Who Was The Richest TV Producer Of All Time?

I’m trying to figure out two things:

  1. The richest TV producer of all time, and,

  2. How many TV producers have been on the Forbes 400 list.

Does anyone know the answer?

Aaron Spelling would be a good guess.

I’d agree.

Other suspects of mine for TV producers that were on the Forbes 400 include Mark Goodson (look at all the game shows he produced), Charles Hirsch Barris (who sold his production company for $100 million in 1984, back when $150 million got you on that list), Lucille Ball (who made much of her fortune off of Desilu), and Dick Clark.

Anyone able to confirm any of this?

What about Merv Griffin? Doesn’t he produce Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune, two hugely succesful long-running shows? He must have others as well.

Thanks, I forgot about him.

So, does anyone have old copies of "Forbes lying around that might be of service?

Don’t be lazy look back to 1996.

I have. The problem is, some of my suspects had died before 1996 (Goodson, Ball) while others ended up either declining in fortune or not making as much as they would need to keep up (Spelling, Barris).

I defy anyone to prove there’s been a bigger Winner than Jerry Seinfeld (Producer of Seinfeld) – $267 million in 1999.

Dick Clark would be a fair guess… He sold out last year for $140 million, and I’d imagine he’s got a lot more stashed away. I tried to pull some financials, but the stock (DCPI) is history.

Another person to consider is Johnny Carson. He owned the production company for the Tonight Show IIRC, and is regarded to be one of the wealthiest people in show business.


No good links, really, but I found a couple of reports putting Merv Griffin’s net worth at “over” or “well over” a billion dollars.

David Kelley earned $118 million in 1999 alone from this source and what about Oprah.

There’s also Norman Lear who is not doing terribly badly. I’d imagine Steven Bochco and Dick Wolf (Law & Order) are also fairly well set, and perhaps Stephen J. Cannell (A Team, Hunter), who sold his production company to New World which was in turn purchased by Fox.

Thanks for all the suggestions.

Would anyone have the Forbes 400 lists from 1982 to 1995 in order to figure out where some of these people ranked?

I went to the forbes site and clicked somehow the 400 richest Americans, a current listing I presume.

The most relavent seem to be #55 George Lucas($3B), #80 Steven Spielberg($2.2B) and #229 Oprah Winfrey($975M).

There were quite a few other media types such as Ted Turner and a bunch of folks I never heard of. I did not see Johnny Carson, Merv Griffin, Norman Lear or Dick Clark.

I would think Merv Griffin almost certainly should be in there. I saw he had sold his company in the mid 80s for $250M with some sort of continueing income.

Don’t forget that Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz were producers as well. Adjusting for inflation, their salaries and holdlings may include them in the list.

Bob Hope was a producer for his long-running series of specials. His wealth was mostly from strategic buying of LA real estate before the city boomed, but estimates of his wealth are in the hundreds of millions and he is still alive and rich.

“Bob Hope … is still alive and rich.”
Much to the consternation of those of us who had in our Celebrity Death Pool 2002.

Hope, Spielberg, and Lucas aren’t really TV producers. I managed to find old copies of “Forbes” from a campus library, so, after some research, we shall know.