Simon Kelner: Lists that tell us the stars' real worth

  • @Simon_Kelner

So now we know the relative worth of celebrities. From two, very different, lists this week comes the news that JK Rowling is of more value than Jeremy Clarkson, and that Elton John is higher up the evolutionary earning scale than Simon Cowell.

In yesterday's i came more revelations from the files of a private investigator who was hired by media organisations to gain confidential information about people in the public eye. This particular operative undertook 17,000 searches on individuals, and while the hacking scandal has been running so long that we have become almost anaesthetised to more revelations of bad behaviour, it was hard not to be shocked by this latest litany of transgressions. Mobile phone numbers, home addresses, ex-directory searches, even gym details: all these were sought and bought.

It was hard, too, not to look at this list as some sort of macabre league table, a sort of barometer of celebrity worth, and wonder what Mr Clarkson (whose personal details were sold on for £375) felt about finding his private life of less value than Ms Rowling (£655) or even Jonathan Ross (£480). At least he could feel comforted by the fact that he was of more interest than the actress Sarah Lancashire (a mere £130).

A more reputable examination of star value is the annual Forbes Rich List, and this year their hit parade of male stars is particularly interesting. Proving once again that form is temporary, but class is permanent, Sir Elton John was the highest-paid British entertainer last year.

We'd like to think that it was the Rocket Man's stint as guest editor of i that made him all the rage last year, but it probably had more to do with a spectacular world tour that grossed more than £100m. (It was interesting that, in compiling his all-time heroes for his issue of i, Sir Elton put a considerable accent on longevity, picking people like the venerable campaigner Peter Tatchell and the Manchester United stalwart Paul Scholes. In eclipsing the earning power of an upstart like Simon Cowell, you have the clear evidence that Sir Elton is something of a long player himself.)

And who, on this list, is the highest- earning male sports star? Surely someone who's at the top of his game. Well, no. It's actually a sportsman who currently, in the vivid phrase of one of my golfing colleagues, "couldn't hit a cow's arse with a banjo".

Step forward Tiger Woods, who earned £47.5m last year. Funny old world. See you on Monday.