Jeremy Clarkson made €958,000 from Top Gear
Jeremy Clarkson made €958,000 from Top Gear last year, on top of his BBC salary, thanks to a complex and lucrative deal he has agreed with the corporation.
The figures, disclosed at Companies House, highlight how Clarkson has become one of the UK's most successful players in the television industry on the back of the show's popularity.
The presenter took home €958,000 last year on top of his estimated €1.15 million annual salary from the BBC, ensuring he almost doubled his salary and was sheltered from the recession – which saw many television high-profile stars' income cut.
His windfall came thanks to a payment from Bedder 6, a company he specifically set up a few years ago to take advantage of the Top Gear brand around the world as part of an unprecedented deal with the BBC.
In return for a fee to the BBC, Clarkson along with his old friend Andy Wilman, a co-producer on the show, enjoy a substantial cut of any profits made from the magazines, live shows, DVDs, books, remote controlled toy cars and other merchandise bearing the Top Gear brand.
The BBC allowed him to set up the company in 2006 after fears that the presenter would leave, seriously damaging the global success of Top Gear, which is now broadcast in more than 100 countries around the world and seen by an estimated 350 million viewers.
BBC Worldwide, the commercial arm of the corporation, now owns half of Bedder 6, while Clarkson owns 30 per cent and Mr Wilman has a 20 per cent stake.
That means Clarkson enjoyed a €554,000 cut of the €1.8 million dividend that was paid out to shareholders in the 12 months to March 2009, as well as a €404,000 fee from the BBC for "payment for services".
The €957,000 payment last year compares with €366,000 the previous year.
The deal between Bedder 6 and BBC is likely to see Clarkson's payments continue to climb thanks to the phenomenal transformation of the show, which started out as a dry advice programme fronted by Angela Ripon.
It now, hosted by three self-confessed scruffy middle aged men, is consistently the best performing programme on BBC 2, attracting more than 7 million viewers for its Christmas special last month – nearly twice the number of the second most popular show, Victoria Wood: Seen on TV.
Mr Wilman has explained that the show is so popular because, 'it's got that 1950s Ovaltine feel about it. Mothers like it because the kids watch it, and young boys like it because they know they're not going to be David Beckham or Lewis Hamilton, but they could grow up to be an overweight bloke in jeans driving fast cars."
Bedder 6 tripled its turnover to €24.2 million thanks to the Top Gear brand branching out into even wider areas. As well as the live show and magazine, it now lends its name to a range of toys.
John Lewis said the range of gifts based on the Stig – the anonymous test driver on the show – were one of the most popular over Christmas. "They were a real hit with our customers, especially the Stig Keyring and Stretchy Stig, both perfect stocking fillers for Top Gear fans."
The corporation has been criticised in the past for allowing its stars to part own rights to the shows they present. Clarkson is not the only star to have set up a company to part-own the rights to their shows. Both Jonathan Ross and Stephen Fry have similar arrangements.
However, the BBC defended the arrangement it had with Bedder 6.
A spokesman said: "Jeremy is instrumental in ensuring the ongoing international success of Top Gear, and this in turn benefits the BBC."
Clarkson yesterday was in South Africa hosting the live Top Gear roadshow, where tickes cost up to R350 (€33).
A soure close to him said: "Jeremy invented the Top Gear format that you and I know. He invented the Stig. It's only right that he shares in the success of show's expansion overseas. And at the end of the day, the money he earns is not extortionate."