Leadership

Oprah Winfrey, worth a record $4 billion, becomes one of the world's 500 richest people

Media mogul Oprah Winfrey just became one of the 500 richest people in the world. Since January 1, her net worth has grown by over $420 million and now totals $4.02 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

Winfrey, who debuted on the list in June at No. 494 and is now at No. 489, is the first black female entrepreneur to make it onto the list. She's gaining on famous businessmen like John Paul DeJoria, who sits at No. 483 with a net worth of $4.04 billion, and investor Mark Cuban, who sits at No. 476 with a net worth of $4.08 billion. The Bloomberg Billionaires Index updates members' net worth, based on changes in markets, the economy and Bloomberg reporting, after the close of trading in New York each day.

Winfrey, 64, is having a terrific year.

Her latest boost in wealth comes thanks primarily to her investment in Weight Watchers. In 2015, Winfrey put $43 million in the company and got a 10 percent stake. Though her stake is now down to 8 percent, the investment continues to benefit both. It was the company's recent stock rally on June 12, which sent share prices to record highs, that tipped Winfrey's wealth over $4 billion.

In January, when she became the first black woman to win the Cecil B. DeMille Award for lifetime achievement at the Golden Globes, her powerful acceptance speech went viral and sent Weight Watchers stock soaring. Her presence as a brand ambassador, alongside music mogul DJ Khaled, has been great for business, Weight Watchers noted in its 2017 annual report.

Over the years, Winfrey has also invested in real estate. She paid $50 million for her Montecito, California, mansion, where she primarily lives. She has bought a $14 million ski chalet in Colorado and, most recently, an $8 million estate on Washington state's Orcas Island.

Born in rural Mississippi to an unmarried teen mother, Winfrey grew up in poverty, shuffling between family members until a more permanent living situation surfaced: her dad's place in Nashville, Tennessee, where she went to live at age 14.

The move changed the course of Winfrey's life. She thrived in high school, earning honors and a full ride to Tennessee State University.

Winfrey took a risk when she dropped out of college in 1976 to pursue a career in media, but the gamble paid off. She became one of the first black female news anchors before she was 20, starting with a few gigs as a local anchor in Nashville before landing a co-anchor position in Baltimore.

With her as host, the then-stagnant morning talk show, "AM Chicago," became the No. 1 local talk show within months. A year later, in 1986, the program was renamed "The Oprah Winfrey Show." It went on to become the highest-rated talk show in television history.

Oprah Winfrey arrives for the wedding ceremony of Britain's Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex and US actress Meghan Markle at St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle, in Windsor, on May 19, 2018.
Ian West | Getty Images
Oprah Winfrey arrives for the wedding ceremony of Britain's Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex and US actress Meghan Markle at St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle, in Windsor, on May 19, 2018.

That success put her on the map and earned Winfrey her first million, but it was still just the beginning of her multi-faceted and lucrative career.

For her acting debut in the 1985 drama "The Color Purple," she was nominated for an Academy Award and a Golden Globe. Since then, Winfrey has been involved in various high-profile films, including 2018's "A Wrinkle in Time" and 2014's "Selma," as well as prestige television series and plays.

Winfrey has also published her own magazine, started a radio channel, partnered with Discovery Communications to launch a cable channel, the Oprah Winfrey Network, and started a private charity. And, on June 15, Apple announced a multiyear content deal with Winfrey reportedly worth $1 billion.

After the 2018 Golden Globe award ceremony, dozens of people, including Meryl Streep and civil rights activist Reverend Jesse Jackson, Sr., called on her to run for president in 2020, but she has said several times she isn't interested — her focus remains on philanthropy and the media empire that made her a billionaire in 2003 at age 49.

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