Bill Cosby tops list of highest paid entertainers


NEW YORK -- Bill Cosby is the world's highest paid entertainer, earning an estimated two-year total of $84 million in 1986 and 1987, far outdistancing America's highest paid business executive, Lee Iacocca, Forbes Magazine said.

And Forbes, whose Sept. 21 issue contains its first listing of the 'top 40' entertainers, said Cosby may make as much as $100 million in 1987 alone if you take into account the discounted value of syndication rights to this year's 'The Cosby Show.'


Chrysler's Lee Iacocca will take home just slightly less than $21 million, stock options included. Forbes pointed out that only a handful of business executives make more than $5 million a year, whereas nearly 40 entertainers will bank at least $10 million during the 1986-87 period.

They include Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Springsteen, cartoonist Charles Schulz, Eddie Murphy, film maker Steven Spielberg, Madonna, Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson and Johnny Carson. Forbes declared them 'more than entertainers -- they are businesses.'

Not only do they create wealth for the entertainment industry and their business sponsors, they create wealth for the nation in exportable merchandize in the form of TV programming, motion pictures, and videocassette and music recordings.


Topped only by the aircraft industry, which had a trade surplus of $10.8 million last year, entertainment earned a $4.9 million surplus and may do $5.5 million in 1987. Entertainment even outsellssoybeans, America's top agricultural export with a net positive trade balance of $4.6 million.

Forbes' list does not include entertainers who have gone public, such as Merv Griffin who sold his company to Coca-Cola in 1986 and earned about $80 million in 1986 from his retained share of syndication revenues. Several on the list -- possibly Michael Jackson and Johnny Carson -- may go the way of Griffin in the near future, Forbes said.

Here are the top 10 on the two-year earning list, which has a cutoff of $10 million, the amount reportedly earned by TV host Oprah Winfrey:

l. William H. Cosby Jr., actor, comedian, author, $84 million.

2. Sylvester Stallone, actor, writer, $74 million.

3. Bruce Springsteen, rock singer, $56 million.

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

5. Eddie Murphy, comediann, actor, $50 million.

6. Steven Spielberg, movie producer, director, $50 million. 7. Madonna (Louise Ciccone), rock singer, $47 million.

8. Whitney Houston, pop singer, $44 million.

9. Michael Jackson, pop singer, $43 million.


10. Johnny Carson, TV host, producer, $40 million.

The only literary figure on the list is novelist-screen writer Stephen King, $21 million, and the only sports figures are boxers Marvelous Marvin Hagler, $16 million, Sugar Ray Leonard, $15 million, and Mike Tyson, $13 million. Paul McCartney is the only ex-Beatle on the list, $18 million.

The list is mostly male. In addition to Madonna and Winfrey, the only other women are actress-exercise author Jane Fonda, $13 million, and singer-actress Barbra Streisand, $11 million.

Latest Headlines