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Monday
Aug272012

Oprah Winfrey Leads Top Highest-Paid Celebrities 

Heather Wines/CBS via Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Oprah Winfrey's talk show may have called it quits last year, but her earning power certainly hasn't. The owner of Harpo productions, television network OWN and O Magazine, whose syndicated talk show ended in late May of last year, tops Forbes' Highest-Paid Celebrities list for the fourth year in a row.

Now that her talk show has ended, Winfrey has some close competition on her heels, beating the second highest-paid celebrity by only $5 million, and earning $125 million less than a year ago.

"Although the show ended it was still in reruns, so she still got some money from it," said Forbes' Los Angeles bureau chief, Dorothy Pomerantz.

Most of her money is now coming from the rest of her empire, which includes shows by Dr. Phil, Dr. Oz, and Rachael Ray, and a lucrative radio deal. Her network has laid off employees as she leads with shows like Oprah's Lifeclass and Oprah's Next Chapter.

"She'll still continue to make a lot of money, but without the syndicated show, she'll take a big hit," Pomerantz said.

Here are the big-earners who round out the rest of the top five highest-paid celebrities:

Michael Bay


Michael Bay's third Transformers film, Transformers: Dark of the Moon, earned about $1.1 billion at the box office.

Pomerantz called Bay a "smart director" who made a "fantastic" deal with the film by getting a share of the profits, including a share of the toy sales.

The film director and executive producer is working on a number of other projects with some big money-earning potential, including Pain and Gain with Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson, and Ken Jeong, which is expected to be released next year. The throwback film Ninja Turtles isn't expected to be released until 2014.

Steven Spielberg

With two Oscar-nominated films in theaters last year, War Horse and The Adventures of Tintin, director Steven Spielberg has proven time and time again he still has an eye for critically-acclaimed movie hits.

Forbes reports Spielberg is likely going to return to their list next year with two other films, Lincoln starring Daniel Day-Lewis, and Robopocolypse, a sci-fi thriller based on the book by Daniel Wilson.

"Spielberg is a 'perennial' toward the top of our list," Pomerantz said.

The director, who receives tens of millions of dollars each year from residuals from his past hit films, also served as a consultant for the Universal Theme Parks, so gets a share of ticket sales.

Jerry Bruckheimer

Jerry Bruckheimer made waves last year with the Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, the fourth installment of Disney's film series and one of the highest-grossing films in 2011, earning $1 billion at the box office. Bruckheimer is expected to reap in millions more with additional sequels, such as Top Gun 2, Bad Boys 3, National Treasure 3, and yes, additional Pirates of the Caribbean films.

Pomerantz calls Bruckheimer another perennially highly paid celebrity.

"The Pirates films are what's keeping his earnings up really high now," Pomerantz said, but Bruckheimer also has a large television empire, which includes the CSI series and The Amazing Race.

Dr. Dre

The only musician in Forbes' top five list, Dr. Dre didn't produce or write a hit song last year, but he did make millions from his line of headphones, Beats by Dre. In August 2011, HTC Corp., Asia's second-largest handset producer by market value, bought a 51-percent stake in Beat Electronics LLC for $300 million.

As part of the deal, the Taiwanese company passed along $100 million to co-founders Dr. Dre, whose legal name is Andre Romelle Young, and record label Interscope's chairman Jimmy Iovine, who each owned about a third of the company, Forbes said.

After mega-hits like "Still D.R.E." from 2001 and producing for big-name rappers like Eminem and Snoop Dog, Dr. Dre announced he was taking a break from music last November.

Forbes has the full list of the highest-paid celebrities.

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