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Despite Taxes And Charity, J.K. Rowling Is Still Probably a Billionaire

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J. K. Rowling attends the European premiere of 'Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them' at Odeon Leicester Square (Samir Hussein/WireImage)
J. K. Rowling attends the European premiere of ‘Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them’ at Odeon Leicester Square (Samir Hussein/WireImage)

 

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.

Harry Potter fans rush to read the opening lines of the new and final novel by author J.K. Rowling, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" during a fans day at The Carriage Works on July 21, 2007 in Sydney, Australia. (Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images)
Harry Potter fans rush to read the opening lines of the new and final novel by author J.K. Rowling, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” during a fans day at The Carriage Works on July 21, 2007 in Sydney, Australia. (Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images)

 

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.

Located in the Universal Studios Florida theme park, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley will feature shops, dining experiences and the next generation thrill ride, Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts. The new immersive area will double the size of the sweeping land already found at Universals Islands of Adventure. (Ken Kinzie/Universal Orlando Resort via Getty Images)
Located in the Universal Studios Florida theme park, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley will feature shops, dining experiences and the next generation thrill ride, Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts. The new immersive area will double the size of the sweeping land already found at Universals Islands of Adventure. (Ken Kinzie/Universal Orlando Resort via Getty Images)

 

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.

Eddie Redmayne stars in 'Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them' (Courtesy Warner Bros. Entertainment)
Eddie Redmayne stars in ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’ (Courtesy Warner Bros. Entertainment)

 

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.