6 months ago
Forbes dropped Harry Potter author J. K. Rowling from their billionaires list a few years back, claiming that she’d been demoted thanks to taxes and charitable giving. Given her success since then, their decision may have been premature.
Rowling is famously (and perhaps wisely) private about her finances, and denied being a billionaire back in 2005, but as the New York Times recently pointed out, she benefits from a labyrinthine structure of publishing, film, and licensing deals that add up to billions regardless of who’s doing the math.
The Harry Potter book series, for example, has made $7.7 billion altogether, $1.15 billion of which goes directly to Rowling if she took the standard 15% author’s royalty (and given her representation, she’s at least getting that much).
Relatedly, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter theme park at Universal earned her at least $60 million in licensing fees, plus cuts from tickets, merchandise, and concessions. Add $100 million to her bank account from that investment.
The Harry Potter films are another huge source of income. Rowling apparently sold the film rights for a song, but took a net profit participation cut, a wise move considering how insanely profitable those films were. That’s another $250 million from the first four, and possibly $400 million from the four after that. A very lucrative licensing deal with NBCUniversal for the exclusive TV rights to those movies gives Rowling another $125 million.
The numbers are already dizzyingly high, and they’re not even factoring in the projected success of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them franchise, licensing fees from the Harry Potter play and Harry Potter retail merchandise, or unrelated investment income. Even if she paid half her income in taxes, she’s still very likely a billionaire.