The Last Jedi grossed a staggering $450 million at the worldwide box office its opening weekend, but George Lucas won’t be cashing in—he sold Lucasfilm to Disney in 2012 for $4.1 billion in cash and stock after decades of lofty annual hauls from the Star Wars franchise he created. Yet the force is still strong with his bank account: Lucas’ fortune now stands at $5.5 billion, making him America’s wealthiest celebrity.
Billion-dollar exits and money-spewing assets are part of the territory in the upper reaches of our list. Steven Spielberg (No. 2, $3.6 billion) has been a director for half a century, but saved one of his biggest highlights for last year with the $3.8 billion sale of DreamWorks Animation, the studio he cofounded. Oprah Winfrey (No. 3, $2.8 billion) continues to build her fortune through the OWN network but banked the bulk of her bucks from her years as a talk show host.
“What I learned in all of those thousands of interviews is that there is a common denominator in our human experience,” she once told FORBES. “Everybody wants to know: ‘Did you hear me, and did what I say matter?'”
All in all, America’s 10 wealthiest celebrities boast a combined fortune of $18 billion, up 7.8% from last year’s $16.7 billion. To compile our list, we looked at each candidate’s entire empire. We valued private company stakes by speaking with an array of experts and by considering public competitors; for publicly-traded companies, we used stock prices as of December 15, 2017.
For entertainers without private companies, we based our estimates on net lifetime earnings after taxes. Real estate, art and other assets were also factored in where applicable. Eligibility was limited to American citizens who’ve gotten rich off their fame, rather than become famous for their wealth (sorry, Donald Trump).
This list includes a much more diverse range of names than other wealth rankings like our flagship Forbes 400: though just one of America’s 10 wealthiest celebrities is a woman, six of the figures are people of color. The list members’ areas of expertise range from Hollywood to sports to magic, and all have found ways of monetizing their respective corners of the entertainment business.
Michael Jordan (No. 4, $1.4 billion) earned $94 million on the court during his career, but has made $1.4 billion elsewhere, most notably Nike, which generates some $3 billion annually from his Jordan brand; the superstar’s 90% stake in the Charlotte Hornets has grown fourfold in value since 2010. David Copperfield rounds out the top five with a fortune of $875 million, accumulated by playing upwards of 600 shows in Las Vegas annually; his collection of more than 650,000 magical artifacts is the world’s largest.
Hip-hop is especially well-represented thanks to Diddy (No. 6, $820 million), Jay-Z (No. 7, $810 million) and Dr. Dre ($740 million), all of whom are among the youngest names on the list. Though all three got their start as artists, their empires now revolve around non-musical ventures like Diddy’s Revolt cable channel, Jay-Z’s Armand de Brignac champagne and Dr. Dre’s Beats headphones, sold to Apple for $3 billion in 2014 (for more, check out my upcoming book, 3 Kings).
“They said we couldn’t start businesses outside of hip-hop,” Kendrick Lamar told FORBES earlier this year. “These are the three individuals that showed us [how].”
The 10 Richest Celebrities In America
- George Lucas ($5.5 billion)
- Steven Spielberg ($3.6 billion)
- Oprah Winfrey ($2.8 billion)
- Michael Jordan ($1.4 billion)
- David Copperfield ($875 million)
- Diddy ($820 million)
- Jay-Z ($810 million)
- Tiger Woods ($750 million)
- Dr. Dre ($740 million)
- James Patterson ($730 million)
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