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"A penny for your thoughts"

Saturday, March 8, 2008

The 20 Biggest Celebrity Paydays Of 2007

1. George Lucas

May 24

$200 million*

Light sabers and Jedi action figures have been very good to George Lucas. In 1997, Hasbro, the world’s second largest toymaker, awarded George Lucas $170 million worth of warrants for Hasbro stock to sweeten its Star Wars toy license renewal deal. In May, Hasbro paid Lucas $200 million to buy back those warrants.

*Does not factor in capital gains and other taxes.
2. Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson

June 7

$100 million*

In 2004 drug dealer-turned-rapper 50 Cent became a pitchman for Glacéau, makers of the trendy Vitaminwater beverage line, in exchange for a less-than-5% slice of equity in the company. Vitaminwater even concocted a "Formula 50" flavor in honor of its new hardcore endorser. This summer Coca-Cola bought Glacéau for $4.1 billion. The deal netted 50 Cent $100 million and inspired a slew of celebrities to ply their endorsement services in exchange for shares.

*Does not factor in capital gains and other taxes.
3. Howard Stern

Jan. 9

$82 million

Early in the year, Sirius rewarded its star shock jock a stock bonus valued at $82 million for helping goose subscriptions from 700,000 when he joined in 2005 to nearly 8 million today. (That’s still 4 million or so listeners shy of his audience on terrestrial radio.) The bonus is in top of his five-year, $500 million contract.
4. Shawn "Jay-Z" Carter

April 2

$82 million*

The hip-hop kingpin, who co-founded urban fashion outfit Rocawear in 1995, unloaded the label to Iconix Brand Group for $204 million last spring. Jay Z’s cut: $82 million. The chief executive of Def Jam Recordings managed to squeeze in a new album release this year--his tenth--inspired by the film American Gangster. That effort topped the U.S. pop charts, rivaling Elvis Presley’s record for most No. 1 albums. (Both tie for second; only the Beatles logged more chart-topping records.)

*Does not factor in capital gains and other taxes.
5. Sammy Hagar

May 7

$80 million*

Former Van Halen singer Sammy Hagar started tequila company Cabo Wabo in 1996, the same year he left the band. (The name apparently originated after Hagar saw a man "wobbling" down the beach of Cabo San Lucas.) In May, Gruppo Campari, maker of Campari and SKYY vodka, bought 80% of the company for $80 million, with an option to buy the remaining 20% from Hagar over the next five to eight years.

*Does not factor in capital gains and other taxes.
6. Oprah Winfrey

Nov. 20

$74 million*

With a string of high-profile partners like Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, the Queen of all Media launched Oxygen Media, a women’s oriented TV channel, in 1998. Though the network reached 74 million subscribers, it never fulfilled its promise of revolutionizing TV programming. NBC scooped up the network in November for $925 million. Oprah’s less-than-10% stake is believed to be worth $74 million. Don’t count it entirely as profit, though. Though her original investment is unknown, Oprah is believed to have just broken even on the venture.

*Does not factor in capital gains and other taxes.
7. Oscar De La Hoya

May 5

$55 million

On May 5 this year, The MGM Grand Arena in Las Vegas hosted a record-breaking fight between "Golden Boy" Oscar De La Hoya and "Pretty Boy" Floyd Mayweather for the super welterweight title. A controversial split decision gave the 12-round fight to Mayweather. No matter: De La Hoya still walks away with $55 million (roughly double Mayweather’s take), winning the largest purse in boxing history.

8. Madonna

Oct. 10

$43 million

Some 25 years after she emerged as pop music’s most bankable provocateur, the 49-year-old mother of three shocked her fans again by dumping her longtime record label Warner Music in favor of a 10-year, $120 million deal with concert promoter Live Nation. Madonna pocketed an $18 million signing bonus, plus another $25 million in stock. She’ll score $17 million advances for each of her next three albums under Live Nation. (She owes Warner one more studio album and a greatest hits collection before she bails.)
9. David Geffen

May 2

$37.5 million

The Los Angeles-based billionaire music and movie mogul sold his Fifth Avenue duplex penthouse in Manhattan for $37.5 million, before broker fees and taxes. (Not bad considering he bought the unit a year earlier for some $31 million.) The 3-bedroom, 4-bath prewar duplex was formerly owned by Nelson Rockefeller and neighbored by Richard Nixon. The buyer: private equity’s newest billionaire, Blackstone founder Peter Peterson.
10. Vera Wang

Oct. 14

$35 million

Proving again that New York City transcends the rest of the country’s housing woes, designer Vera Wang unloaded her six-bedroom, 5.5-bath Park Ave. apartment in October for $35 million (absent broker fees and taxes). Just two blocks from Central Park, the space included two maids’ quarters and three fireplaces. Maintenance fees: $10,717 a month. Rumor has it the buyer was a daughter of billionaire Ira Rennert. Wang and her brood moved to her late father’s larger spread just a stone’s throw away. Price: $23.1 million.
11. Dwight Freeney

July 13

$30 million

In July, the 27-year-old became the highest paid defensive player in football with a six-year, $72 million contract with the Indianapolis Colts, of which $30 million was paid upfront. Good thing, since he suffered a fracture in his left foot four months later that relegated him to the injured list. As of publication, he was still sidelined by his injuries.
12. Courtney Cox & David Arquette

July 31

$27 million

Last summer, the other knockout Friend and her actor husband sold their beachfront Malibu spread for $27 million (absent broker fees and taxes). The four-bedroom, 5,500-square-foot home, designed by Frank Lautner, a protégé of Frank Lloyd Wright, boasted a view of the Pacific from virtually every room. (The couple reportedly bought the home in 2001 for $10 million.) The buyer: Jamie McCourt, vice chairman and president of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
13. Tommy Hilfiger

Dec. 4

$26.5 million

Sometimes fashionistas are as fickle as their buyers. In December, preppy clothier Tommy Hilfiger sold his Hamptons manse for $26.5 million, only one year after he bought it, reportedly for $17 million. The five-bedroom, 5.5-bath residence was purchased as is, replete with its Balinese-inspired furnishings. (Last summer Mariah Carey rented the spread for $350,000.)
14. Floyd Mayweather

May 5 and Dec. 8

$25 million (each day)

Mayweather won a 12-round fight against "Golden Boy" Oscar De La Hoya by split decision in May. Despite winning the fight and super welterweight title, Mayweather walked away with only $25 million, nearly half De La Hoya’s take. Seven months later, he enjoyed another huge payday when he defeated Ricky Hatton with a 10th round TKO. (Hatton is believed to have walked away with less than half Mayweather’s take.)
15. Donald Trump

Aug. 20

$25 million

In what could only be called cosmic comeuppance, The Donald’s lethargic reality show the Apprentice was nearly canned by NBC in May, though not before he quit. But by the summer, NBC and Trump reconciled, with Trump scoring $25 million upfront to revive the moribund franchise. The seventh season features B-list celebrities including former model Carol Alt, Kiss rocker Gene Simmons, and the reviled former Apprentice contender Omarosa Manigault-Stallworth.
16. Hugh Grant

Nov. 14

$23.5 million

Capitalizing on the record-setting auction prices for Andy Warhol pieces, the British actor sold his Warhol painting of Elizabeth Taylor for $23.5 million through Christies. Though the work was expected to fetch over $25 million, Grant still profited handsomely. He bought the painting in 2001 for just under $4 million.
17. Mel Gibson

June 21

$23 million

The controversial actor-director unloaded his five-bedroom, seven-bath beachfront house in Malibu in June for $23 million--roughly comparable to what he paid for the spread in 2005. Little is known about the home, though press reports suggested he had grown fed up with the constant fleet of paparazzi since Britney Spears moved to the neighborhood.
18. Mario Lemieux

Oct. 19

$21 million

When the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins announced it would file for bankruptcy in 1998, the second such filing in the franchise’s history, the team owed player Mario Lemieux $32 million in pay. He forgave $7 million of that and exchanged the remainder for a controlling stake in the team, thereby saving it from dissolution. In October, he finally saw a payout from that investment when the team restructured its debt obligations, scoring Lemieux $21 million.
19. Don Imus

Aug. 14

$20 million

In April, CBS famously dismissed the loose-lipped radio shock jock for calling the Rutgers University women’s basketball team "nappy headed hos." Imus sued; CBS settled in August for an estimated $20 million. Imus returned to radio in October, securing a gig on Citadel Communication’s WABC station.

20. Wayne Gretzky

Aug. 29

$18.5 million

Hockey’s "Great One" sold his three-year-old, 6-bedroom home in Thousand Oaks, Calif., in August to former New York Met Lenny Dystra. Gretzky still has his place in Arizona where he coaches the Phoenix Coyotes, but is believed to be devoting time on a new business partnership with Creekside Estate Winery in Niagara Falls.


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