Jennifer Aniston picked up $10 million for shilling water. Sandra Bullock banked double that for selling George Lopez into reruns. Gisele Bundchen, Tyra Banks and Madonna all made millions cashing in on the most important asset they own: themselves.
"Celebrities are realizing that they themselves are the brand," says Ryan Schinman, an entertainment consultant who has negotiated corporate deals with hundreds of celebrities, including Madonna with Motorola and Jessica Simpson with DirecTV. "Any time you can have a stake in a company, you are going to work harder to make it successful. It's more than just, 'Hey, we're putting you in a commercial.' "
Aniston wins the best-timing award, grabbing an equity stake in Glacéau just before the company was sold to Coca-Cola for $4.1 billion in May. In exchange, Aniston glowed in ads for a product, SmartWater, that she was previously paying retail to drink. It's estimated that Aniston banked at least $10 million for this deal, including stock.
Aniston isn't the only star with superb timing. Sandra Bullock, who discovered Latino comedian George Lopez playing to a small club in Brea, Calif. in 2000 and promptly set to work fashioning a sitcom around him, saw her investment pay off big time when the show was sold into syndication in April. The timing couldn't have been better, as the series was canceled shortly thereafter. Bullock stands to eventually pocket $20 million from the sale.
Many of the women on the list--Kimora Lee Simmons, Jessica Simpson, Kate Moss, Sarah Jessica Parker and Heidi Klum--have taken the Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen route to fortune, partnering with large companies to create lines of clothes, accessories, shoes, makeup, perfumes and jewelry. Even a star whose career seems to be on the wane, such as Jessica Simpson, can still move product in a department store.
But with that extra responsibility comes extra risk. The blame for a poorly performing film or album can be shared with directors, writers, producers--even the marketing team. An eponymous line of perfume or clothing that does not sell will reflect on no one but the celebrity.
Other stars make the list for pure business grit: Supermodel Gisele Bundchen, whose line of Brazilian sandals has sold over 100 million pairs, reportedly began demanding that her modeling clients pay her in euros, not the shrinking dollar. And Madonna, who debuted her collection at H&M this year, struck one of the best deals of her always-savvy career: a $120 million pact with concert promoter Live Nation.
Banks and her appropriately named Bankable Productions have been busy over the past few years. The former model saw her fortunes rise as she morphed from model to mogul, as producer of two highly rated TV shows: an eponymous daytime talk show and the reality smash America's Next Top Model. But that is hardly the pinnacle for the ambitious beauty from Los Angeles. In October, Banks signed a multiyear deal with Warner Brothers to create and produce prime-time TV shows, both scripted and reality-based, as well as feature films, and a direct-to-DVD series based on the best-selling Clique series of books for teens. Expect Banks' estimated $18 million a year earnings to keep pace with her output.