It's been 30 years since the release of the original Star Wars, yet for director-producer George Lucas, the force is still with him, big time. In May, Hasbro, the world's second-largest toymaker, paid Lucas $200 million to buy back nearly 16 million warrants for Hasbro stock the company awarded him in 1997 as part of a Star Wars toy licensing renewal deal. (Star Wars merchandise--think Jedi action figures and play light sabers--has been Hasbro's top-selling franchise among boys for the second year running.)
That buyout earned Lucas the top spot on Forbes' list of the Biggest Celebrity Paydays of 2007. In all, the 20 celebrities on the list earned over $1 billion in just 20 days.
All figures are not deducted for capital gains or other relevant taxes, unless noted. Actor advances for films were not included, since such payouts can vary depending on when a film begins shooting. As such, it is virtually impossible to pin down the actual payday.
True, most of us can't recall what we made in a single day. But these aren't ordinary days for the members of this list. June 7, for example, was the single highest earning payday in the life of drug dealer-turned-rapper Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson. "Fitty" (as he is sometimes called) hooked up with Glacéau, maker of the trendy Vitaminwater health drinks, back in 2004, letting it sell a flavor named for him--Formula 50--in exchange for a small equity stake in the company.
Jackson told Forbes he predicted Coca-Cola would snap up the fledgling company. Sure enough, on June 7, Coca Cola acquired Glacéau for $4.1 billion, netting the rapper $100 million a month before his 31st birthday. That payout earned him the No. 2 slot on the Forbes Celebrity Paydays list.
Radio shock job Howard Stern, who topped last year's list, ranks No. 3 this year thanks to the $82 million stock bonus he earned from his bosses at Sirius for boosting subscriptions for a second year in a row.
Celebrity-owned businesses proved extremely lucrative last year. Jay-Z banked $82 million (before taxes) when he sold his urban apparel line Rocawear to Iconix Brand Group in a deal topping $204 million. And former Van Halen front man Sammy Hagar pocketed $80 million in May when Gruppo Campari, maker of Campari and Skyy vodka, bought the rocker's Cabo Wabo tequila brand in May.
"Golden Boy" boxer Oscar De La Hoya nabbed the No. 7 spot on the list thanks to the record-breaking $55 million purse he won from his May title fight against Floyd Mayweather. Though Mayweather won the 12-round fight for the welterweight title, he took home just $25 million--only enough to earn him the No. 14 rank. But Mayweather has two top earning paydays in 2007. Seven months after his victory over De La Hoya, he snagged another $25 million when he beat Britain's Ricky Hatton in a 10th round TKO.
Six celebrities made the list after unloading their pricey spreads. Both Courteney Cox and Mel Gibson dumped their beach-front Malibu manses. Designer Vera Wang and music impresario David Geffen sold their Manhattan apartments. (Sale prices are before broker fees and relevant taxes.)
Foppish actor Hugh Grant exploited the art market's insatiable appetite for Andy Warhol when he auctioned off his iconic painting of Elizabeth Taylor for $23.5 million. He bought the piece in 2001 for just under $4 million.
And the list's most long-awaited entry: hockey star Mario Lemieux. Nearly 10 years after he bailed the NHL's Pittsburgh Penguins out from bankruptcy, Lemieux finally enjoyed a long-overdue payday. The organization paid him $21 million in October after a debt restructuring. Though it's hard to imagine Lemieux popped any champagne, he was originally owed $32 million in back pay.