It remains a staple conversation from wine bar to saloon bar: if Derren Brown can predict the Lottery as he claimed he had last week, then why doesn't he just enter and pocket the winnings? Channel 4's prosaic answer is he wasn't allowed to. While sceptics dismiss last week's stunt as faked, there is, perhaps, another reason why Brown doesn't use his "magical" skills to win: he doesn't need to.
While the illusionist's live, and apparently successful, attempt at guessing the lottery numbers on Wednesday night brought C4 some 3.1 million viewers, he was the real winner. Publicist Max Clifford said yesterday that last week's stunt would have "put millions on his value in the years to come". Brown's ability to create an ever increasing pile of money is no illusion.
Since he first appeared on Channel 4 in 2000, the performer has generated millions from live shows, DVDs, books and art.
Objective Productions, the company that makes his shows, has seen turnover soar since it brought on Derren Brown. In 2002, the company's total turnover was just £2.3m, but by last year it had increased nearly tenfold to more than £22m.
Ticket sales from a 44-date tour and a five-week residency at the Adelphi Theatre in London will have generated ticket sales of at least £3m.
Next year, there are already enough shows scheduled to generate another £870,000. Industry insiders predict a slew of extra dates to be added on the back of his current success.
Then there are the books: his most popular, Tricks of the Mind, stayed in the top 10 bestseller list for 30 weeks when it was published in 2006 and has sold more than 300,000 copies. It has been followed by three others and four DVDs.
Channel 4 refused to discuss what it pays Brown, but public relations expert Mark Borkowski estimated yesterday that he would be making "something in the hundreds of thousands of pounds per show". He added: "But it's what his management does with him outside of that that's interesting."
Whatever his exclusive contract with Channel 4 is worth, it has not prevented him from making his acting debut on BBC4. This Christmas he appear on the rival channel for appearing as the mysterious Sir Roger Widdowson in the ghost story Crooked House.
Meanwhile, he has turned his hand to popular painting. Earlier this year he launched an exhibition and coffee-table book of his caricature portraits of the famous – which include Stephen Fry and Jack Nicholson.
The Rebecca Hossack Art Gallery – agents for his art – said it has sold about 500 of his prints, which go for up to £495. This alone will have brought in almost £200,000, before agent's fees are deducted. Talent agent Jonathan Shalit said yesterday: "I think that [Lottery] stunt will have doubled his value. It's always fascinating to see a career change on a moment and that's exactly what's happened."
Brown's publicist, Greg Day, said simply: "I suspect that the Derren Brown brand has increased in value dramatically this past week. He's our busiest client."