The World of Millionaires: Michael Bay vs Oprah Winfrey

The World of Millionaires: Michael Bay vs Oprah Winfrey

Every real, Forbes creates lists of the top revenue-earning individuals in different niches. Whether the list is about top companies, top celebrities, or another category altogether, the lists can serve as inspiration for those who strive to follow in the footsteps of the today's top earners. While topping the list does not necessarily mean they are great role models, many individuals listed are role models simply for helping change their industry.

For the highest paid celebrities, second best to Oprah isn't a bad place to be, which is exactly where Michael Bay ended up. Forbes estimates Bay earned $160 million between May 2011 and May 2012. In that same period, media mogul Oprah Winfrey reportedly pulled in a cool $165 million to top the list. This is the fourth year running Winfrey has dominated the list, but it may be the last. It can be argued that both serve as role models for what they do: Oprah for her charitable contributions and business savvy, and Michael Bay for his high-budget action directorial style. Oprah has always been known for her generosity, especially to her fans, and giving back to charity. As an action-movie director, it can be argued the Bay is one of the most well known directors in the industry, and any future action director could use him as inspiration for creating great visual effects.

Forbes says of their methods: "To determine who the highest-paid celebrities are we considered upfront pay, profit participation, residuals, endorsements and advertising work. We talked to managers, agents, lawyers and other in-the-know folks to come up with our estimates. We did not deduct for things like agent fees or the expenses related to being a celebrity."

As of next year, syndication money will no longer count when compiling the famed list. Without syndication income, next year's list could include an entirely different crop of celebrities. Oprah (#1), Howard Stern (#7), Simon Cowell (tied #9), and Ryan Seacrest (#19) are just a few celebrities who have significant earnings coming in from syndications.

Oprah stayed atop the list this year despite earning $125 million less this year than she did when she topped last year's list. She brought in income with her own talk show and network television shows like "Dr. Phil" and "Rachael Ray" produced by her company Harpo. The OWN network and her satellite radio station also contributed to her financial domination.

Michael Bay, meanwhile can credit his silver medal performance to the success of the latest installment in the Transformers saga: "The Transformers: Dark of the Moon" which grossed over $1.1 billion worldwide. Bay has an excellent cut of the profits from that film and a stake in merchandise like Transformers toys and brought in earnings from the Transformers ride installed at the Hollywood Universal Studios.

Coming in third on the list, fellow director Steven Spielberg, one of the most famous directors in the world, who reportedly advised Michael Bay to fire Megan Fox despite being a staple of the franchise. Clearly Spielberg is considered critically apt to make the suggestion and the $130 million he pulled in doesn't hurt either. Spielberg has been concentrating more and more on producing and got into television this year. His producing and directing has made him an icon in the entertainment industry, and is a model for what future directors can hope to be like.

Fourth on the list is Jerry Bruckheimer, who is a incredibly successful producer with a diverse catalog of film and television projects. The Pirates of the Caribbean franchise belongs to Bruckheimer, and he also produces the CSI family of shows just to name a few.  The creativity he has inspired in film and television proves to aspiring producers that with the right mind, anything can be brought to life on the big or little screen.

The surprise entry on the list this year is Dr. Dre who came in fifth place. Dre, a popular hip hop artist who has a great talent for business, has catapulted onto the top ten list after a masterful business move, although one he is unlikely to match next year. The Dr.Dre line of headphones called the Beats by Dr. Dre has been wildly successful for the record producer. In August of 2011, HTC bought a 51 percent stake in the company for $300 million.

Many celebrities on the list can be considered great role models for their industry. While they may not have perfect personal lives, there is no denying that they have all become leaders who people following in their footsteps can aspire to be like.

Forbes staffer Dorothy Pomerantz talks about Dr. Dre, Michael Bay, Oprah and some of the list toppers in this video:

Contributed by Samantha Railey