Top 15 Wealthiest Black Americans

1. Oprah Winfrey
Net worth: $2.7 billion

Source of wealth: Harpo Productions

Residence: Chicago

Age: 55

The Oprah brand continues to hold its value despite the recession, as viewers tune in for money-saving tips, celebrity interviews and relationship advice. Rural Mississippi native worked the television news circuit in Nashville, Tenn., and Baltimore, Md. Transformed faltering Chicago morning program into popular talk show. Launched The Oprah Winfrey Show nationally in 1986; now airs in 144 countries, brings in 44 million U.S. viewers each week. Her Harpo Productions helped create the Dr. Phil and Rachael Ray shows; Dr. Oz show due out this fall. Media matriarch planning to launch Oprah Winfrey Network early next year. Foundation recently donated to schools in Newark, N.J., and Atlanta.

2. Tiger Woods
Net worth: $600 million

Source of wealth: Golf, endorsements

Residence: Orlando, Fla.

Age: 33

Golf prodigy showed off his putting skills on The Mike Douglas Show at age 2, has dominated the links ever since. Left Stanford University after two years at age 20 in 1996 to turn pro. Has since won 66 PGA tournaments, including 14 major championships. Now hunting Jack Nicklaus' record of 18 major career wins. Named PGA Player of the Year nine times. Total career winnings: $84 million. Intensely marketable; annual on-course winnings represent less than 15% of his income. Lucrative sponsorship contracts from Nike, Gatorade, Gillette, Accenture, AT&T and others earn him at least $100 million each year. Returned to competitive golf in February after rehabbing knee injury for eight months. Dramatically won the Arnold Palmer Invitational by one shot a few weeks later. Rare comment in 1995 on his ethnic background: "The various media have portrayed me as African-American and Asian. I am both."

3. Robert Johnson
Net worth: $550 million

Source of wealth: BET, investments

Residence: West Palm Beach, Fla.

Age: 63

Former billionaire's fortune has fallen from peak as recession hammered media and hotel markets. Founded cable channel Black Entertainment Television in 1979 with $15,000 of his own money and a $500,000 investment by cable king John Malone's Tele-Communications Inc. Became the first African-American billionaire in 2000 by selling BET to Viacom for $3 billion in stock and assumed debt. Former wife and BET co-founder, Sheila Johnson, took big chunk of fortune in 2002 divorce. Shares of Viacom down 50% since last May, CBS off 70%. Formed RLJ Companies: hotels, casino games, banks, NBA's Charlotte Bobcats. Pledged to raise $30 million investment fund for Liberia; opening of $8 million Kendeja Resort slated for early summer.

4. Michael Jordan
Net worth: $525 million

Source of wealth: Basketball, Nike, endorsements

Residence: Chicago

Age: 46

Arguably the greatest basketball player ever. Led the NBA's Chicago Bulls to six world championships during the 1990s. Left basketball for stint as a minor league baseball player after third NBA championship in 1993; returned to the Bulls two years later. Retired again 1999; took ownership stake and executive job with the Washington Wizards. Returned to the court in 2001; signed 2-year contract with Wizards. Total points scored: 32,292, ranking him third all-time. Released Air Jordan basketball sneaker with Nike in 1984. The Jordan brand brings in hundreds of millions of dollars each year in sales for Nike; royalty checks from that provide the bulk of former star's income today. Other lucrative deals throughout career: Gatorade, Hanes, Upper Deck. Owns stake in Robert Johnson's Charlotte Bobcats; runs team's basketball operations. Son Jeffrey plays basketball at the University of Illinois, younger son Marcus recently signed letter of commitment to play for University of Central Florida next fall.

5. Earvin "Magic" Johnson, Jr.
Net worth: $500 million

Source of wealth: Restaurants, real estate, investments

Residence: Beverly Hills, Calif.

Age: 49

Grew up in Lansing, Mich., with nine brothers and sisters. Father worked at General Motors plant; mother was school custodian. Played at Michigan State; won national championship in 1979 in one of many legendary matchups against Larry Bird. Led Los Angeles Lakers to five world championships; 13-year career in NBA included three MVP awards, 12 NBA All-Star games, a gold medal at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics and induction into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. Retired from NBA after announcing he had contracted HIV, became an entrepreneur. Introduced well-known brands to ethnically diverse neighborhoods via Magic Johnson Enterprises. Today has partnerships with Starbucks, 24 Hour Fitness, T.G.I. Fridays, AMC Theatres. Also invests in urban real estate and companies catering to America's underserved markets via his Canyon-Johnson and Yucaipa-Johnson funds. Has awarded more than $1.1 million to community-based organizations that focus on HIV/AIDS education and prevention.

6. William Henry Cosby, Jr.
Net worth: $450 million

Source of wealth: The Cosby Show, entertainment

Residence: Massachusetts

Age: 71

Legendary comedian born in Philadelphia. Left high school in 10th grade; finished via correspondence course while in the Navy. Broke a long-standing racial barrier when he was cast as an equal to a white actor on NBC's "I Spy" in the 1960s; role as Alexander Scott garnered him three Emmy Awards. Left TV for stand-up comedy. Returned to the small screen 1984; launched The Cosby Show on NBC, propelling the network to first place. Iconic show about an upper-middle-class black family living in New York has made him hundreds of millions in pay and syndication dollars. Best-selling book Fatherhood sold 4 million copies. Today spends time doing stand-up on the road. With wife, Camille, donated $20 million in 1988 to Spelman College in Atlanta. Continues to support education, various social service and civil rights organizations. Jazz enthusiast also built collection of 400 works of African-American art dating from the 18th through the 20th century. Awarded Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2002 in recognition of his contributions to American culture. Net worth probably higher.

7. Sheila Johnson
Net worth: $400 million

Source of wealth: BET, investments

Residence: The Plains, Va.

Age: 60

Doctor's daughter and violinist co-founded Black Entertainment Television with former husband Robert Johnson; couple met in college at University of Illinois. Duo sold network to Viacom for $3 billion in stock and assumed debt; split fortune in divorce in 2002 after 33-year marriage. Today she is chief executive of Salamander LLC, which controls a portfolio of luxury resorts. Through investment in Lincoln Holdings, owns stake in NHL's Washington Capitals, NBA's Washington Wizards, and WNBA's Washington Mystics. Johnson is the Mystics' president and managing partner.

8. R. Donahue Peebles
Net worth: $350 million

Source of wealth: Real estate

Residence: Coral Gables, Fla.

Age: 49

Grandson of a hotel doorman. Owns one of the country's largest African-American real estate development companies; Peebles Corporation's portfolio includes hotels, apartments and office space in Miami Beach and Washington, D.C. "Don" left Rutgers University in 1979 to become a real estate agent in the District of Columbia. Worked on Capitol Hill as a page and an intern for congressmen John Conyers and Ron Dellums while attending Capitol Page School. Today owns 13 acres of prime Las Vegas land behind Steve Wynn's Encore casino; slated for redevelopment. Also owns pricey land in Southern California. Authored two books, The Peebles Principles and The Peebles Path to Real Estate Wealth.

9. Berry Gordy, Jr.
Net worth: $325 million

Source of wealth: Motown, Jobete

Residence: Los Angeles

Age: 79

Music pioneer put away his boxing gloves for songwriting at age 20. Borrowed $800 from parents to build his own record label. Created Motown Records in Detroit. Wrote hit songs ("Lonely Teardrops," "I'll be Satisfied"), managed talent (Jackson 5, The Supremes, Smokey Robinson, Lionel Richie, Stevie Wonder). Known for running Motown's record production like an assembly line, emulating Detroit's Big Three car companies; fought numerous lawsuits brought by recording artists and songwriters alleging unpaid royalties throughout career. Sold Motown Records in 1988 for $61 million; later sold Jobete Music Corp. in installments to EMI Music Publishing for more than $300 million combined. Hit movie Dreamgirls said to be loosely based on Motown; Paramount Pictures and Dreamworks issued an apology to Gordy in 2007 for any confusion the fictional story might have caused regarding Motown's legacy.

10. Quintin Primo III
Net worth: $300 million

Source of wealth: Real estate

Residence: Chicago

Age: 55

Minister's son grew up in Chicago. Played keyboard, trumpet in college jam band. Harvard University MBA 1979. First finance gig in Citicorp's real estate lending division. Founded Capri Capital in 1992 with childhood friend Daryl Carter. Early successes extending mezzanine loans to small borrowers that larger firms didn't bother to serve. Today portfolio dominated by apartment complexes but projects are diverse: three years ago paid $136 million for Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza shopping mall in southern Los Angeles. Carter left in 2007, Primo stayed on as chairman and chief executive. Assets under management are now $4.3 billion. Announced $2 billion Saudi venture last June; will build hotels, office towers, condos in one of King Abdullah's anointed "economic zones." Also plans to invest $1 billion in distressed assets, half-built construction projects in U.S. with financing from U.S. Treasury.

11. Don King
Net worth: $290 million

Source of wealth: Boxing promotion

Residence: Manalapan, Fla.

Age: 77

"Only in America." Loud-talking, flag-waving King ascended from a troubled past in Cleveland to become the biggest promoter in boxing. Accused of killing two men; 1954 case ruled a justifiable homicide, 1966 case ruled manslaughter. Spent nearly four years in prison. Entered boxing business while doing fundraising work in 1972 for a struggling Cleveland hospital. Asked Muhammad Ali to attend charity event. Later convinced Ali and George Foreman to let him promote their 1974 heavyweight championship bout. The "Rumble in the Jungle" in Zaire is remembered as one of the greatest fights of all time. Biggest success: boxing badboy Mike Tyson. Orchestrated heavyweight's comeback in 1995 after the former champ's three-year prison term for rape; landed Tyson a $70 million deal to fight six bouts at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. King personally pocketed $15 million in MGM stock; shares quickly doubled in value, King sold. Promoted Tyson and Evander Holyfield's infamous 1997 bout; fight grossed $110 million. Tyson sued King a year later for $100 million accusing King of cheating him out of earnings; settled for $14 million. Can still be seen at fights donning his signature hairstyle while waving an American flag as he supports his fighters.

12. Janice Bryant Howroyd
Net worth: $250 million

Source of wealth: Staffing, investments

Residence: Palos Verdes, Calif.

Age: 56

Fourth of 11 children; father was a foreman at a dye factory, mother stayed home to raise the kids. Janice took job as an assistant at Billboard Magazine; left to start staffing firm Act-1 in 1978 with $967 in savings and $533 in loans from family. Built up client base via word of mouth, cold calls. Today the employment services agency generates annual revenues approaching $1 billion. Donated $10 million to her alma mater, North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University, in 2004; gave another $10 million to University of Southern California in 2005.

13. Herman J. Russell
Net worth: $200 million

Source of wealth: Construction, real estate

Residence: Atlanta

Age: 78

Real estate and construction tycoon learned the building business at an early age; father was a plastering contractor on construction projects. Herman bought a vacant Atlanta lot at age 16; built first property, a duplex. Founded contractor H.J. Russell Plastering Co. in 1953; later renamed H.J. Russell & Co. Helped build Georgia Dome and Turner Field. Annual sales approach $300 million. Family business: son Michael is chief executive, son Jerome is president. Also owns Concessions International; outfit provides food and beverage services to airports. Daughter Donata Russell-Major is vice chair. Largest owner of HUD-related properties in Georgia. Once owned stakes in pro basketball's Atlanta Hawks and hockey's Atlanta Flames. Now retired from day-to-day management; focused on philanthropy.

14. Tracy Maitland
Net worth: $150 million

Source of wealth: Investments

Residence: New York City

Age: 48

Bronx native attended Columbia University, nabbed job in convertible securities department at Merrill Lynch in 1982. Spent more than a decade learning "convertibles" (bonds that can be converted into stock at the holder's discretion). Launched investment outfit Advent Capital in 1996. Today Advent manages $3.3 billion across hedge funds and mutual funds. Offices in New York and London. Firm's hedge funds have lost money in only two years since inception: 2005 and 2008. Jazz enthusiast owns 2,000 vintage records.

14. Tracy Maitland
Net worth: $150 million

Source of wealth: Investments

Residence: New York City

Age: 48

Bronx native attended Columbia University, nabbed job in convertible securities department at Merrill Lynch in 1982. Spent more than a decade learning "convertibles" (bonds that can be converted into stock at the holder's discretion). Launched investment outfit Advent Capital in 1996. Today Advent manages $3.3 billion across hedge funds and mutual funds. Offices in New York and London. Firm's hedge funds have lost money in only two years since inception: 2005 and 2008. Jazz enthusiast owns 2,000 vintage records.

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