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Of the Show Biz Rich, Bill Cosby Is Top Star

September 07, 1987|AL DELUGACH | Times Staff Writer

Forbes magazine, which annually grabs headlines by ranking America's rich, has delved into the moneymaking ways of the truly famous: the big-time entertainers.

In its Sept. 21 issue released today, the magazine calculates that 10 entertainers earned $20 million or more last year--compared to just one corporate executive, Chrysler Chairman Lee A. Iacocca.

And another 20 entertainers, by Forbes' arithmetic, earned $10 million or more in 1986 or 1987.

NBC's top television draw, Bill Cosby, heads its list with an estimated $84 million in earnings for the two years. Others in the top 10, with total earnings estimated for 1986 and 1987, include: actor Sylvester Stallone, $74 million; rock star Bruce Springsteen, $56 million; "Peanuts" cartoon strip creator Charles M. Schulz, $55 million; comedian Eddie Murphy, $50 million; movie producer-director Steven Spielberg, $50 million; rock singer Madonna, $47 million; pop singer Whitney Houston, $44 million; pop singer Michael Jackson, $43 million, and television star Johnny Carson, $40 million.

The magazine concedes: "These aren't hard, audited figures, of course, but they are in the ballpark--based on royalty and residual yardsticks, concert attendance figures and informed guesses."

Forbes stresses the point that the top moneymaking entertainers add value to entertainment properties, which gives them the bargaining power to get a major share of it.

It also puts its article in the context of an industry that, as second-largest producer of exports for the United States, also "creates wealth for the nation." Entertainment produced a net trade surplus of $4.9 billion last year, the article says, second only to the aircraft industry with $10.8 billion.

The entertainment segment may produce a $5.5 billion surplus this year, Forbes says.

Although the magazine lists the top 40 entertainment earners, it says it omitted executives and the owners of entertainment companies that are publicly traded or financed because "they have been covered widely elsewhere."

The magazine says it found that four of the top 10 and eight of the top 40 richest entertainers made their millions in the music business.

But Cosby, the king of the moneymakers, is ranked in a class alone and described as a one-man "growth business." Forbes estimates that he will have $57 million income in 1987, compared to $27 million last year. The difference, it says, is the $28 million advanced for reruns of "The Cosby Show" for airing next year after being run first on NBC. He owns 50% of the syndication rights to his show, and Forbes estimates that by 1992 Cosby will have derived at least $180 million from syndication.


Estimates of total earnings for 1986 and 1987 1. Bill Cosby, actor and author $84 million

2. Sylvester Stallone, actor and screenwriter $74 million

3. Bruce Springsteen, rock singer $56 million

4. Charles M. Schulz, Peanuts cartoonist $55 million

5. Eddie Murphy, comedian and actor $50 million

6. Steven Spielberg, movie maker $50 million

7. Madonna, singer and actress $47 million

8. Whitney Houston, pop singer $44 million

9. Michael Jackson, pop singer $43 million

10. Johnny Carson, TV host $40 million

11. U2, rock group of four members $37 million

12. ZZ Top, rock group with three members $31 million

13. Jim Davis, Garfield cartoonist $31 million

14. Bon Jovi, rock group with five members $29 million

15. Arnold Schwarzenegger, actor $26 million.

16. Kenny Rogers, country singer and actor $26 million

17. Van Halen, rock group of four members $25 million

18. Wayne Newton, pop singer $24 million

19. Neil Diamond, pop singer $24 million

20. Prince, pop singer $23 million

21. Billy Joel, pop singer $23 million

22. Stephen King, novelist and screenwriter $21 million

23. Paul Hogan, actor $20 million

24. Paul McCartney, singer and composer $18 million

25. Tom Selleck, actor $18 million

26. Bruce Willis, actor $17 million

27. Michael J. Fox, actor $17 million

28. Willie Nelson, country singer and actor $17 million

29. Jack Nicholson, actor $16 million

30. Tom Cruise, actor $16 million

31. Phil Donahue, television host $16 million

32. Marvin Hagler, boxer $16 million

33. Steve Martin, comedian and actor $15 million

34. Sugar Ray Leonard, boxer, TV commentator $14 million

35. Mike Tyson, boxer $13 million

36. Jane Fonda, actress and exercise maven $13 million

37. Julio Iglesias, singer $13 million

38. Phil Collins, rock singer $12 million

39. Barbra Streisand, singer and actress $11 million

40. Oprah Winfrey, TV host $10 million

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