Matthew Miller, Forbes Magazine
Oprah Winfrey (Pictured left) is one of the most lucrative brands in the world. Today The Oprah Winfrey Show airs in 144 countries, drawing 44 million U.S. viewers each week. Her Harpo Productions helped create the likes of Dr. Phil and Rachael Ray. She's produced Broadway shows and has her own satellite radio channel. For all of this, she consistently earns more than $200 million a year.
And unlike many others on our list, her business is weathering the recession well. Winfrey continues to entice viewers with money-saving tips, celebrity interviews and relationship advice. She's debuting a new show this fall, which will be hosted by frequent guest Dr. Oz, and is planning to launch The Oprah Winfrey Network early next year.
With a net worth of $2.7 billion, Winfrey tops the inaugural Forbes list of the Wealthiest Black Americans. She is the only billionaire on the list of 20 tycoons, all of whom are self-made. The group built their fortunes across a spectrum of industries spanning athletics and entertainment, media, investments, real estate, construction and restaurants.
Black Entertainment Television founder Robert Johnson became the first African American billionaire in 2000 after he sold the network to Viacom ( VIA - news - people ) for $3 billion in stock and assumed debt.
Between Winfrey and Robert Johnson, in second place is golf phenom Tiger Woods, worth an estimated $600 million. Woods left Stanford University after two years at age 20 to turn pro and has dominated the links ever since, winning 66 PGA tournaments--including 14 major championships.
Woods' career winnings exceed $80 million, but his real money is made off the course. His annual prize money represents less than 15% of his income, with splashy sponsorship contracts from Nike ( NKE - news - people ), Gatorade, Gillette, Accenture ( ACN - news - people ), AT&T ( T - news - people ) and others raking in at least $100 million each year.
Rounding out the top five are two basketball greats: Michael Jordan ($525 million) and Earvin "Magic" Johnson, Jr. ($500 million), both of whom parlayed their time on the court into lucrative endorsement and business deals in retirement.
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