Rowling joins the big league of US celebrity earners

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The Independent US

Her picture hangs in the National Portrait Gallery, her books have sold more than 300 million copies and a prehistoric dinosaur has been named after her Hogwart's creation.

And when it comes down to hard cash, the Harry Potter author J K Rowling is not doing too badly either. She has been named the celebrity world's ninth-highest earner, with a fortune that increases by £77 a minute - more than £100,000 a day.

Rowling, who is currently writing the seventh and final book in the series, is the only non-American within the top ten highest-earning celebrities, according to the US business magazine Forbes. Last year alone she earned £41m.

The penultimate novel in her series, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, was the best-selling novel of 2005 in the United States, shifting more than 7.2m copies.

Hannah Clark, of Forbes, said: "While celebrities grab headlines, it is rarely actors who make money. If you want to keep making money in the long term, you need a winning franchise and J K Rowling is proof of that."

The last three volumes in the series have all been the fastest-selling books in history, with bookshops opening at midnight, such was the demand for the next installment of wizardry. They have grossed more in their opening 24 hours than many blockbuster films. Rowling has suggested that, when she finishes the Potter series, she may write novels under an alternative name.

The only other novelist among the celebrities was the author of the best-selling The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown.

The film-maker Steven Spielberg, whose recent projects include War of the Worlds and Munich, topped the celebrity rich list. He is estimated to have made £180 in 2005, or £342 every minute.

The American radio DJ Howard Stern was second, earning £163m, and the Star Wars director George Lucas third, with a fortune of £127m last year, the magazine calculated.

The creator of the television series "about nothing", Jerry Seinfeld, was in fifth place in the list, despite the sitcom ending in 1998.

His £54m income for last year - or £103 per minute - was boosted by the release of DVD box sets of the series.

The US golfer Tiger Woods, who won both The Open and The Masters tournaments last year, was the only sporting figure to make the top ten, earning £49m last year.

But while film actors, authors and chat show hosts may wield great influence, they cannot compete with the earnings of the most successful entrepreneurs. Providing the Microsoft founder Bill Gates, the overall richest man in the world with a net worth of £27bn, makes a 7 per cent return on investment - the average amount the stock market appreciates in a year - he earns £3,601 a minute.

Ms Clark added: "While celebrities sometimes venture into nine-figure territory, their pay cheques don't even come close to the sums earned in the business world.

"The titans of technology make more than any producer, director or diva in Hollywood."

The top 10

* STEVEN SPIELBERG, Director
Worth: £180m
Pay per minute: £342

HOWARD STERN, Disc Jockey
Worth: £163m
Pay per minute: £311

GEORGE LUCAS, Director
Worth: £127m
Pay per minute: £242

OPRAH WINFREY, Chat-show host
Worth: £122m
Pay per minute: £240

JERRY SEINFELD, Comedian and actor
Worth: £54m
Pay per minute: £103

TIGER WOODS, Golfer
Worth: £49m
Pay per minute: £92

DAN BROWN, Author
Worth: £48m
Pay per minute: £90

JERRY BRUCKHEIMER, Pirates of the Caribbean producer
Worth: £45m
Pay per minute: £87

JK ROWLING, Author
Worth: £41m
Pay per minute: £77

DICK WOLF, Law and Order creator
Worth: £38m
Pay per minute: £72

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