Forbes is an American publishing and media company. Its flagship publication, the Forbes magazine, is well-known for its lists, including articles on the richest Americans (the Forbes 400) and its list of billionaires. The company has discovered that people are interested in learning about the world’s richest celebrities. The curiosity has spawned a large collection of websites that are dedicated to documenting celebrity net worth. For example, former boxing champion Mike Tyson holds an estimated net worth of $1 million, while boxing promoter Don King is worth $150 million. This article will examine ten international celebrities that are shockingly rich. I have attempted to select individuals from many different fields, including musicians, designers, actors, producers, radio personalities, authors, comedians, sports figures, models, and directors.
10. Bryan Williams (Birdman)
Estimated Net Worth: $100 Million
Bryan Williams is the co-founder of Cash Money Records. He was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, and has gone multi-platinum as both an artist and a producer. His label has helped craft albums for many artists including Lil Wayne and Juvenile. In 2000 Birdman was nominated for two Grammies for his song #1 Stunna, which he released with Mannie Fresh as part of the rap duo Big Tymers. To date, Cash Money Records is the most commercially successful label in the history of hip hop music with 50 million records sold and annual revenues in excess of $100 million. By the time Birdman was 22-years-old he had already amassed a net worth of $40 million. He owns a $30 million condo in Miami.
In the music industry, a large majority of the money is made by the record executives. This is why popular rappers usually expand and create their own labels. Let’s examine the net worth of some of the biggest names in music. Jay-Z is one of three founders of Roc-A-Fella records and Roc Nation. In 2007 he sold Rocaware clothing, which he co-founded, for $204 million. Jay-Z’s official net worth is $450 million, but when you account for his many sources of income the number is closer to $1 billion.
In 1993, Sean Combs founded Bad Boy Records. He has two successful clothing lines, Sean John and Sean by Sean Combs. In 2011, Forbes estimated Sean Combs net worth at $500 million, making him the richest figure in hip hop. Russell Simmons is a very successful American entrepreneur and co-founder of Def Jam. His personal net worth is reputed to be $500 million, officially reported at $325 million. Some other wealthy rapper/executives include Master P ($350 million), 50 Cent ($250 million), Dr. Dre ($180 million), Eminem ($115 million), and Snoop Dogg ($110 million).
Birdman claims that every 6 months he buys 100 new cars and gives away all the “old” ones. At any given time he is wearing millions of dollars worth of jewelry including a 15 carat black diamond ring, matching earrings, and a $500,000 grill on his teeth. He personally lost 20 houses and 50 cars including two Maybachs and four Ferraris during Hurricane Katrina.
9. Gisele Bündchen
Gisele Bündchen is a Brazilian fashion model. In the late 1990s, Bündchen became one of the first in a wave of Brazilian models to find success. She initially intended on making a career as a professional volleyball player, but her plans changed after being discovered by a modeling agency at the age of thirteen. In 1999, Vogue magazine dubbed her “The Return of the Sexy Model.” Bündchen has been hired as the face of many multi-million dollar fashion campaigns, including Versace, Ralph Lauren, Louis Vuitton, Dolce & Gabbana, Michael Kors, Christian Dior, and Victoria’s Secret. Her non-apparel advertising campaigns include Nivea lotion, Credicard (Brazilian version of Citibank), Volkswagons do Brazil, Ebel (luxury Swiss watches), and Apple Inc.
As a model, Bündchen pioneered the “horse walk,” which is a stomping movement created when a model picks up her knees and kicks her feet out in front. Since 2004, Gisele has been the highest-paid model in the world. According to Forbes she may become the world’s first ever billionaire supermodel. For her efforts to preserve the rainforests and promote reforestation, Bündchen has been dubbed a goodwill ambassador for the United Nations Environment Program. In August 2011, she ranked 60th on the Forbe’s List of The World’s 100 Most Powerful Women. She also ranked 3rd on the 20 Youngest Powerful Women of 2011 at age 31.
From 2000 to 2005, Bündchen was in a much-publicized relationship with American actor Leonardo DiCaprio. In 2009, she married New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. Brady currently has a net worth of around $100 million.
8. Howard Stern
Howard Stern’s Estimated Net Worth: $500 Million
Howard Stern is an American radio personality best known for his radio show, which was nationally syndicated from 1986 to 2005. Stern gained wide recognition in the 1990s when he was labeled a “shock jock” for his outspoken and sometimes controversial style. In 2006, Stern signed a radio deal with Sirius XM Radio, a subscription-based satellite radio service. In the deal he was given an annual budget of $100 million for all production costs, including staff and programming. On January 9, 2006, the day of his first broadcast, Stern and his agent received 34.3 million shares of stock from the company worth $218 million for exceeding subscriber targets.
A second stock incentive was paid to Howard in 2007, with Stern receiving 22 million shares of Sirius stock worth $82.9 million. In 2011, Stern was given the estimated net worth of $500 million. He holds an annual salary of $80 million. In December 2010, Howard signed a new contract with Sirius to continue his show for five more years. Following the agreement, Howard and his agent filed a lawsuit against Sirius on March 22, 2011, for allegedly failing to pay stock bonuses promised to them from the past four years while helping the company exceed subscriber growth targets. Some other wealthy radio personalities include Rush Limbaugh ($350 million), Ryan Seacrest ($125 million), and Glenn Beck ($85 million).
Howard Stern is currently the highest-paid radio figure in the United States. In regards to television talk show hosts, Oprah Winfrey is the queen with an estimated net worth of $2.7 billion. Some other successful hosts include David Letterman ($400 million), Simon Cowell ($320 million), Dr. Phil ($200 million), Jay Leno ($150 million), Larry King ($150 million), Tyra Banks ($90 million), Regis Philbin ($90 million), and Ellen DeGeneres ($85 million).
7. Magic Johnson
Estimated Net Worth: $500 Million
Earvin “Magic” Johnson Jr. is a retired American professional basketball player who played point guard for the Los Angeles Lakers. After winning a championship in high school and college, Johnson was selected as the first overall pick in the 1979 NBA Draft by the Lakers. Magic retired abruptly in 1991 after announcing that he had contracted HIV, but returned to play in 1992 and for 32 games in 1996. Earvin Johnson’s career achievements include three NBA MVP Awards, nine NBA Finals appearances, five championships, and twelve All-Star games. Since his retirement, Johnson has been an advocate for HIV/AIDS prevention and safe sex, as well as an entrepreneur, philanthropist and motivational speaker.
Earvin Johnson currently runs Magic Johnson Enterprises, a company that has a net worth of $700 million. He has built a real estate empire that includes partnerships with AMC Theatres, Starbucks, T.G.I. Fridays, and 24 Hour Fitness. In October of 2010, Magic sold his ownership stake in the Los Angeles Lakers. Johnson averaged 11.2 assists per game and had an astounding 138 triple-doubles in his NBA career. He is also one of the tallest point guards in the history of the NBA.
Some other athletes that rival the wealth of Magic Johnson include Tiger Woods ($500 million), Michael Jordan ($500 million), Alex Rodriguez ($300), Dale Earnhardt Jr. ($300 million), Shaquille O’Neal ($250 million), Kobe Bryant ($200 million), David Beckham ($175 million), Phil Mickelson ($150 million), Roger Federer ($140 million), Cristiano Ronaldo ($130 million), Kimi Raikkonen ($130 million), and Peyton Manning ($115 million).
In 1981 Magic Johnson signed a contract with the Los Angeles Lakers for 25 years and $25 million dollars. It became the longest player contract in the history of sports. In 1996, Michael Jordan signed a contract with the Chicago Bulls worth $30 million for one year.
6. Jerry Seinfeld
Estimated Net Worth: $800 Million
Jerry Seinfeld is an American stand-up comedian, actor, writer, and television producer, known for playing a semi-fictional version of himself in the situation comedy Seinfeld (1989–1998). Jerry co-created and co-wrote the show with Larry David. The sitcom was a massive success and a large portion of Jerry Seinfeld’s income has come from the show and its years of syndication. Jerry has also made millions of dollars as a bestselling author, comedian, and public speaker. His has a collection of endorsement deals. Notably, he was paid $10 million to make a handful of ads for Microsoft in 2008. Between June 2008 and June 2009, Jerry Seinfeld earned $85 million, making him the highest-paid comedian during that 12-month period.
According to Forbes magazine, Jerry Seinfeld’s annual earnings in 1998 were $267 million, making him the highest-paid celebrity that year. The show Seinfeld still generates more revenue than most current shows through syndication and DVD sales. In 1998, Jerry reportedly turned down $5 million per episode, for 22 episodes, to continue the show for a tenth season. Co-creator Larry David is also extremely wealthy and has an estimated net worth of $800 million.
In comparison to other movie stars, Jerry Seinfeld’s net worth stands out. The estimated net worth of some A-list stars include Tom Hanks ($350 million), Johnny Depp ($350 million), Tyler Perry ($350 million), Harrison Ford ($200 million), Leonardo DiCaprio ($200 million), Will Smith ($188 million), John Travolta ($160 million), Brad Pitt ($150 million), Julia Roberts ($140 million), Robin Williams ($130 million), Ben Stiller ($120 million), Denzel Washington ($120 million), Jeff Foxworthy ($100 million), and Will Ferrell ($80 million).
Jerry Seinfeld is rumored to own one of the largest Porsche collections in the world. A current tally has Seinfeld owning 46 Porsches. Paul Bannister reported that Seinfeld’s collection includes Porsche 911s from various years, 10 Porsche Boxsters each painted a different color, and the famous 1955 Porsche 550 Spyder, the same model and pearl-grey color that actor James Dean was driving when he crashed and died. The centerpiece is a $700,000 Porsche 959, one of only 337 ever built.
Estimated Net Worth: $900 Million
Bono is an Irish singer, musician, and humanitarian best known for being the main vocalist of the Dublin-based rock band U2. To date, U2 has released 12 studio albums and are among the best-selling groups in popular music history, having sold more than 150 million records worldwide. U2 has won 22 Grammy Awards, which is more than any other band. In 2005, U2 was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The groups 360° Tour (2009-2011) is currently the best selling concert tour of all time with gross revenue of $736,137,344. The tour included 110 shows across the world and amassed an attendance of 7,268,430 people.
The success has given Bono an estimated net worth of over $900 million. He is well on his way to becoming a billionaire. In comparison to other music legends, Bono’s massive fortune stands out. The Edge, who is the guitarist for U2, is also extremely rich and holds an estimated net worth of $200 million. Some other wealthy music legends, some deceased, include John Lennon ($800 million), Paul McCartney ($780 million), Michael Jackson ($600 million), Madonna ($500 million), George Harrison ($400 million), Mick Jagger ($305 million), Elvis ($300 million), Cher ($300 million), Gene Simmons ($300 million), Celine Dion ($260 million), Jennifer Lopez ($250 million), Eric Clapton ($115 million), and Courtney Love ($100 million).
In 2010 Bono’s investment arm Elevation Partners purchased a 1.5% stake in Facebook for $200 million. In 2011 that stake was valued at $700 million when Facebook reached $55 billion.
4. J.K. Rowling
Estimated Net Worth: $1 Billion
J. K. Rowling is a British author who wrote the Harry Potter fantasy series. She was born in Yate, Gloucestershire, England, and studied French and Classics at the University of Exeter before becoming a researcher and English teacher in Portugal. Rowling conceived the idea for Harry Potter in 1990 during a delayed train ride and finished the book in 1995. Over the last 15 years, the Harry Potter series has gained worldwide attention, won multiple awards, and sold more than 400 million copies. Harry Potter has spawned a series of popular films, in which Rowling has had the overall approval on all scripts.
J.K. Rowling has led a “rags to riches” life story, in which she progressed from living on social security to becoming a billionaire. As of March 2011, when its latest world billionaires list was published, Forbes estimated Rowling’s net worth at US$1 billion. In October 2010, J. K. Rowling was named the Most Influential Woman in Britain. Some other wealthy authors include Danielle Steel ($610 million), Stephen King ($400 million), Tom Clancy ($300 million), James Patterson ($250 million), John Grisham ($200), Barbara Taylor Bradford (approx. $200 million), Nora Roberts ($150 million), Stephenie Meyer ($125 million), and Dan Brown ($100 million).
The last two Harry Potter books, Half-Blood Prince and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows sold nine and eleven million copies, respectively, within twenty-four hours of their releases. In June 1997, Bloomsbury published Philosopher’s Stone with an initial print-run of 1,000 copies, 500 of which were distributed to libraries. Today, such copies are valued between £16,000 and £25,000. The Harry Potter movies have grossed over $7.5 billion.
3. Julia Louis-Dreyfus
Estimated Net Worth: $2.9 Billion
Julia Louis-Dreyfus is an American actress and comedian widely known for her sitcom roles in Seinfeld and The New Adventures of Old Christine. Louis-Dreyfus rose to prominence as one of the regular cast members of Saturday Night Live in the early 1980s. She was later cast as Elaine Benes on the NBC sitcom Seinfeld for which she achieved much critical and commercial success. Throughout her career Julia Louis-Dreyfus has received two Emmy Awards, a Golden Globe Award, and five Screen Actors Guild Awards. She has a total of twelve Emmy Award nominations, seven for supporting actress in a comedy series for Seinfeld, and five for lead actress in a comedy series for The New Adventures of Old Christine.
Julia Louis-Dreyfus has had a successful and lucrative acting career, but many people don’t know that her father is a multi-billionaire named Gérard Louis-Dreyfus. In 1851, a man named Leopold Louis-Dreyfus founded the Louis Dreyfus Group, which is one of the world’s largest commodities trading and merchandising firms. Louis Dreyfus Group is a diversified French private company that is involved in agriculture and energy commodities. It owns and manages ocean vessels, develops and operates telecommunications infrastructures, and is involved in real estate (development, management and ownership). The company was managed by Julia’s father Gérard until 2006 when he retired. Julia Louis-Dreyfus has two half-sisters, Emma and Phoebe. The girls stand to inherit a large portion of the family fortune.
Most recently, Julia Louis-Dreyfus played U.S. Vice President Selina Meyers in a HBO satirical comedy pilot entitled Veep, written by Armando Iannucci. In April 2011, it was confirmed that HBO had picked up Veep as a series. The show will co-star Anna Chlumsky and Tony Hale. It begins filming in fall of 2011 and is projected to premiere on HBO in March of 2012.
2. George Lucas
Estimated Net Worth: $3.25 Billion
George Lucas Jr. is an American film producer, screenwriter, and director. He is the founder, chairman and chief executive of Lucasfilm. George Lucas is best known as the creator of Star Wars and Indiana Jones. Lucas is one of the American film industry’s most financially successful directors/producers, with an estimated net worth of $3.25 billion as of 2011. To date, Lucas has directed 6 movies and produced 23 others. His biggest box-office hit is the epic Star Wars franchise, which has earned well over $5 billion in worldwide revenue from all six films.
George Lucas has pledged to give half of his fortune to charity as part of an effort called The Giving Pledge led by Bill Gates and Warren Buffett to persuade America’s richest individuals to donate their financial wealth to charities. Some other extremely wealthy film director/producers include Steven Spielberg ($3 billion), James Cameron ($650 million), Mel Gibson ($600 million), Clint Eastwood ($400 million), Peter Jackson ($315 million), Ridley Scott ($180 million), Ron Howard ($140 million), JJ Abrams ($95 million), and Christopher Nolan ($90 million).
George Lucas next project is a 2012 movie titled Red Tails. The story was written by John Ridley and is inspired by true events. George Lucas serves as the executive producer for the project, which is based on the Tuskegee Airmen, a group of African-American combat pilots during World War II. The movie is the first Lucasfilm production that is not associated with Indiana Jones or Star Wars since Radioland Murders (1994).
1. Giorgio Armani
Estimated Net Worth: $7 Billion
As you would expect, no celebrities can compete with the wealth of the world’s richest fashion designers. Giorgio Armani is an Italian fashion designer, particularly noted for his menswear. He is known for his clean, tailored lines. Giorgio formed his company, Armani, in 1975, and by 2001 was acclaimed as the most successful designer to come out of Italy, with an annual turnover of $1.6 billion and a personal fortune of $7 billion by 2011. As of 2009, Armani has a retail network of 60 Giorgio Armani boutiques, 11 Collezioni, 122 Emporio Armani, 94 A/X Armani exchange, 13 Armani Junior, and 1 Giorgio Armani Accessori spread over 37 different countries.
Giorgio Armani has a keen interest in sports. He is the president of the Olimpia Milano basketball team, an Inter Milan fan, and has twice designed suits for the England national football team. He has been chosen to design Italy’s Olympic uniforms for the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. Armani designed made-to-measure suits for Christian Bale’s character Bruce Wayne in The Dark Knight. In the world of fashion, some other wealthy designers include Ralph Lauren (6.1 billion), Valentino Garavani ($1.5 Billion), Miuccia Prada ($1.4 billion), Max Azria ($1.2 billion), Diane Von Furstenberg ($1.2 billion), Pierre Cardin ($723 million) , Calvin Klein ($700 million), Roberto Cavalli ($500 million), and Donna Karan ($400 million).
Armani was the first designer to ban models with a body mass index (BMI) below 18. This was done after model Ana Carolina Reston starved herself to death due to anorexia nervosa.
Bonus Rich Celebrity
Estimated Net Worth: $6.6 Billion
Wu Yajun is the richest self-made woman in the world. She is a former journalist who graduated from Northwestern Polytechnic University (China) in 1984 with a degree in engineering. Wu Yajun then used her business skills to develop Longfor Properties, which is one of the largest real estate companies in the world. Longfor Properties is a commercial and B-residential property developer headquartered in Beijing. Wu Yajun’s real estate enterprise has been growing rapidly over the last seventeen years, expanding from her home in Chongqing to include major cities like Chengdu, Beijing, Shanghai, Changzhou, and Dalian.
Wu Yajun has an estimated net worth of $6.6 billion and is a member of the National People’s Congress. In 2010, shares in Wu’s Hong Kong-listed real estate developer Longfor Properties rose by a quarter from a year earlier. Contract sales for 2010 soared 81% to $5 billion. In the last couple years, Longfor Properties has been expanding its business to relatively profitable markets in first-tier cites. The company’s outlook for future growth is good. Wu Yajun is married to a man named Cai Kui and the two share the massive fortune.
In 2011, Wu’s Longfor Properties was cited for concerns over accounting practices. Shares in the company subsequently took a tumble and were hit again when the company decided to cancel a planned share sale in July. Longfor announced in August that Wu Yajun would step down as CEO but stay on as chairman.
List by the incomparable Bryan Johnson