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How Judge Judy—the highest-paid TV host—renegotiates her contract

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Judge Judith Sheindlin, aka Judge Judy, has been a fixture in many American homes for 23 years. The 76-year-old is the star of the enormously popular eponymous courtroom show, in which she presides over real-life small claims cases with trademark wit and bluntness.

That strategy has paid off for the former Manhattan family court judge. Sheindlin has a reported net worth of $400 million, according to Forbes, and brought home $147 million in 2017: $47 million from hosting "Judge Judy" and producing "Hot Bench," another popular legal television show, and an estimated $100 million from selling the rights of her show to CBS. That makes her the highest-paid host on TV.

In a recent interview with The New York Times Magazine, she revealed how she negotiates to get her fair share of her show's profits:

"Every three years, Sheindlin has dinner at the Grill on the Alley, in Beverly Hills, with the president of CBS Television Distribution to discuss her contract. Sheindlin writes down the salary she wants, seals it in an envelope and presents it at the end of the meal. Once, a president presented her with his own envelope, which she refused to open: 'This isn't a negotiation,' she told him."

Sheindlin elaborated on the negotiation in a 2016 deposition when she was sued by a talent agency working on the show. The agency objected to how her pay was structured, noting that CBS' "back's to the wall" when it comes to her compensation. The case was dismissed.

Given the success of her show, it's hard to argue with her salary. It "has been the highest-rated program in first-run syndication for the last 10 years," per the Times, with 10 million people tuning in each day to watch her, well, cast judgement.

The CBS syndication deal made her the 48th-richest self-made woman in the U.S., per Forbes, which notes that Sheindlin's show is so lucrative not only because of its ratings, but because it attracts female viewers between the ages of 18 and 49, which is a heavily desired demographic for advertisers.

How does Sheindlin spend all that money? According to the Times, she lives in Florida for most of the year with her husband, Jerry Sheindlin. They have a membership to the Ritz-Carlton, and Sheindlin recently bought Jerry a motorcycle for his 85th birthday. She herself drives a Bentley.

Sheindlin isn't a producer on "Judge Judy," which she was told was akin to giving up $20 million a year, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Her response?

"How much can you eat?"

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