RICH PICKINGS: The brightest stars

Is there a formula for turning celebrity into serious wealth? We look at how some of Australia's best known actors, singers, supermodels and athletes have made their fortunes.

It’s the great challenge of every celebrity – supermodel, sportsperson, actor or performer – how do you get fame to translate into fortune?

It’s not easy, but there is a rare breed that has been able to combine their natural ability and star power with a happy knack for business. In Australia, golfer Greg Norman, model Elle Macpherson and singer Kylie Minogue stand out as celebrities who have amassed large fortunes through clever investments, diversification and a willingness to take calculated risks.

Indeed, there are a few clear rules to the celebrity money-making game, including:

--Get a slice of the action. Getting paid to endorse a product is good, but getting a share of the profits from a product’s sales can be even better. But the risks associated with this strategy can be bigger risk than a straight endorsement, so stars must pick their products very carefully.

--Buy property. Wise property investment (think snazzy apartments in the best suburbs of cities around the world) are always safe havens for those big pay cheques.

--Protect your image. All celebrities must carefully manage their reputation if they want to keep sponsors on side. Just ask US swimmer Michael Phelps, who lost a number of big sponsors after being photographed smoking marijuana last year.

--Be on the right side of a divorce settlement. Greg Norman lost out big-time when he split with his wife, but Nicole Kidman’s fortune is based on the big settlement she got when she split from Tom Cruise.

--Watch out for sharks. Stories of managers and advisers taking celebrities for a ride are numerous. Good advisers are crucial if you want your cash to last longer than your career.

Without further ado, let’s take a look at Australia’s 10 richest celebrities:

Greg Norman - $377 million

The Great While Shark doesn’t swing the clubs too much any more, but his fortune has jumped from $254 million to $377 million in the last 12 months, according to BRW, although much of this increase can be attributed to the depreciation of the Australian dollar. Norman’s main interests are in golf course design and development, but he also has a turf company, a wine business, a beef company, a clothing line and a restaurant.

Nicole Kidman - $338 million

Most of Nicole Kidman’s wealth is derived from her huge divorce settlement from her split with Tom Cruise in 2001. According to BRW, her wealth increased by $49 million last year. Kidman has an extensive property portfolio, with holdings in Australia and the United States. As one of the highest-paid actors in cinema, her fortune will increase steadily each year.

Barry and Robin Gibb - $224 million

The two surviving brothers behind the Bee Gees were valued at ₤110 million on the British rich list produced by the Sunday Times, down ₤10 million on the previous year. The brothers own property in the United States and Britain and continue to tour the world.

Elle Macpherson - $120 million

The Body wouldn’t confirm the size of her empire in a recent interview with BRW, but the magazine puts her fortune at $120 million. The bulk of this comes from her equity stake in the Bendon lingerie brand, which sells the Elle Macpherson Intimates range. She also her own line of cosmetics (sold through British pharmacy chain Boots) and is an ambassador for Revlon. But Elle has made some dud business moves, including an investment in the Fashion Caf chain of restaurants and a stint on the board of surf-wear company Hot Tuna.

Kylie Minogue - $70 million

Australia’s queen of pop Kylie Minogue has a empire built on three key planks: property (in Melbourne, Paris and London); live performances (primarily in Britain and Australia, although this year she heads to the US for her first large-scale tour) and merchandise. Head to her website and you’ll be able to buy everything from bed-linen, cushions and curtains (the "Kylie at Home” range) though to candles, children’s books and jewellery. The Sunday Times said Kylie’s fortune fell by around $10 million this year

Hugh Jackman - $49 million

Australia’s hottest actor has gone down a well-worn path to wealth for movie stars by setting up his own production company, called Seed Productions. Its first major film was Deception, in which Jackman also starred. It took around $US17 million at the box office, just under its reported budget of $US20 million. His valuation is taken from BRW’s Young Rich List.

Lleyton Hewitt - $38 million

The bulk of Lleyton Hewitt’s fortune is built on his off-court earnings, mainly through lucrative endorsements such as his big deal with Japanese tennis equipment company Yonex. BRW estimates his fortune rose marginally last year.

Luc Longley - $35 million

Luc Longley’s star might not burn as bright as it once did, but BRW still estimates his fortune is worth $35 million. Longley’s basketball career was cut short by injury in 2001, but he did retire from the sport after being paid out his $67 million contract with the New York Knicks. Longley has also done well out of the Perth property market.

Pat Rafter - $33 million

Former tennis star Pat Rafter is perhaps best-known as the face of Pacific Brands' underwear division, Bonds, although he was forced to take a "significant pay cut” earlier this year due the company’s problems. BRW put his fortune at $33 million late last year.

Keith Urban - $33 million

Keith Urban (who is married to Nicole Kidman) has become one of the biggest stars in the lucrative US country music scene. BRW says his fortune includes property in rural New South Wales and the US state of Tennessee.

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