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Serena Williams Heads The Highest-Paid Female Athletes 2017

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Serena Williams has dominated her sport for 15 years, in a way that few other athletes have. She was the top-ranked player in the world in 2002 at age 20 and as recently as May at 35 (the oldest ever to hold the No. 1 spot). She’s won 86% of her matches, with an Open era-record 23 Grand Slam singles titles. Her career prize money of $84 million is more than twice as much as any other female athlete’s.

Michael Jordan, Muhammad Ali, Jim Brown, Usain Bolt and others are often hailed as the greatest athlete of all-time. Williams needs to be in the conversation, too.

Williams has been sidelined since January, when she won her 23rd Slam title with a win over sister Venus at the Australian Open. She revealed three months later that she was pregnant during the tournament. Despite the layoff, Williams still finds ways to dominate her peers. Her earnings between June 2016 and June 2017 of $27 million from prize money and endorsements are twice the total from any other female athlete in the world.

Williams rules Maria Sharapova on the court, with a streak of 18 straight wins against her rival, and for years earned more than double Sharapova’s prize money. But Williams typically lagged her among the top-earners because of lower off-the-court earnings. Sharapova was the highest-paid female athlete for 11 years until Williams unseated her in FORBES’ 2016 look at the top-paid women in sports.

Williams’ endorsement earnings soared in recent years as marketers flocked to her while she became the elder stateswoman of tennis and approached the Open-era Grand Slam record of 22 held by Steffi Graf. Williams currently has more than a dozen endorsement partners, including Beats by Dre, Gatorade, JPMorgan Chase, Nike and Tempur-Pedic. Intel added her this year for a campaign with the message that high-tech equals high performance.

There has been a break in Williams’ tennis schedule, but she’s remained engaged with her sponsors and business interests. She joined SurveyMonkey’s board in May at the recommendation of fellow board member and Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg. Williams and her fiancée, Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian, are expecting their first child sometime in the next month. Williams expects to be back on the court early in 2018.

Angelique Kerber, who finished 2016 as the WTA Tour’s No. 1 player, ranks second with earnings of $12.6 million, including $7.6 million in prize money. The German tennis ace is not the most marketable player in tennis, but she secured lucrative bonuses from sponsors Adidas and Yonex for her top world ranking, US Open title and Wimbledon finals appearance. She also inked five new deals over the past 12 months, with SAP, Generali, Rolex, Slim Secrets and bareMinerals.

Tennis players dominate the highest-paid female athletes with eight of the top 10. It is the one major sport where, when comparing men and women, the money is in the same stratosphere. Williams trails Roger Federer ($64 million) in tennis, but she is not too far behind Novak Djokovic ($37.6 million), who ranks second in the sport for earnings. The gap is massive in golf, where Rory McIlroy ($50 million) out-earns Lydia Ko ($5.9 million) by more than eight-to-one. The divide is even worse in soccer, with Cristiano Ronaldo ($93 million) and Alex Morgan ($3.5 million) the top earners.

Ronaldo, Le Bron Top World’s Highest-Paid Athletes Of 2017

Danica Patrick ($12.2 million) and Ronda Rousey ($11 million) are the two non-tennis players in the women’s top 10, ranking third and fourth overall. Both have made inroads as marketable athletes in male-dominated sports.

Patrick has one more year left on her contract at Stewart-Haas Racing, but it is contingent on having a sponsor for her car in 2018. A sponsor is not lined up as of now. Patrick has 10 personal sponsors, including giants like Coca-Cola, Ford and Nationwide.

Rousey was the headliner at UFC 207 in December and secured a record-tying $3 million guarantee for the bout, plus her cut of the 1.1 million pay-per-view buys. She pocketed a sizable check for her role as coach this summer in the reboot of “Battle of the Network Stars” and endorses Reebok and Pantene. Next up: marrying fellow MMA fighter Travis Browne and filming “Mile 22” alongside Mark Wahlberg.

Full List: The World’s 50 Most Valuable Sports Teams 2017

Rounding out the top five is Venus Williams ($10.5 million), who reached her first Grand Slam final since 2009 in January when she fell to Serena at the Aussie Open. Williams has her own apparel line, Eleven, so her endorsement portfolio lacks the big Nike/Adidas deal that other top tennis players have. But Williams is still a big draw at 37 and commands hefty fees for tournaments and exhibitions.

Williams is also a hit on the speaking tour, with six-figure checks for revelations about her two decades in tennis, her fight for equal pay and her battle with the autoimmune disease Sjogren’s syndrome. Her endorsements include American Express, Jamba Juice, Silk and Wilson. In addition to shilling for Jamba Juice, Williams owns 10 of the smoothie and juice shops in the Washington, D.C., area. Her career prize money of $38 million ranks second all-time behind her sister’s.

Full List: The Highest-Paid Female Athletes

The biggest drop-off among the top female earners is Sharapova, who ranked No. 2 last year after ranking first for 11 years. Sharapova was sidelined for most of our 12-month tracking period while serving her 15-month suspension for use of the banned substance meldonium. American Express, Avon and Tag Heuer did not renew their sponsorship deals with Sharapova. She still maintains Nike, Head, Evian and Porsche in her endorsement portfolio, but those deals included massive reductions that kicked in with Sharapova off the tour for over a year and pushed her earnings below the $6 million cutoff.

Our earnings estimates include prize money, salaries, endorsements, bonuses, appearance fees and royalties for the 12 months between June 1, 2016, and June 1, 2017. The top 10 women made a combined $109 million, down 13% from last year. Other drop-offs besides Sharapova include Ana Ivanovic, who retired from tennis in December, and Victoria Azarenka, who had a baby in December. – Written by 

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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.

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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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