By Amar Mahdi
Last updated at 9:57 AM on 9th July 2011
Oprah Winfrey has hung up the microphone on her long-running chat show, but the self-made billionaire still has plenty of money rolling in. So how did she make it and what is she worth?
Oprah Winfrey: Chat show queen and billionaire
It’s been quieter during the daytime in America, since chat show queen Oprah Winfrey ended her 25-year stint on the nation’s televisions almost a month ago.
Her final show was delivered as a thank you to her fans and recalled her incredible run at the top of the TV tree, but what’s she looking back on, exactly?
It’s a long list but Winfrey, 56, is: a self-made billionaire; former host of the highest-rated TV show of its kind, The Oprah Winfrey Show; publisher of her own magazine, O, The Oprah Magazine; owner of her own website, Oprah.com, with 70 million page views a month; owner of a radio channel, Oprah Radio; an actress and a producer.
And earlier this year she launched her own network called, OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network.
Needless to say, all that activity has probably had Oprah searching for a bigger purse. So how rich is she?
Forbes has put her net worth at $2.7bn (£1.7bn). Her power and influence can add to anything she’s seen near and that makes her value worth even more than that jaw-dropping figure.
A rags to riches story
Hers is a rags-to-riches story. She was born into poverty in rural Mississippi to a teenage single mother and was raised on a farm for the first six years of her life by her grandmother, who would sit on their porch and boil clothes.
Thanks to that grandmother, Oprah learnt to read and then her mind started buzzing. As a nine-year-old she would go to church on Sunday, get inspired and go to school on Monday to beg her teacher to let her do the talking during prayer time. Her classmates called her ‘preacher’.
But we could have known her by another name and all this time we could’ve been calling it The Orpah Winfrey Show. She was named after a Biblical character called Orpah - the apocryphal story goes that her name was spelled wrongly on her birth certificate and Oprah stuck, however, she said she was actually renamed by friends and family who found it easier to pronounce.
When Oprah was 14 years old she landed a job at a radio station and by the age of 19 began co-anchoring the local evening news. It was her emotional style of speaking that got her transferred into the world of daytime talk shows and would set the scene for an epic rise to fame and fortune.
The Oprah effect
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She’s even had two terms coined after her: Oprahfication, from the Wall Street Journal; and The Oprah Effect, from CNBC.
Oprahfication describes the act of a public confession as a form of therapy, which is exactly what separated her from the pile of other talk show hosts as she was starting out.
The Oprah Effect is her million-dollar touch that transforms no-names into everyday brand names. The power of this effect is such that her opinions and endorsements have strongly influenced public opinion, especially consumer purchasing choices.
When she introduced a book on her show’s Oprah’s Book Club segment, the recommendation would instantly become a bestseller. In 2005, the New York Times reported that a selection from Oprah would typically result in an additional one million sales of a novel.
Economists at the University of Maryland said her fundraising and appearance at Barack Obama’s rallies could have helped bring in up to 1.5 million votes in the Democratic Party’s election race.
In fact her political reach for Obama was so impressive that Rod Blagojevich, Governor of Illinois, considered offering her the now US president’s empty Senate seat.
Blagojevich said: ‘She was perhaps the most instrumental person in electing Barack Obama president. She is a larger-than-life figure in America and around the world… She has a voice larger than all 100 senators combined. And if she were a US senator she would be a voice for the Obama program, which she supports, and she would be in a position to be able to use an unbelievable bully pulpit to be able to get it done.’
Oprah responded: ‘I’m pretty amused by the whole thing. I could be senator too. I’m just not interested.’
The billionaire lifestyle and philanthropist
As the world’s first black billionaire and also the richest self-made woman in America, with a finger in many million-dollar pies, Oprah’s been able to afford some luxuries. She lives at the £31.3m The Promised Land, a 42-acre estate with views of the ocean and mountains in Montecito, California.
She also owns a house in New Jersey, an apartment in Chicago, an estate in Florida, a house in Georgia, a ski house in Colorado, a property in Hawaii and another in Antigua.
But for all her homes, it seems that the money spotlight has shone mostly on her giving it all away rather than pampering herself. In 2006, she gave £36.5m to charities, which included her very own Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy For Girls, Oprah’s Angel Network and many others. But she did make a reported $200bn, according to Forbes
In 2008, she also auctioned off some of her favourite cars from her private collection – her 1954 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing (originally owned by the DuPont family), a 1988 Rolls-Royce Corniche II Convertible (given to Ms. Winfrey by her long-time friend John Travolta) and a 1997 Aston Martin DB7 Volante. The three raised £450,000, which was given to her Leadership Academy in South Africa.
She must have a thing about giving cars away because a few years earlier in 2004 Oprah opened her 19th season by giving all 276 members of her audience a brand new Pontiac G-6 each. The £18,000 cars were all top of the range and were donated by General Motors. GM even agreed to pay the sales tax on each vehicle.
She’s also probably the best boss in the world. In 2009, Oprah took 100 staff members and their families on an all-expenses-paid 10-day cruise around the Mediterranean, with stops including Spain, Italy, Turkey, Greece and Malta. The trip cost Winfrey a whopping £500,000.
Not bad for a poor girl from Mississippi.
Read more: http://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/celebritymoney/article-2012669/How-rich-Oprah-Winfrey-From-Mississippi-poverty-billionaire.html#ixzz1mIG0Pw3e