bay earned only $5 million less than Winfrey, largely on the back of box-office smash Transformers: Dark of the Moon, which also led to toy sales and other spinoffs. Forbes estimates Bay earned $160 million between May 2011 and May 2012.
There are an impressive array of movie and TV producers in the Forbes top 10, among them Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Jerry Bruckheimer and Simon Cowell. Music producer Dr. Dre was a surprise addition to this year’s list, coming in at No. 5 with income of $110 million because of the sale of part of his Beats by Dr. Dre headphones business to handset maker HTC.
Spielberg is estimated to have brought in $130 million with films War Horse and The Adventures of Tintin, Dreamworks TV series Smash and his cut of Universal theme parks.
Bruckheimer had a box office hit with the latest Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, while Lucas contines to get residuals from the Star Wars franchise, as well as from his Industrial Light and Magic, which provides effects for movies like Battleship and The Avengers.
Forbes estimates celebrity earnings from upfront pay, profit participation and residuals and interviews with agents and industry insiders.