The queen of television, Oprah Winfrey is the richest African-American and one of the most lucrative brands in the world. Winfrey tops the inaugural Forbes list of the wealthiest black Americans. She is the only African-American billionaire on the Forbes 2012 billionaires list. Black Entertainment Television founder Robert Johnson was the first African-American billionaire in 2000 after he sold the network to Viacom for $3 billion.
1. Oprah Winfrey
Net worth: $2.7 billion as of March 2012
Source of Wealth: Television, self-made
The queen of daytime TV is now the queen of cable. Winfrey’s OWN network launched in early 2011. In addition to her cable channel, Winfrey is overseeing the last season of her syndicated show, a magazine and Harpo, her production company. She also started a school for girls in South Africa. Winfrey has 5.2 million followers on Twitter. Her Harpo firm helped create the likes of Dr. Phil and Rachael Ray. She’s produced Broadway shows and has her own satellite radio channel. For all of this, she consistently earns more than $225 million a year.
2. Sean “Diddy” Combs
Net Worth: $550 million as of April 2012
Source of Wealth: Rap, record production, acting, fashion design, other businesses
Diddy is the richest rapper on the planet, building a fortune chiefly through clothing line Sean John, record label Bad Boy and Ciroc vodka. Acting gigs, television shows and guest appearances add to his coffers. Diddy was crowned 2011’s wealthiest artist in hip-hop, with a fortune of $475 million. The “Hello Good Morning” rapper beat Jay-Z to claim the top spot in Forbes 2011 Top 5 Wealthiest Hip-Hop Artists.
3. Robert Johnson
Estimated net worth: $550 million as of May 2009
Source of Wealth: BET, investments
The first African-American billionaire’s fortune dropped when the recession hammered media and hotel markets. With his wife, he founded cable channel Black Entertainment Television (BET) in 1979 with $15,000 of his own money and a $500,000 investment by John Malone’s cable and media giant Tele-Communications Inc. He became the first African-American billionaire in 2000 after selling BET to Viacom for $3 billion. His former wife and BET co-founder, Sheila Johnson, took half of the fortune in their 2002 divorce.
4. Tiger Woods (tie)
Net worth: $500 million as of September 2010
Source of Wealth: Golf, endorsements
Woods has earned more than $130 million in career prize money and $900 million from endorsements, appearance fees and golf course design business since 1996. His agents, the tax man and recently divorced wife Elin Nordegren have all gotten pieces of those earnings. But he can recoup much of that if he starts winning again and if sponsors return.
4. Michael Jordan (tie)
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Net worth: $500 million as of September 2010
Source of Wealth: Basketball, Nike, endorsements
The former Chicago Bulls wonder earned $90 million in salary during his playing career. Most of his fortune now derives from endorsement deals with his biggest sponsor, Nike; he raised his stake in the NBA’s Charlotte Bobcats to 80% this year.
4. Earvin “Magic” Johnson Jr. (tie)
Net worth: $500 million as May 2009
Source of Wealth: Restaurants, real estate, investments
The pro basketball player retired after announcing he had contracted HIV, and became an entrepreneur. He introduced well-known brands to diverse neighborhoods via Magic Johnson Enterprises. Partnerships included Starbucks, 24 Hour Fitness, T.G.I. Fridays and AMC Theatres. He invested in urban real estate and companies catering to America’s underserved markets via his Canyon-Johnson and Yucaipa-Johnson funds. He has donated several million dollars to community-based organizations that focus on HIV/AIDS education and prevention. He runs Magic Johnson Enterprises, net worth $700 million.
7. Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter
Net Worth: $460 million as of April 2012
Source of Wealth: Rap, songwriting, co-owner of the New Jersey Nets, other businesses
The “99 Problems” rapper and Beyonce’s husband sold the Rocawear clothing label for $204 million in 2007. He signed a 10-year, $150 million deal with show producer Live Nation in 2008. His portfolio includes shares in the New Jersey Nets and fashion, music and restaurant businesses.
8. William Henry “Bill” Cosby Jr.
Net worth: $450 million as of May 2009
Source of Wealth: The Cosby Show, other entertainment
The legendary comedian left high school in 10th grade and finished via correspondence courses in the Navy. He broke a long-standing racial barrier when he was cast as an equal to a white actor on NBC’s “I Spy” in the 1960s, a role that garnered him three Emmy Awards. He launched The Cosby Show on NBC, and the iconic series was an immediate success. It has since made him hundreds of millions in salary and syndication dollars. He also had a best-selling book, Fatherhood, in 1986, with more than 4 million copies. He and his wife, Camille, donated $20 million in 1988 to Spelman College in Atlanta. He was awarded a Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2002 in recognition of his contributions to American culture…
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