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The 12 Biggest Career Crashes Of 2018

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From boardrooms to courtrooms, sudden stumbles to drawn downfalls, 2018 saw more than a few high-profile careers completely collapse. Here are, in our judgment, the year’s biggest career crashes of all, arranged in alphabetical order.


Roseanne Barr

Roseanne Barr has never been a stranger to controversy, but until this year, no scandal—neither performing an intentionally crude rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” nor adopting Adolf Hitler’s likeness for a photo shoot—produced enough backlash to put a stop to the actress’ career. In the early hours of May 29, though, just two months after ABC had revived her namesake sitcom, Barr, known for being an outspoken alt-right advocate and conspiracy theorist, went on a wild Twitter tirade. Among her targets were Chelsea Clinton, George Soros and Obama-era White House adviser Valerie Jarrett, about whom she tweeted, “Muslim brotherhood & planet of the apes had a baby=vj.” A few hours later, she apologized, vowing to leave Twitter (a pledge that didn’t even last the day), but the damage was done: ABC had pulled the plug on Roseanne. In October, the network premiered a spin-off with most of the same cast titled The Conners—and killed off Barr’s character, the mordant matriarch, with an opioid overdose before it even began.

Michael Cohen
Michael Cohen. Picture: GETTY IMAGES

Michael Cohen

It’s been a tumultuous decade for Michael Cohen. After joining the Trump Organization in 2007, the attorney proved himself to be the Donald’s greatest defender. But the “pit bull,” as he was once known, has been deep in the doghouse since January, when the Wall Street Journal reported that ahead of the 2016 U.S. presidential election he had arranged a $130,000 payment to adult film actress Stormy Daniels to keep her quiet about an alleged sexual encounter with Trump 10 years prior. Four months later, Cohen became a focus of the Mueller investigation, with FBI agents raiding his office, hotel room and home, seizing millions of documents, including emails, tax records, tapes of conversations with Trump and evidence of the Stormy Daniels hush money. One week later, the U.S. Justice Department revealed that he was under criminal investigation for fraud and violations of campaign finance law. In June the president confirmed that he had severed ties with Cohen, and by August the lawyer had surrendered to the FBI, pleading guilty to eight criminal charges, including tax fraud, making false statements to a financial institution, unlawful corporate contributions and excessive campaign contributions. But rock-bottom was still a ways off: On November 29 the disgraced attorney pleaded guilty to lying to Congressabout his involvement with Russians and a proposed Trump Tower in Moscow, which was discussed as recently as the summer of 2016. He was sentenced to three years in prison on December 12.

Bryan Colangelo
Bryan Colangelo. Picture: TORONTO STAR VIA GETTY IMAGES

Roseanne Barr wasn’t the only celebrity whose tweets proved the catalyst for a career crash this year. On May 29, The Ringer published an investigationinto Bryan Colangelo, the former president of basketball operations for the Philadelphia 76ers, alleging that he had been using five fake Twitter accounts to disparage league players and some of his colleagues, both past and present. One day later, the 76ers organization announced that they had launched an official investigation into the matter, and on June 7, Colangelo, who initially dismissed the claims, resigned. As it turns out, though, his denial wasn’t a complete lie: His wife, Barbara Bottini, admitted to creating and managing the Twitter accounts. Still, Colangelo was her source of information, per the 76ers’ investigation.

Carlos Ghosn
Carlos Ghosn. Picture: AFP/GETTY IMAGES

Carlos Ghosn 

After 40 years in the auto industry, culminating at the helm of not one but three major carmakers, Carlos Ghosn’s career came to a screeching halt on November 19, when he was arrested in Tokyo following an internal investigation at Nissan that alleged misconduct including understating his salary to evade taxes and misusing company assets for years. Within the week, he had been ousted from his chairmanship at both Nissan and Mitsubishi. On December 10, Tokyo prosecutors charged Ghosn with underreporting his Nissan compensation by about $5 million over the course of five fiscal years through March 2015 and rearrested him for allegedly misstating his pay for an additional three fiscal years until March 2018. A court date has yet to be determined, but if found guilty, Ghosn—who has maintained his innocence and managed to retain his standing as CEO and chairman of Renault—could face as many as 10 years behind bars.

Elizabeth Holmes
Elizabeth Holmes. Picture: NBCU PHOTO BANK VIA GETTY IMAGES

Elizabeth Holmes 

If you thought that Theranos’ shuttering of its lab and laying off of 43% of its workforce in October 2016 marked the end of Elizabeth Holmes’ fall from entrepreneur superstardom, you weren’t alone—we believed the same exact thing when we included her on our list of career crashes two years ago. But in March 2018, the SEC charged the 34-year-old company founder, as well as Sunny Balwani, then president of Theranos, with defrauding investors, and it became clear that her professional plummet was far from over. Three months later, on June 15, she stepped down as CEO as federal prosecutors charged her and Balwani with alleged wire fraud, claiming “Holmes and Balwani engaged in a multi-million-dollar scheme to defraud investors, and a separate scheme to defraud doctors and patients.” At her June 16 arraignment, she pleaded “not guilty,” but in September, the once $9 billion company officially closed shop in what would appear to be the final chapter of Holmes’ career. All that’s left is her day in court, in limbo until the prosecution has concluded its investigation.

Megyn Kelly
Megyn Kelly. Picture: NBCU PHOTO BANK VIA GETTY IMAGES

Megyn Kelly 

When Megyn Kelly left Fox News for NBC, in 2017, the former face of the The Kelly File explained the motivation behind her move on The Ellen Show, saying, “I didn’t want to be in the snake pit—I just wanted to cover the news.” Little did she know that only 13 months after the premiere of Megyn Kelly Today, she would be the news. During an October 23 segment on Halloween costumes, she defended blackface, stating, “What is racist? You do get in trouble if you are a white person who puts on blackface for Halloween or a black person who puts on whiteface for Halloween. Back when I was a kid, that was okay as long as you were dressing up as a character.” The backlash, from NBC viewers and staffers alike, was immediate, and Kelly’s apology, delivered at the top of the next day’s episode, wasn’t enough. By Friday, Megyn Kelly Today had been canceled, leaving its former host and network in negotiations over Kelly’s $69 million contract. NBC is trying not to pay her anything more.

Paul Manafort
Paul Manafort. Picutre: GETTY IMAGES

Paul Manafort 

When Paul Manafort joined Donald Trump’s presidential campaign in March 2016, it wasn’t his first time on the trail; he had worked for Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush during their own White House races. It will, however, go down in history as his last. Just two months after he succeeded Corey Lewandowski as campaign chairman in June of that year, an August 12 article in The New York Times revealed that he had been paid $12.7 million by the political party of Ukraine’s former, and pro-Russian, president Viktor F. Yanukovych, for whom he had been a senior adviser. Manafort denied having received the alleged payments, but three days later, he was replaced by Steve Bannon and shortly thereafter resigned from the campaign altogether. In June of this year, special counsel Robert Mueller charged him with obstruction of justice and witness tampering, and in August he was found guilty of eight financial crimes. He negotiated a plea bargain with Mueller—cooperation in exchange for a sentence lighter than the maximum 80 years in prison—but that deal fell apart in November in light of allegations that he had repeatedly lied to the prosecutors he had agreed to work with and had his lawyer brief Trump’s lawyer on discussions with investigators. Now, Mueller’s team is reportedly considering bringing additional criminal charges against Manafort—yet another nail in the coffin of his career.

Les Moonves. Picture: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Les Moonves

For decades, Les Moonves was one of the most powerful executives in television, having played a key role in the development of hit series such as ER and Friends before moving to CBS where, over the past 13 years, he was credited with revitalizing the once lackluster network. He was also known as a proponent of the #MeToo movement, even helping to form the Commission on Eliminating Sexual Harassment and Advancing Equality in the Workplace in December 2017. But all that proved to be but a façade when in August of this year The New Yorker published a piece detailing six women’s accounts of alleged sexual harassment and assault by Moonves. He stepped down as CEO and chairman in September, and when more women came forward to accuse him of sexual misconduct, he denied all of the allegations. For a while it looked as though he might manage to make his exit with every cent of his $120 million severance package. Then in early December, a 59-page report by lawyers for the CBS board charged that the media mogul had been obstructing their investigation, destroying evidence and intentionally lying to investigators in an attempt to minimize the misconduct and save his severance. The document also divulged new allegations of nonconsensual, “transactional” sex, all of which he has responded to by permitting a lawyer of his to tell The New York Times that he “denies having any nonconsensual sexual relation.” If the report’s findings are true, they could be grounds for CBS to withhold all of Moonves’ millions.

John  Schnatter. Picture: Rob Kim/Getty Images

John Schnatter

John Schnatter kicked off 2017 on top of the world: Papa John’s was thriving, propelling his fortune into the billions, and he had become a household name, thanks, in part, to a sponsorship deal with the NFL. But that would all go up in flames by November, when, after months of slowing sales at Papa John’s, he weighed in on the national anthem protests, blaming the league’s tolerance of them for his company’s slipping stock. By the end of last year, Schnatter had stepped down as CEO, though he retained his position as chairman of the company he founded. Then in July 2018, Forbes reported that he had used the N-word during a conference call two months prior. On the call, a discussion of how to prevent further public relations catastrophes, Schnatter complained that “Colonel Sanders called blacks n——-s,” and KFC never faced repercussions. Hours later, he apologized for his language and denounced racism, but it didn’t help—he resigned as chairman that evening. Two weeks later, he filed a lawsuit against Papa John’s, alleging that the board had treated him in a “heavy-handed way,” and walked back his confession, allowing a lawyer of his to say, “John quoted the word and did not use the word.” In October, he took the stand, testifying against the pizza chain he built. The case is still ongoing, but his reputation is in tatters.

Eric Schneiderman
Eric Schneiderman. Picture: GETTY IMAGES

Eric Schneiderman

Like Les Moonves, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman was a vocal advocate of the #MeToo movement. He sued Harvey Weinstein and his namesake company to ensure victims received restitution for the sexual harassment and assault they said they had endured. But on May 7, The New Yorker, which had earlier brought the charges against Weinstein to light, revealed claims against Schneiderman, too, recounting allegations of sexual misconduct accusations from four women. Schneiderman, who has denied the allegations, resigned from his position the next day, but he won’t face criminal charges: After a six-month investigation into the allegations against him, it was determined that the statute of limitations for all of them had passed.

Jeffrey Tambor
Jeffrey Tambor. Picture: GETTY IMAGES

Jeffrey Tambor

After a celebrated career in comedy and two Emmy wins for his portrayal of Maura Pfefferman on Transparent, November 2017 saw Jeffrey Tambor come under investigation for sexual harassment. His accusers—Van Barnes, Tambor’s former assistant, and Trace Lysette, who plays Shea on Transparent—are both transgender women. Despite being fired from the hit Amazon Studios show in February 2018, he did reprise his role as George Bluth Sr. on Netflix’s Arrested Development in May. That same month, Jessica Walter, Tambor’s Arrested Development co-star and on-screen wife, told The New York Times that he had verbally abused her on set. Tambor has denied all allegations of sexual misconduct, but he has acknowledged and apologized for his behavior toward Walter. While he doesn’t appear to be working on any film or television projects at this time, he is still slated to appear in Disney’s Magic Camp, to be released in 2019.

Wynn Resorts. Picture: Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Steve Wynn

After nearly two decades spent building a casino empire, and with it much of the iconic Las Vegas strip, Steve Wynn’s house of cards came tumbling down in January, when The Wall Street Journal published an investigation into numerous allegations against him of sexual misconduct. The billionaire has vehemently denied the accusations, calling them “preposterous” and part of a smear campaign led by Elaine Wynn, his ex-wife and Wynn Resorts cofounder, but he stepped down as CEO and chairman in February, and sold his shares of the company in March. Seven months after cashing out, he filed a lawsuit against his former company and the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, alleging that Wynn Resorts had improperly provided investigators with his private communications and attempting to block the release of documents related to the firm’s investigation. A hearing on those documents’ possible release is expected on December 20.

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World’s Highest-Paid Athletes 2019: What Messi, LeBron And Tiger Make

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Major League Baseball had a staggering run this year when, over a four-week period, a quartet of its biggest stars—Nolan Arenado, Bryce Harper, Manny Machado and Mike Trout—signed blockbuster, long-term deals worth a combined $1.3 billion. They ranked as four of the biggest playing contracts in the history of sports.

The deals will create generational wealth for their families, but only Trout, ranked 17th with $50.6 million, cracks the top 20 of the world’s highest-paid athletes.

The difference: Those four baseball stars generate barely $10 million in combined endorsement income while the top earners in basketball, soccer, tennis and golf all individually bank at least $30 million from sponsors annually; eight of the 11 best-paid athletes come from those four sports.

READ MORE | Lionel Messi Claims Top Spot on Forbes’ 2019 List Of The World’s 100 Highest-Paid Athletes

Most of the athletes ranked above Trout follow a similar path: Reach the highest levels of a global sport, and marketers swarm with endorsement deals to pitch their wares around the world.

Barcelona soccer legend Lionel Messi leads the way on this year’s list with $127 million, including $35 million off the pitch from partners Adidas, MasterCard, PepsiCo and more. Messi translates into every language.

Messi is only the fourth athlete to land in the No. 1 spot over the past 19 years, joining Tiger Woods (12 times), Floyd Mayweather (4) and Cristiano Ronaldo (2).

Messi succeeds Mayweather, who failed to get in the ring for a pro bout over the past 12 months but is likely still counting last year’s $285 million haul, which he earned largely from his 2017 bout against UFC star Conor McGregor.


READ MORE | The World’s Highest-Paid Athletes


Messi is joined by fellow global soccer icons Cristiano Ronaldo ($109 million) and Neymar ($105 million) at the top this year. It is the first time that soccer players have ranked as the top three earners in sports since Forbes began tracking athlete earnings in 1990.

Elite stars in other global sports are also extremely marketable on any continent. Roger Federer ranks fifth with $93.4 million, including $86 million off the court.

Federer will turn 38 in August and is a dinosaur in tennis years. Yet Japanese apparel brand Uniqlo signed the 20-time Grand Slam winner in 2018 to a 10-year contract worth $300 million. Federer has a dozen sponsors looking to tap the cash-rich tennis fan demographic.

Basketball’s leading trio of LeBron James ($89 million), Stephen Curry ($79.8 million) and Kevin Durant ($65.4 million) rank seventh through ninth, having earned a combined $130 million beyond their respective playing salaries.

READ MORE | The NBA’s Highest-Paid Players 2019: LeBron James Leads With $89 Million

Their shoe deals, with Nike (James, Durant) and Under Armour (Curry), are by far the biggest endorsement for each player and dwarf what an MLB player can earn pitching baseball cleats and gear.

Sportswear brands, including Adidas, have used NBA stars in China for more than a decade to help establish a foothold in the world’s biggest market, sending big names like James and Durant there every summer on promotional tours. The NBA estimates 640 million people in China watched some kind of NBA programming during the 2017-18 season—that’s nearly twice the population of the U.S.

Golf is another sport that reaches almost every corner of the globe, and no golfer has benefited more than Tiger Woods: He has made $1.4 billion during his career from endorsements and appearance fees, more than 10 times his prize money, and his net worth is a staggering $800 million. Woods ranks 11th on this year’s athletes list with earnings of $63.9 million, including $54 million off the course.

Tiger roared back over the past 12 months with his first win in five years (Tour Championship) and his first major title in 11 years (The Masters). Last year, he signed an exclusive multi-year global content partnership with Discovery’s GolfTV. Head-to-head matches are part of the deal, and most will take place outside the U.S.

The 100 highest-paid athletes earned a combined $4 billion over the past 12 months, up 5% over the previous year. The increase jumps to 16% if you strip out the one-time stimulus of the 2017 Mayweather-McGregor fight. Endorsements fueled much of the gains, with sponsor-driven income at $987 million, up 12% from the previous year.

Overall, athletes from 10 sports and 25 countries made the top 100. Basketball (35 athletes) is the most dominant sport, and Americans (62) are the most dominant nationality.

READ MORE | Inside Serena Williams’ Plan To Ace Venture Investing

Tennis ace Serena Williams ranked 63rd with $29.2 million, including $25 million off the court. She is the only woman to crack the top 100 for the second time in three years. 

No female athletes qualified last year, when Williams was just returning to tennis after a 12-month layoff for her pregnancy and the birth of her daughter, Olympia. Williams is lining up her next act with a new clothing line and a venture capital fundfocused on investing in female and minority founders.

Our earnings include prize money, salaries and bonuses earned between June 1, 2018, and June 1, 2019. Endorsement incomes are an estimate of sponsorships, appearance fees and licensing incomes for the same 12-month period (click here for a more detailed methodology and the numbers behind the top 100).

-Kurt Badenhausen; Forbes Staff

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Beyoncé And Jay-Z’s Combined Billion-Dollar Fortune Makes Them One Of The Richest Self-Made Couples

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“Got that dinero on my mind,” Beyoncé and Jay-Z wrote on the third track of their surprise album Everything is Love, which came out last June. A year later, it’s clear that the couple wasn’t just taking poetic license: With Jay-Z’s newly minted status as a billionaire and Beyoncé’s place on Forbes’ richest self-made women list, the music moguls are one of America’s wealthiest couples.

It’s been a banner year for the married couple, whose combined net worth now totals an estimated $1.4 billion. Jay-Z, whose steadily growing portfolio of businesses includes liquor, art, real estate and stakes in companies like Uber, is the first hip-hop artist to become a billionaire.

Meanwhile Beyoncé , whose fortune increased to an estimated $400 million from $355 million last year thanks to continued touring and an album release, ranks No. 51 on Forbes 2019 list of America’s most successful self-made women (up two places from last year).

READ MORE | From Beyoncé Knowles-Carter to Kim Kardashian West, America’s Richest Self-Made Women Under 40

Their combined net worth of $1.4 billion makes the music moguls one of the 10 most successful husband-and-wife teams in the country, and certainly the most recognizable.  Unlike many other couples who founded businesses together, they both struck it rich with complementary but separate businesses. Beyoncé’s wealth comes mostly from earnings from touring, music sales and merchandise.

Her husband, on the other hand, amassed most of his wealth from his ownership of Armand de Brignac champagne, investments, his cognac partnership with Bacardi and his own music career, among other sources. Both Beyoncé and Jay-Z have stakes in music streaming service Tidal.

Other entrepreneurial husband-and-wife teams might not be as famous, but their businesses are well known. Do Won and Jin Sook Chang came from South Korea in 1981 in search of better opportunities. “At the time [people in] South Korea weren’t living as well,” Do Won told Forbes in 2016.

READ MORE | Artist, Icon, Billionaire: How Jay-Z Created His $1 Billion Fortune

He worked three jobs as a dishwasher, gas station attendant and office cleaner while she worked in a hair salon. They saved up and in 1984 opened a clothing store. Today they co-own and run Forever 21, a clothing empire with over 815 stores  and $4 billion in sales. Their combined net worth is $3 billion.

Another couple, the Cherngs, found success together through food. Andrew Cherng opened a Chinese restaurant with his father in 1973. His wife Peggy, who had a Ph.D. in electrical engineering and held positions at 3M and the U.S. Navy, gave it all up to help her husband expand the one restaurant into a Chinese fast-food chain. That chain, Panda Express, along with several other fast casual chains the couple owns stakes in, have brought the Cherngs’ combined net worth to $3.4 billion.

Sometimes the strength of a husband-wife partnership comes from their ability to support one another. This was the case for Eren Ozmen and her husband Fatih, the president and CEO team behind aerospace giant Sierra Nevada Corp. (SNC).

READ MORE | How Rihanna Created A $600 Million Fortune—And Became The World’s Richest Female Musician

Before they were a couple, Fatih encouraged Eren to pursue an M.B.A. (the couple originally met at Ankara University in Turkey before separately immigrating to the U.S.).

Once they were married, Eren put her business school training to good use by helping automate the financial reports at Fatih’s employer, a then-struggling SNC. Eventually, the couple decided to buy the company and took the business from the verge of bankruptcy to a top military contractor.

While building a vast fortune is rare for couples running businesses together, it has been a winning formula for some women: Nearly one fourth of those on Forbes’ 2019 self-made women list achieved their fortunes through businesses they cofounded with their husbands (though some now are widows or have since divorced).

Below are the 10 wealthiest self-made husband and wife teams in the nation:

1. Tom & Judy Love

Net worth: $5.9 Billion

Tom and Judy Love leased their first gas station in Watonga, Oklahoma, with a $5,000 loan from Tom’s parents. Now Love’s Travel Stops & Country Stores has more than 430 locations in 41 states.

LACMA 2018 Collectors Committee Gala
Stewart and Lynda Resnick cofounded The Wonderful Company, which owns Fiji Water and mandarin Halos. STEFANIE KEENAN/GETTY IMAGES FOR LACMA

2.  Lynda & Stewart Resnick

Net worth: $5.6 Billion

The couple are the force behind snack and drink conglomerate the Wonderful Co., known for Pom Wonderful pomegranate juice, Halos mandarin oranges and Fiji water. The couple is also known for philanthropy, giving millions of dollars to educational causes and earning the #29 spot on Forbes’ list of top givers.

Diane Von Furstenberg - Front Row - Spring 2016 New York Fashion Week
Barry Diller (left) and Diane von Furstenberg run their own businesses in separate industries.DIMITRIOS KAMBOURIS/GETTY IMAGES

3. Diane von Furstenberg & Barry Diller

Net worth: $4 billion

Diller is founder, senior executive and chairman at internet and media conglomerate IAC,. His wife Von Furstenberg is the designer and founder of the eponymous fashion label. Diller owns one third of DVF, while Von Furstenberg and her two children from a previous marriage own the rest.  

The Cherngs At Panda Express
Peggy and Andrew Cherng own and run $3.5 billion (sales) Chinese fast-food chain Panda Express. (Photo by Bob Riha, Jr./Getty Images)GETTY

4. Peggy & Andrew Cherng

Net Worth: $3.4

In addition to fast-food chain Panda Express, the Cherngs also own stakes in Urbane Cafe, Just Salad, Uncle Tetsu, Pieology and Ippudo.

5. Jin Sook & Do Won Chang

Net Worth: $3 billion

The Changs’ clothing retailing business is all in the family—the couple’s nieces work at the company as do their daughters, who launched Forever 21’s beauty brand Riley Rose.

PENCE SPACE SYMPOSIUM
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence (center) joins Sierra Nevada co-founders Eren and Fatih Ozmen at the 34th Space Symposium. MATHEW STAVER/© 2018 BLOOMBERG FINANCE LP

6. Eren & Fatih Ozmen

Net Worth: $2.8 billion

The Ozmens built their defense contractor Sierra Nevada Corp. through a series of some 20 acquisitions. Describing their strategy, Eren told Forbes  last year:  “Our guys go hunting, and they bring me this giant bear and say, ‘Now you do the skinning and clean it up.’ ”

7.Neerja Sethi & Bharat Desai

Net worth: $2.4 billion

Sethi and Desai cofounded IT consulting and outsourcing firm Syntel out of their Troy, Michigan, apartment in 1980. In October 2018, French IT company Atos SE bought Syntel for $3.4 billion.

8. Weili Dai & Sehat Sutardja

Net Worth: $2 billion

The couple headed semiconductor company Marvell Technology for 11 years until they were forced out as a result of an internal accounting investigation in 2016. Neither was found guilty of any fraudulent activity. The couple has diversified their investments into real estate and technology.

9. Kit Crawford & Gary Erickson

Net Worth: $1.8 billion

The couple behind Clif Bar met at Erickson’s bakery, where Crawford was working part-time. They each have a 40% stake in the company.

10. Beyoncé & Jay-Z

    Net Worth: $1.4 billion

The musicians have shown distinct business savvy, giving users of Tidal, the music streaming service the couple partially owns, exclusive access to their albums.

-Catherine Perloff; Forbes Staff

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Lionel Messi Claims Top Spot on Forbes’ 2019 List Of The World’s 100 Highest-Paid Athletes

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Forbes today released its annual ranking of the World’s 100 Highest-Paid athletes, who collectively earned $4 billion over the last 12 months, up 5% from last year’s earnings of $3.8 billion. 

Lionel Messi was named the world’s highest-paid athlete for the first time, up from second place last year, with $127 million in total earnings.

Messi unseats Floyd Mayweather, who held the crown last year, and was the leader four times in seven years. Behind Messi is longtime rival Cristiano Ronaldo (No. 2), who earned $109 million between his salary and endorsements. 

READ MORE | How Rihanna Created A $600 Million Fortune—And Became The World’s Richest Female Musician

Serena Williams (No. 63) returned to the ranking, after no women appeared in 2018. Cost of admission to the 2019 list is the highest ever at $25 million, up $2.1 million from the previous year. Endorsement income experienced an increase of 12.5% to $987 million this year.

“The global impact of soccer is clearly reflected in earnings in 2019, with the top three athletes on the list being Messi, Ronaldo, and Neymar,” said Kurt Badenhausen, senior editor, Forbes Media.

“But basketball players continue to dominate the top 100 overall with 35 athletes on the list earning a total of $1.29 billion, with 72% of that income coming from salaries rather than endorsement deals.”

READ MORE | Artist, Icon, Billionaire: How Jay-Z Created His $1 Billion Fortune

The list of elite athletes consists of players from ten different sports. NBA stars lead with 35 basketball players among the top 100, down from 40 in 2018, headed by LeBron James (No. 8 with $89 million).

Football was the next most-represented sport with 19 players, followed by baseball with 15, and soccer with 12.

There are 25 different countries represented on this year’s World’s Highest-Paid Athletes list, up from 22 in 2018. Americans dominate the action with 62 athletes thanks to the sky-high salaries in the major sports leagues.

The U.K. has five athletes, France and Spain have three, while Brazil, Canada, the Dominican Republic, Germany, Serbia and Venezuela all have two.

Methodology: 

Our earnings include prize money, salaries and bonuses earned between June 1, 2018 and June 1, 2019. Endorsement incomes are an estimate of sponsorships, appearance fees and licensing incomes for the same 12-month period based on conversations with dozens of industry insiders. We do not deduct for taxes or agents’ fees, and we don’t include investment income.

The World’s Top 10 Highest-Paid Athletes in 2019:

RankAthleteSportSalary/Winnings ($mil)Endorsements ($mil)Total Earnings ($mil)
1Lionel MessiSoccer9235127
2Cristiano RonaldoSoccer6544109
3NeymarSoccer7530105
4Canelo AlvarezBoxing92294
5Roger FedererTennis7.48693.4
6Russell WilsonFootball80.5989.5
7Aaron RodgersFootball80.3989.3
8LeBron JamesBasketball365389
9Stephen CurryBasketball37.84279.8
10Kevin DurantBasketball30.43565.4

-Forbes Corporate Communications; Forbes Staff

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