How Jeremy Clarkson made his fortune

Loud-mouthed petrolhead Jeremy Clarkson may not be one of the most popular presenters on TV but he is one of the richest. We look at how the controversial 'Top Gear' frontman went from local newspaper hack to multi-millionaire.

The recent buyout of the company behind ‘Top Gear’ means Clarkson earned more than £14million from the programme last year alone.

It cemented Clarkson’s position as one of the best-paid people in television today, but how did he go from opinionated car journalist to multi-millionaire media phenomenon? We take a look.

From presenter to media owner

Business success runs in the family. Clarkson’s mother Shirley created the first ever Paddington Bear soft toy and then won the UK licence to produce it commercially in 1972.

The venture was a success and meant the Clarksons could afford to send Jeremy to Repton, a public school in Derbyshire.

His first job as a journalist was with the Rotherham Advertiser.

But you don’t get rich working for someone else, or – rather – you can get a lot richer working for yourself. And it’s a lesson Clarkson learnt early on.

After writing for a number of local newspapers he formed the Motoring Press Agency (MPA) in 1984 with fellow motoring journalist Jonathan Gill.

The pair conducted road tests for local newspapers and automotive magazines and wrote features for publications such as ‘Performance Car’.

Specialising in motor journalism meant Clarkson was a natural choice to present ‘Top Gear’ and he took his place in the driving seat in October 1988. The show itself has been running since 1977, initially presented by Angela Rippon and Tom Coyne.

Clarkson fronted the show between 1988 and February 2000 and then again from October 2002 when it was re-launched in a new format.


Re-launched and heading for the stars

Alongside co-presenters James May and Richard Hammond, Clarkson is credited with turning ‘Top Gear’ into the most-watched show on BBC Two, rebroadcast to more than 100 countries around the world.

But again, Clarkson’s business acumen kicked in.  He formed Bedder 6 in 2008 in a partnership with ‘Top Gear’ producer Andy Wilman and BBC Worldwide to exploit the commercial potential of ‘Top Gear’ of the programme.

The motoring magazine show went on to generate more revenue than anyone could have thought possible, with around 350 million viewers a week in 170 different countries.

Bedder 6’s company accounts show that a modest pre-tax profit of £2.9million in 2008/9 had jumped to £15.2million just two years later.

The BBC’s accounts, published earlier this month, showed that BBC Worldwide has now bought a controlling stake in the company. Clarkson was paid £8.4million for his share of the company as well as a £4.9million dividend.

Add on the £1million he’s paid as a salary as a presenter and it all adds up to a tidy sum.

[Top Gear's 10 most controversial moments]

The BBC Worldwide Annual Review says the purchase was a “deal to secure the talent integral to the brand's future”.

Despite earning most of his cash from TV presenting work, Clarkson still keeps his hand in print journalism and writes regularly for ‘Top Gear Magazine’ as well as columns for ‘The Sun’ and ‘The Sunday Times’.

Jeremy has also released 14 books, many of them best-sellers, as well as two collections of his columns in book form. There have also been 28 videos/DVDs – the first being ‘Top Gear: Supercars’ in 1994.
Clarkson’s also presented programmes and released books on other subjects including history and engineering. He had his own chat show, ‘Clarkson’, from 1998 to 2000.

The ‘Top Gear’ brand, meanwhile, has its own magazine, an iPhone/iPad app called Top Gear Stunt School and roadshow events called Top Gear Live.

How he’s spent it

As you’d imagine from a man who is probably the most famous motoring journalist in the world, a lot of Clarkson’s cash has gone on cars.

An incomplete list of the motors he’s bought includes an Aston Martin Virage, a Honda CR-X, a Lamborghini Gallardo, a Ferrari F355, four separate Mercedes, a Lotus Elise 111S, a BMW M3 CSL, two Ford GTs, a Volvo XC90, a Range Rover TDV8 Vogue, and well, a Volkswagen Scirocco.

He also owns a multi-million pile in Chipping Norton – with famous neighbours including David Cameron – and a holiday home on the Isle of Man, which happens to also be a lighthouse.

Yet despite being outspoken on so many subjects, Clarkson doesn’t like to talk about is money. “I just don't pay any attention to money, it's rather vulgar,” he’s quoted as saying.

Easy to say when you’re rolling in it.