Creative art of making (and losing) fortunes reveals who really wants to be a millionaire

Artistic endeavour is not an attribute that ranks highly in most boardrooms. But those who believe the only way to a fortune is through gritty commerce should study a new list of the richest people in broadcasting which shows creativity can be as lucrative as running a giant industrial corporation.

Artistic endeavour is not an attribute that ranks highly in most boardrooms. But those who believe the only way to a fortune is through gritty commerce should study a new list of the richest people in broadcasting which shows creativity can be as lucrative as running a giant industrial corporation.

Certainly, the biggest winner of Who Wants To Be Millionaire is Paul Smith, the man who created the show. His fortune last year rose from £36m to £108m. He is among the biggest success stories in a "Rich List" of Britain's broadcasters published by Broadcast magazine.

Another prime example is Anne Wood of Ragdoll Productions – the company that makes Teletubbies – who is ranked at number three in the Broadcast list with an estimated £130m.

And several figures still better known as entertainers than corporate multimillionaires continue to add to their fortunes. Noel Edmonds had his wealth generated by two production companies rise from £40m to £70m over the past year; and Rowan Atkinson, who also benefits from stakes in two indie companies, had a £20m rise to £60m.

Jasper Carrott, whose 15 per cent stake in the Complete Communications company, the parent company of Celador which makes Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, has made him richer than his self-deprecating comic persona suggests, has seen his fortune rise from £32m to £48m. He is at number 14 in the list. At joint 22, the comedians Griff Rhys Jones and Mel Smith have £25m fortunes, thanks to the success of their Talkback Productions.

But some have lost money. Chris Evans, the former Virgin Radio DJ, lost £28m in the past 12 months and also his place as one of the 10 richest people in UK broadcasting. His wealth dropped from £80m to £52m pushed him from number eight to number 12, says Broadcast.

Other "casualties" included Carlton's chairman Michael Green, whose wealth is estimated to have decreased from £140m last year to £90m this year. And Kelvin MacKenzie, the head of the Wireless Group and former editor of The Sun, is recorded as suffering a £7m drop from £13m to £6m.

The advertising recession, the dot.com crash and the decline in media share values are blamed for a general drop in wealth among broadcasting moguls. The combined wealth of the top 100 has dropped from £2.5bn in 2000 to £2.3bn. But it was a good year for Labour peer Lord Alli, whose stakes in independent production companies, helped his estimated wealth rise from £6m to £25m.

There are only 14 women in the top 100; but though the figure is small it does mark a grouping of diverse women beginning to challenge the male hierarchy of media moguls. Anne Wood of Teletubbies fame has the highest placing at number three. The next woman on the list is Elisabeth Murdoch, the former managing director of Sky Networks at number 13. Denise O'Donoghue, MD of Hat Trick Productions is at number 16 with an estimated £35m fortune.

One of the most interesting female successes is Lynda La Plante, whose company, La Plante Productions, propelled her from £7m last year to £25m this year. The creator of Prime Suspect is a rare example of a screenwriter turning her talent into a fortune.

Katy Elliott, of Broadcast, said: "In spite of the recession that forced advertisers to tighten their purse strings it still seems the content business is a top earner. An astonishing 80 out of 100 in the list have made their money from producing TV or radio programmes. Maybe the list will look different in five to 10 years when the digital and broadband age has really kicked in, but for now the list represents a pretty traditional bunch of TV and radio folk."

The Broadcast Rich List was compiled for the first time last year. Now, as then, the top position is occupied by Sir Peter Michael, chairman of Classic FM, who is worth £185m.

New names this year include the Channel Health founder Joanne Sawicki, and the two founders of Static 2358, Jasper Smith and Mark Rock, who made £12m each from the sale of their interactive company to Open TV. Among those who have dropped out of the top 100 are Paul Killick of the doomed Money Channel, and the Capital Radio chief executive David Mansfield. The oldest multi-millionaire is the 74-year-old local newspaper and radio mogul Sir Ray Tindle. The youngest is 29-year-old Paul Bennun of the independent production company Somethin' Else, who is said to be worth £6.9m.

The two men at the top of the BBC are in the list, although they made their money in commercial television. The director-general Greg Dyke is said to be worth £15m as is his chairman Sir Christopher Bland.

But one can be successful in TV or radio and still avoid the publicity of inclusion in a Rich List. Peter Bazalgette, the man behind Big Brother, is technically an employee of the indie company Endemol Entertainment. Broadcast magazine admits: "We all know he must be worth a few bob, but we cannot pin down convincing figures."

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