When we think of rich celebrities, we think of Oprah, so it’s only natural to wonder about Oprah’s net worth. For the past 20-plus years, Oprah has built a media empire estimated with an estimated worth in the multi-million-dollar range. All of this, of course, makes us: What is Oprah Winfrey’s net worth exactly and how did she become one of the richest women in, well, ever?
Given the interest into Oprah’s finances, many may be wondering, “How much money does Oprah have and what does she do with it? In a 2019 interview with O magazine (you know, which she also owns), Oprah opened up about how she spent her first million dollars. “That is a lot of money. And the first thing I did when I got my check for a million dollars was I took a picture of it,” she said. “So there’s a picture of me holding the cheque for a million dollars.” After she took the photo, Oprah took her cold hard cash and made her first millionaire purchase. So what did Oprah spend that million dollars on? Some good-quality towels. “Towels that are so big and fluffy that you can wrap your whole body in. I splurged on really good Ralph Lauren towels,” she said.
In the video, Oprah also gave some leadership advice and revealed the best thing she’s learned since she “became a grownup.” “I was in charge in my life, and that the best thing I could do ever is be a person who listened to what my heart said, listened to what I believed to be true, and not listen to everybody else’s ideas about what I should do or who I should be,” she said. Some solid advice, O.
And now for the big question: How much is Oprah worth? Ahead, we broke down Oprah’s career from an entry-level news reporter to a media mogul with a successful talk show, podcast, magazine and, of course, TV show net work. Here’s what to know about Oprah’s net worth.
How much did Oprah make from The Oprah Winfrey Show?
Oprah’s net worth may be in the multi-millions now, but that wasn’t always the case. Oprah’s media career started when she was 17 years old and caught the attention of a local Black radio station in Tennessee, WVOL, after she won the Miss Black Tennessee beauty pageant. WVOL hired Oprah to work part-time at their station, and the young journalist worked there in her senior year of high school and in her first two years of college. After college, Oprah became the first Black female news anchor at Nashville’s WLAC-TV. In 1976, she moved on to Baltimore’s WJZ-TV to co-anchor the 6 o’clock news. After Oprah was removed as a co-anchor and demoted to a lower-level position, she was recruited as a co-host for the network’s local talk show, People Are Talking, which was Oprah’s first foray into talk shows.
After that, Oprah moved to Chicago to host WLS-TV’s half-hour morning talk show. The show, which was the network’s lowest-rated program at the time, soon became the highest-rated talk show in Chicago a few months after Oprah took over. This is when Oprah’s net worth headed into the direction it is today. Her success caught the attention of critic Roger Ebert who led to Oprah’s syndication deal with King World Productions. And thus The Oprah Winfrey Show was born. The hour-long program premiered in September 1986 and soon became the number-one talk show in America. The show, which still remains as one of the highest-rated daytime talk shows in American TV history, ran for 25 seasons from September 1986 to May 2011. The series, which has won 47 Daytime Emmys, is also one of the longest-running daytime talk shows in history.
So how much did Oprah make from The Oprah Winfrey Show? A lot. Like a lot a lot. The Standard reported in 2010 that Oprah’s talk show salary was $315 million a year, which is six times more than how much the second highest-earning talk show hosts made at the time. After Oprah was Judge Judy Scheindlin who made $45 million a year for her show, Judge Judy. After that was David Letterman who made $28 million a year for The David Letterman Show. Towards the bottom was Jay Leno who made $25 million a year for The Tonight Show and Conan O’Brien who was paid $10 million a year for his self-titled talk show. It’s been years since The Oprah Winfrey Show ended, but it’s easy to see why Oprah’s net worth is still one of the highest in Hollywood, even after the loss of her talk show salary.
How much does Oprah make from OWN?
After the end of The Oprah Winfrey Show, Oprah’s net worth continued to grow thanks to her network: OWN. In January 2011, Oprah launched the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN), a basic cable channel owned with Discovery Inc. and Harpo Studios (Oprah’s production company founded in 1986), which features entertainment and lifestyle programming targeted to Black audiences. The network’s programming also includes reruns of Oprah’s talk show. In 2017, Discovery Inc. acquired a larger stake in the company. Still, despite this, it’s reported that Harpo remains a “significant” minority stakeholder in OWN and that Oprah’s contract with the channel will run until at least 2025.
As for how much she makes from OWN, Forbes reported in June 2020 that Oprah made $37 million in 2019, most of which came from her cable channe. While it’s unclear how much she took home from OWN in 2019, the channel brings in hundreds of millions of dollars each year, and Oprah’s 25.5 percent ownership of the company is worth $75 million. But, of course, that’s only a fraction of Oprah’s net worth.
What else does Oprah’s net worth include?
Many know Oprah as the host of The Oprah Winfrey Show, but it’s with the money she made as a talk show host that turned Oprah into a billionaire, according to Forbes. So it may come as a surprise to many that Oprah’s net worth is largely due to her other ventures after her talk show. Along with OWN, Oprah is also an ambassador for and owns an 8 percent stake in Weight Watchers, which nets her a good sum of cash each year. To add onto her resume, Oprah also has three interview series on AppleTV—Oprah’s Book Club, Oprah Talks COVID-19 and The Oprah Conversation—along with her podcast, Oprah’s SuperSoul Conversations. And then, of course, there’s O, the Oprah Magazine, which Oprah has been on almost every cover of since the magazine was founded in April 2000. Though Oprah isn’t the editor-in-chief of the magazine, which is owned by Hearst Communications, Oprah is the founder and still has a stake in the glossy.
In an essay for O magazine, Oprah talked about her wealth and how she’s alway had a “great relationship with money.” I’ve always had a great relationship with money, even when I barely had any to relate to. I never feared not having it and never obsessed about what I had,” she wrote. “Like everyone else, I can remember every salary I ever made. I suppose we remember because a salary helps define the value of our service—and, unfortunately, for some people the value they place on themselves.”
While Oprah’s net worth is one of the biggest in the biz now, Oprah wrote in her O magazine essay that her first job was as a babysitter for 50 cents an hour “I first realized I was not my salary when I was 15 and making 50 cents an hour babysitting Mrs. Ashberry’s rowdy kids and cleaning up after she pulled nearly every outfit from her closet every time she got dressed. Her bedroom always looked like the end-of-the-day, last-call sale at Macy’s, with shoes and brightly colored necklaces and dresses everywhere,” she wdrote. “Just before flitting out the door (without leaving any info as to where she was going or how she could be reached in case of emergency), she’d say, ‘Oh, by the way, dear, would you mind tidying up things a bit?'”
She continued, “Well, yes, of course I did mind, and the first time I ‘tidied up,’ I did such a great job, I thought surely she’d pay me extra when she saw how I cleaned not only her room but the kids’ rooms, too. She never did. So I moved on and found a job that would pay me more—a job where I thought my efforts would be appreciated. There was a five-and-dime whose name I’ve forgotten not far from my father’s store. I got hired there for $1.50 an hour. My job was to keep things straight, stock shelves, fold socks, etc. I wasn’t allowed to work the cash register or speak to customers. I hated it. Two hours in, I found myself counting the hours to lunch. Then how much longer before I was off for the day. At 15, I knew in my soul this was no way to live or make money.”
The talk show host ended her essay by telling readers that, despite what she’s worth now, she doesn’t let money define her. For her, Oprah’s net worth is simply her income, but she would be fine without it. “All these many years later, I still know I am not my income. I am not the lifestyle my income can afford me. I let money serve its purpose. But I don’t live to serve money. I think that’s why we have such a beautiful relationship,” she wrote.
What is Oprah’s net worth?
Ah, the long-awaited answer. How much is Oprah’s net worth? According to Forbes, Oprah’s net worth is an incredible $2.5 billion, as of June 2020. The magazine reports that Oprah’s net worth went up $6 million (0.25 percent) from 2019 to 2020. Oprah spent 25 years as a host in our living rooms, and she sure seems to be reaping the awards.