For each of the 22 minutes of his sitcom Everybody Loves Raymond, Ray Romano earns enough to buy a new $35,000 Ford Excursion. Celine Dion earns that in the first quarter of one of her concerts; to newly minted billionaire Oprah Winfrey, it’s spare change. To most Americans, though, that kind of dough represents almost a year’s worth of sweat: In 2002 full-time workers earned a median income of $35,788.08.
Celebrity salaries aren’t only gargantuan, they also seem to be recession-proof: This year’s totals are bigger than ever, even after Uncle Sam and all those agents, managers—and ex-spouses—get their cuts.
Here’s a peek at the finances of top stars (thanks to insiders, published reports and other sources) as well a few of the people they’re paid to impersonate. What does Michael Slavik, a UPS delivery guy from Queens, think of his TV brother-in-brown, King of Queens’ Kevin James (about $200,000 an episode)? “To be honest, I haven’t seen the show,” says Slavik, 43, whose $65,000 annual earnings include $5,000 in overtime. “Usually I’m working.”
$39 million in 2002
Tour revenues of $18.9 million (and a Pepsi contract) propped tip the popster’s paycheck.
$33 million in 2002
He bagged $20 million for Catch Me If You Can but returned a reported $7 million of his Gangs of New York salary to help pay for budget overruns.
Oprah Joins the Billionaires’ Club
When is $20 in the wallet worth a billion in the bank? Ask Oprah. Heading out for dinner last fall, Winfrey and her dining companion, U2’s Bono, decided to hoof it from her Chicago penthouse to a nearby Italian restaurant. Spotting the talk show titan, an enterprising homeless man asked her for $20. She was mortified to come up short. “I had just put $5 in my wallet,” Winfrey later told Chicago’s WTMX radio. “I go, ‘I…I…I…I don’t have $20!’ ”
Bono ponied up the cash—but Winfrey might rethink her mad-money allotment. Last week she became the first black woman (and only the third self-made woman) to officially join the billionaires’ club, claiming spot No. 427 on Forbes magazine’s annual list of the world’s richest people with an estimated net worth of $1 billion on the nose. Winfrey, 49, played it coy at the news. She joked to Extra Feb. 27 of the protein and veggie-heavy diet that has helped her shed 33 lbs., “That’s what billionairesses do, I hear.”
Quips aside, Winfrey has never taken money matters lightly. After a childhood in poverty, she signed on to host A.M. Chicago in 1984 for $225,000 a year. “I thought, ‘I am the richest woman on the planet,’ ” she recalled to PEOPLE in 1999. But what added extra zeroes to her bankroll was her lawyer’s 1986 suggestion that she start her own company, Harpo Inc., and launch the syndicated Oprah Winfrey Show. Winfrey owns more than 90 percent of Harpo, whose revenues now include $300 million a year from her show, plus more from O, the Oprah Magazine and TV spinoffs like Dr. Phil.
Winfrey savors little splurges like $48 Peruvian cotton T-shirts. “She’s a luxury queen,” says pal Patti LaBelle. “She takes care of herself and her body.” Then there are bigger buys, like a $50 million, 23,000-sq.-ft. Montecito, Calif., mansion and estate. (She also owns an Indiana farm, a Colorado ski retreat and a healthy chunk of Maui beachfront.) But she doesn’t treat only herself. Her gifts include $10 million to educate girls in South Africa, $7 million for Atlanta’s Morehouse College—and more than 200 pairs of Ugg boots (about $150) she bought staffers one winter. LaBelle recalls Winfrey handing her a “big” check a few years ago. “I said, ‘Oprah, what is this for?’ She said, ‘It’s just because.’ ”
And why not? “I don’t understand these people who have the guilt-over-the-money syndrome,” she once declared. “I was a deprived Negro child who suddenly ended up being wealthy, and I am happy about it.”
$150 million in 2002
Winfrey—worth an estimated $1 billion—”is not a selfish woman,” says friend Patti LaBelle. “She shares.”
Striking It Rich
Savvy movie stars find that big hits—and deals for a piece of a film’s profits—can boost their fame and fortune
She made $1 million for ’01 ‘s Legally Blonde—but its $95 million box office boosted her billing rate to $5 million for Sweet Home Alabama—and $15 million for July’s Legally Blonde 2: Red, White & Blonde.
$15 million per movie
The superstar standard asking price of $25 million is just the start for Cruise. Thanks to deals that give him a piece of his movies’ profits, he could earn a reported $35 million for last year’s Minority Report—half his estimated $75 million for 2000’s Mission: Impossible 2, a bigger box office hit. He’ll roil the dice again with similar contracts for The Last Samurai, coming December, and 2004’s Mission: Impossible 3—but we like his odds.
$25 million+ per movie
At retail Clooney costs big: He scored $15 million Intolerable Cruelty, a romantic comedy with Catherine Zeta-Jones due out this fall. (That’s up from $8 million for 2000’s The Perfect Storm.) But he accepts far less to work with pals like Steven Soderbergh (Solaris) and to direct (December’s Confessions of a Dangerous Mind).
$15 million per movie
How much does a star really pocket from that eye-popping paycheck?
Agents, lawyers, the IRS: By the time everyone gobbles a slice of the pie, the likes of Julia and Leo watch their salaries go on a serious diet. Here’s how a sample celeb’s take-home pay might shrink:
Salary: $20 million
Agent: takes 10 percent
Manager: takes 10 percent
Attorney: takes 5 percent
Business manager: takes 5 percent
What’s left: $14 million
Celeb’s expenses (think stylists, private jets, a $3,000-a-month publicist): estimated $2 million
Federal taxes: 38.6 percent (Many savvy stars and their accountants, however, cut down on Uncle Sam’s take by creating tax shelters and deferring income)
California state taxes: 9 percent
Total tax bill: $5,712,000
What a difference a hot movie makes. Since they proved their box office bona fides, these stars have seen their salaries skyrocket
$2.5 MILLION for 2002 ‘s Minority Report
$8 MILLION for S.W.A.T. due out in August
$3 MILLION for 2001 ‘s Bridget Jones’s Diary
$10 MILLION for Chicago and this December’s Cold Mountain
$4 MILLION for 2002’s Spider-Man
$10 MILLION each for two slated Spidey sequels
SARAH MICHELLE GELLAR
$500,000 for 1999’s Cruel Intentions
$6 MILLION for 2002’s Scooby-Doo
$2 MILLION for 2001’s
The Fast and the Furious
$20 MILLION for 2004’s XXX 2
The first woman to break into the $20 million-a-movie club (for ’00’s Erin Brockovich), Roberts, 35, has made as much as $50 million a year (though not in ’02, when she took pay cuts for Full Frontal and Confessions of a Dangerous Mind). But as a big-screen big shot, Roberts (who’s charging full price for her next flick, Mona Lisa Smile) doesn’t have the extra earning power of TV and music megastars. Her net worth? About $145 million. At least her tastes are modest: The $1.2 million Venice, Calif., pad she shares with hubby Danny Moder isn’t even on the beach.
The boxer, 54, hasn’t fought since 1997, but he scored a knockout with his George Foreman grills. Salton, which has sold nearly 50 million, paid Foreman $137.5 million for rights to his name in 1999. (It paid him $27.5 million in other fees last year.) While his earnings trail Woods’s, Foreman (who just signed a deal to pitch ConAgra meat) “disappeared off the map and then came back,” says Bob Williams, whose company Burns Sports & Celebrities matches athletes and advertisers. “He’s unique.”
When you have a stake in your own show, TV’s the gift that keeps on giving. With a Seinfeld salary that topped out at $1 million an episode, a $250 million payout for syndication rights, and fees and residuals from those American Express ads, Seinfeld, 48, has amassed an estimated $500 million fortune. And spent a small one: He paid $32 million for Billy Joel’s Hamptons house and is laying out $1.4 million to build a garage in Manhattan for his collection of cars. Still, the father of two told USA Today he prefers “the simpler things, including doing stand-up.”
At 27, golf’s dominant player is worth an estimated $212 million—but just wait. “I predict he’ll be sports’ first billionaire right before his 40th birthday,” says sports marketer Williams. His $69 million in earnings last year included more than $4 million in prize money plus big bucks as a pitchman for Nike (which pays him $20 million a year), General Motors ($6 million) and American Express ($5.2 million). If he starts expressing a fondness for grilled meat, George Foreman should watch out.
How do you get from “Can’t Buy Me Love” to billionaire? Royalties, royalties, royalties. Sir Paul—whose wealth is estimated at just more than $1 billion—made about $190 million last year. Album sales and $103.3 million grosses for his U.S. tour only add to McCartney’s prize asset: his hefty publishing catalog. McCartney, 60, owns the rights to about 3,000 songs including his Wings and solo hits, Buddy Holly’s songs and lucrative ditties like “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas.” But not the Beatles songbook: Michael Jackson bought it in 1985.
He may not get much attention in the U.S., but German-born Schumacher, 34, is a huge star abroad, thanks to Formula One’s status as the world’s most widely watched sport. Translation: an endorsement bonanza. Marlboro paid a reported $793 million to put its name on his car for five years. Schumacher’s cut of endorsements and his $35 million salary from Ferrari earned him $67 million in 2002—helping to build the $700 million fortune that wins him the title of world’s richest athlete.
but not as rich as…
…Microsoft founder Bill Gates, still the world’s biggest moneybags with an estimated $40,7 billon (even though downturns in Microsoft stock helped erase $10 billion of his wealth in 2002). He gives away about $1 billion a year, which could buy Paul McCartney—or, as Gates prefers, vaccine research and computers for public libraries.
Huge sitcom salaries have survived the boom in reality TV—so far
Gotta love this: Producers made the Raymond star’s 2001 raise—to $800,000 an episode-retroactive to the previous two 24—show seasons.
THE CAST OF FRASIER
Kelsey Grammer’s $1.6 million-an-episode deal, inked in 2001, makes him the best-paid TV actor ever. David Hyde Pierce (Niles) pulls down $750,000 to $1 million; Jane Leeves (Daphne) almost $400,000. Animal actors in Hollywood average $300 a day, but you can bet Jack Russell terrier Moose (top dog Eddie) gets thrown a much bigger bone.
THE CAST OF FRIENDS
One-for-all negotiating won the sitcom’s sextet $1 million each per episode for their not-so-final ninth season. In December they agreed to return for one more year—with no raise.
The Real Reality Show
Boston Public high school teacher: about $45,000 an episode
King of Queens’ “UPS” guy: around $200,000 en episode
The West Wing’s President Josiah Bartlet: $300,000 an episode
ANGELA HEDLEY, 25, Boston public high school teacher: $46,410 a year
MICHAEL SLAVIK, 43 UPS delivery man in Queen: $65,000 a year
PRESIDENT BUSH: $400,000 a year
A Big Shout Out
Which musicians hit the highest notes on payday? You’d be surprised…
EMINEM VS. WAYNE NEWTON
The rapper’s Anger Management Tour earned $14.5 million—but Newton gets $25 million a year to croon in Vegas.
Justin Timberlake VS. NICK CARTER
‘N Sync’s last tour made $87 million; Backstreet’s $82 million—and Timberlake’s solo CD has sold 10 times as many as Carter’s.
Five Grammys, 3.6 million albums sold—and renting a scruffy $1,400-a-month Brooklyn pad (left)? The debut artist likely got a “very small” advance, says a music lawyer, and may still be waiting for the big payoff from her cut of royalties.
Carey’s new deal with MonarC/Island pales next to Dion’s titanic contract to do 200 gigs a year at Caesars Palace starting March 25.
$20 million for three albums
$100 million for a three-year concert deal
For a Song…
$20 Million a Year
That’s what songwriter Diane (“UnBreak My Heart”) Warren’s 1,500-tune catalog earns. “I still shop at Loehmann’s,” she jokes.
Hey, Very Big Spenders
He spent $75,000 on invites to his Feb. 8 Fashion Week bash, favors $150 Cristal bubbly and wears a watch worth nearly $1 million. Clearly he values a good time.
Jennifer LopezAND Ben Affleck
A recent stop on her splurgeathon: $1,200 in Jo Malone fragrances and cosmetics at Chicago’s Saks Fifth Avenue. What’ll be noticeable from further away, her scent or the 6.1-carat, $1.1 million ring he gave her last fall?
The fashion maven, in Fendi squirrel-and-chinchilla coat, has boasted of spending “between 20 and 30 a month” (that’s thousands, natch) at the Italian fashion house and Dior.
It Doesn’t Grow on Trees
Bankrupt celebs learn fortune can be fleeting
Filed in: 1993 Sued for backing out of the movie Boxing Helena, she went bust.
Filed in: 1996 Costs like a 40-person entourage left him $13.7 million in debt.
Filed in: 1997 Lost millions in her failed Las Vegas hotel casino.
Filed in: 1998 Debt-ridden, she sold her Grammys (but bought them back).
Filed in: 1999 Sunk by legal fees from a custody fight with Harvey Keitel.
Reported by: Olivia Abel, Carrie Bell, Lorenzo Benet, Rachel Biermann, Lauren Comander, Johnny Dodd, Ruth Andrew Ellenson, Rachel Felder, Steve Helling, Sophia Hemphill, Julie Jordan, Anne Lang, Neil Michael, Don Sider, Kelly Williams