Top 10 Highest-Paid Celebrities in 2012

James Ryan Jonas

Judging by Forbes Magazine’s 2012 list of the highest-paid celebrities, it seems the key to amassing huge wealth if you are in the entertainment industry is to neither be in center stage nor directly facing the camera.

Of course, no one can argue that that being an actor, actress, or singer pays relatively a lot. Just ask singers Taylor Swift, Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga and actors Kristin Stewart, Robert Pattinson, and Taylor Lautner who all received two-digit million-dollar incomes in the past year alone and earned for themselves the distinction Highest Paid Young Stars of 2012.

But more money is made by directing a film, producing your own TV show, managing your own network, or — in the case of  Dr. Dre — stamping your name on seemingly overpriced headphones. In short, the richest and highest paid celebrities in Hollywood are not just entertainers. They are entrepreneurs.

Here are the Top 10 Highest-Paid Hollywood Celebrities in 2012.

#1. Oprah Winfrey

  • 2012 Earnings: $165 million
  • Sources: The Oprah Winfrey Show, OWN cable TV network, O magazine, spin-off shows

Oprah Winfrey is, without a doubt, a media mogul. She ended her popular talk show The Oprah Winfrey Show after 25 years, which explains a drop of $125 million from her earnings last year. But she moved on to focus on expanding her media empire. She is now directly managing her own cable TV network, OWN, that features, among others, her own shows Oprah’s Lifeclass and Oprah’s Next Chapter. She still has a hand in TV shows of other celebrities she helped made famous, including Rachael Ray, Dr. Phil, and The Dr. Oz Show. Of course, her magazine O, remains a bestseller and she also has her own satellite radio station.

#2. Michael Bay

  • 2012 Earnings: $160 million
  • Source: Transformers: Dark of the Moon (Director) 

Whether you love or hate the Transformers movies, one thing is certain: you and millions of other people went to watch it. And Michael Bay, the movie’s director, profited hugely from that blockbuster film. Despite being panned by critics, the most recent Transformers 3D movie, Dark of the Moon, grossed more than $1.1 billion worldwide. And Bay is assured of a hefty share in those profits. Not just that, he also earns royalties from the sale of Transformers toys and a percentage in the earnings of the Transformers ride in Universal Studios in Hollywood.

#3. Steven Spielberg

  • 2012 Earnings: $130 million
  • Source: DreamWorks Pictures (Co-Owner)

Steven Spielberg is known for directing award-winning but also commercially popular films, such as ET: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982), Jurassic Park (1983), Schindler’s List (1993), and Saving Private Ryan (1998), among others. In 2011, he directed War Horse and The Adventures of Tintin, both nominated for Oscars and both proved successful at the box office. His huge earnings come from his stake as co-owner of DreamWorks pictures, which recently ventured into TV and produced shows such as Smash and Terra Nova.

#4. Jerry Bruckheimer

  • 2012 Earnings: $115 million
  • Source: Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (Producer)

Reeling from his two box-office bombs in 2010 (Prince of Persia and The Sorcerer’s Apprentice), Jerry Bruckheimer got his groove back when he produced the latest installment of the Johnny Depp-starrer pirate movie series Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. The movie was hailed as the top-grossing movie in 2011, raking in more than $1 billion in worldwide ticket sales.

#5. Dr. Dre

  • 2012 Earnings: $110 million
  • Source: Beats by Dr. Dre (headphone company, Co-owner)

Dr. Dre makes money from music but not by making songs but from the headsets that people use to listen to songs. Dr. Dre is co-owner of a company that sells the premium line of Beats by Dr. Dre headphones. In August 2011, Taiwanese tech company HTC Corporation paid $300 million for a 51% stake. Owning 1/3 of the company, Dr. Dre got to pocket $100 million from the deal.

#6. Tyler Perry

  • 2012 Earnings: $105 million
  • Source: Actor, producer, director of films, stage plays, and TV shows

Tyler Perry is an American actor, director, producer, and playwright of various stage plays and films. Perry’s most successful film was 2009’s Madea Goes to Jail, which earned $90 million. In 2012, he wrote, produced, directed and acted on the films Good Deeds and Madea’s Witness Protection, both  commercial successes. He also appears on, writes, produces, and directs the TV shows House of Payne, Meet the Browns, and For Better or Worse.

#7. Howard Stern

  • 2012 Earnings: $105 million
  • Source: Radio show host; America’s Got Talent judge

Controversial radio host Howard Stern is making a big leap to mainstream television, as he replaced Piers Morgan as judge in popular reality TV talent show America’s Got Talent starting in 2012. He is expected to return as judge in succeeding seasons, with a reported $15 million contract price.

#8. James Patterson

  • 2012 Earnings: $94 million
  • Source: Author of thriller/fantasy novels

James Patterson is an author of thriller novels and scifi/fantasy books, largely targeted to young adults. He is known for his series about American psychologist Alex Cross. In 2011, he released 14 titles which further upped his income. An adaptation of his “I, Alex Cross” is in the works, with No. 6 Tyler Perry stepping to the role previously played by Morgan Freeman.

#9. George Lucas

  • 2012 Earnings: $90 million
  • Source: Star Wars franchise; Industrial Light and Magic (Co-owner)

Thanks to the massive success of the Star Wars franchise, Lucas earns more money just by waking up in the morning than many people will see in a lifetime. But Lucas plows much of that money back into his company Industrial Light and Magic, which provides effects for movies like Battleship and The Avengers. Lucas’ passion project, Red Tails about the Tuskegee airmen, fizzled at the box office, bringing in only $50 million.

#10. Simon Cowell

  • 2012 Earnings: $90 million
  • Source: The X-Factor; Syco Records

Acerbic talent TV show judge moved from American Idol to his own produced show, The X-Factor, but his own creation was not able to match the ratings success of the Idol franchise. The X-Factor, however, discovered and made popular a now globally-recognized boy band, One Direction.

Source: Forbes

Other rich people lists:

James Ryan Jonas teaches business management, investments, and entrepreneurship at the University of the Philippines (UP). He is also the Executive Director of UP Provident Fund Inc., managing and investing P3.2 Billion ($56.4 Million) worth of retirement funds on behalf of thousands of UP employees.