Oprah Winfrey Leads Top Highest-Paid Celebrities

Good Morning America

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' annual list of highest-paid celebrities for May 2011 to May 2012.

Here's the top five highest-paid celebrities:

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Oprah Winfrey

For the fourth year in a row, Oprah Winfrey is at the top of Forbes' Highest-Paid Celebrities list. On May 25, 2011, Oprah hosted the last episode of her syndicated talk show from Chicago.

Now that the show has ended, she 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 Rachel 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.

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(AP Photo/Bryan van der Beek)

Michael Bay

Michael Bay's third Transformers film, "Transformers: Dark of the Moon" may have been lambasted by critics, but it still 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 Bumblebee character in movie, for example, was created for the film.

"Some of the money from every Bumblebee sale is going into Michael Bay's pocket," she said.

The film director and executive director is working on a number of other films that may have 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.

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(AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)

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 Bruckehimer 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.

"He makes plenty of money as a producer," Pomerantz said. "It's all relative. From my point of view, he makes a ton of money as a producer, but not $100 million."


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