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Forbes Top 20 Paid Celebrities List


Forbes compiled a list of the Top 20 paid celebrities between May 2011 and May 2012.

20. Britney Spears - $58 million
Conspicuously absent from our 2011 list due to limited touring, Britney blasts back into the top 20 this year with over 75 shows in the past 12 months. She also earns millions from endorsements and a fragrance line with Elizabeth Arden. Her latest album, Femme Fatale, earned platinum certification in the U.S. The pop princess still attracts plenty of tabloid attention, especially in the wake of her December 2011 engagement.

19. Ryan Seacrest - $59 million
After signing on to host American Idol for at least two more years, Seacrest also recently inked a new deal with Comcast that extends his presence within the company from E! to NBC, where he'll cover news, sports and entertainment. Seacrest also produces TV shows like the Keeping up with the Kardashians franchise and his latest, Shahs of Sunset, about Iranian-Americans in Beverly Hills. Seacrest also endorses brands like Bing and Coca-Cola.

18. Donald Trump - $63 million
17. Dr. Phil - $64 million

16. Manny Pacquiao - $67 million
Pacquiao was on the wrong end of a wildly controversial split decision in his June bout against Tim Bradley, his first loss in seven years. Pacquiao has become a pay-per-view stud, with five fights each generating at least one million PPV buys during the past four years. Pacman has expanded his endorsement reach by signing deals with Monster Energy and Hennessy. His longtime partners include Nike and Hewlett-Packard.

15. Rush Limbaugh - $69 million
Think Limbaugh is mellowing after 40 years on the radio? Fat chance. The conservative host demonstrated both his impact on the culture and his intemperance with his attacks on a female law student and birth-control advocate. The resulting boycott by many advertisers didn't have much of an immediate financial impact on Limbaugh, but it may cut into his earnings if sponsors remain skittish. He's on Twitter now, by the way
14. Dick Wolf - $70 million
13. Tom Cruise - $75 million
12. Elton John - $80 million

11. Glenn Bleck - $80 million
Who needs Fox News? Beck is his own network now. GBTV, his Internet-only video channel, already has more than 300,000 subscribers, making it the biggest component of his fast-growing multimedia empire, Mercury Radio Arts. The conservative host and "rodeo clown" -- his words -- also has his own book imprint with Simon & Schuster, a news website called The Blaze, a live political comedy act and, of course, "The Glenn Beck Program," syndicated by Premiere Radio.

10. Simon Cowell - $90 million
Hits like American Idol don't grow on trees, as Simon Cowell discovered this year. The British music producer and TV impresario made headlines when he promised his new show, The X Factor, would at least match his old talent show in the ratings. It didn't, but the U.K. version of the show minted a breakout act, One Direction, for Cowell's label, Syco Records.

9. George Lucas - $90 million
8. James Patterson - $94 million

7. Howard Stern - $95 million
Dwelling in the walled garden of satellite radio has been good for Stern's bank account, and it's probably spared him some FCC fines, but you can tell he misses being part of the broader culture. A new role as a judge on America's Got Talent gives him some extra visibility, along with a reported $15 million a year. It also gives him something to do with the free time he gained after signing a new contract that pays him less money in exchange for fewer days on the radio. Stern's relationship with Sirius appears to be cooling, and his defeat in a lawsuit against his employer over unpaid bonuses won't help.

6. Tyler Perry - $105 million
Perry continues to be a busy, well-paid director/producer/writer/actor. His low-budget films, like the recent Good Deeds have built-in audiences and don't need to earn a ton of money to become profitable. Perry's most successful film was 2009's Madea Goes to Jail, which earned $90 million. He also has a successful TV empire that includes House of Payne, Meet the Browns and For Better or Worse.

5. Dr. Dre - $110 million
The ageless super-producer's latest hit isn't a song, but rather a line of headphones. In August handset maker HTC paid $300 million for a 51% stake in Beats by Dr. Dre, the headphone company he co-founded with Interscope chief Jimmy Iovine in 2006. Each owned about a third of the company, pocketing about $100 million apiece, before taxes, from last summer's deal.

4. Jerry Bruckheimer - $115 million

3. Steven Spielberg - $130 million
Spielberg's DreamWorks moved into television in a big way this year with four new shows, including Terra Nova and Smash. On top of that, the prolific producer stepped back into directing with two movies that hit theaters last Christmas, The Adventures of Tintin and War Horse. Both films were nominated for Oscars.

2. Michael Bay - $160 million
Bay nabs the title of top-earning director this year thanks to Transformers:Dark of the Moon. The 3-D film brought in $1.1 billion at the box office. Bay has a great deal on the films, taking a solid chunk of the profits. He also earns big from Transformer toys. Adding to Bay's coffers this year: a Transformers ride at Universal Studios in Hollywood. Bay has earned the right to finally do a small film. Pain & Gain has a budget well under $50 million.

1. Oprah Winfrey - $165 million

The media mogul's earnings fell by a staggering $125 million from last year. However, even with the drop, she remains the highest earner on the list, just inching out director Michael Bay. It's been a challenging year for Winfrey, who signed off from her 25-year syndicated show and immediately turned her attention to struggling cable network OWN. The bulk of the earnings dive comes from lost income on The Oprah Winfrey Show, but her diversified portfolio includes O: The Oprah Magazine, spin-off shows like The Dr. Oz Show and a radio deal with Sirius. She does not earn a salary at OWN, which has faced ratings disappointments and financial issues since it premiered in Jan. 2011. As chairman and CEO of the joint venture with Discovery Communications, she hopes a recent restructuring, new programming and a distribution deal with Comcast will turn the network around.


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