Top Job: Jeremy Clarkson pockets £2.14m from BBC TV car show
JEREMY Clarkson made £2.14m (€2.6m) from Top Gear last year thanks to a lucrative deal struck with the corporation.
The figures, twice what he received last year, underlines how he has become one of the BBC's most successful performers in spite, or because, of his ability to cause controversy.
His annual windfall is thanks to a complex deal he struck with BBC Worldwide to ensure he benefits from the motoring show being shown in 198 different countries as well as the spin-off DVDs, merchandise and live shows.
Accounts filed at the British Companies House for Bedder 6, a company he specifically set up a few years ago to take advantage of the Top Gear brand, show that his own cut amounted to £1.79m in the year to March 2011, up from £829,000 the previous year. On top of this, he is paid £350,000 as a performance fee by the BBC, taking his total annual pay from Top Gear up to £2.14m.
This payment tops a colourful year for Clarkson, which ended with the Top Gear Christmas special pulling in 5m viewers, his ex-wife accusing him of being a "bully and a hypocrite", while he received a barrage of criticism for his joke that public sector workers should be "executed" for going on strike. His comments, made on the BBC One Show, saw the corporation receive almost 32,000 complaints.
BBC allowed Clarkson to set up his company in 2006 after fears that the presenter would leave, seriously damaging the global success of Top Gear, which is now broadcast in nearly every country in the world. BBC Worldwide has 50pc stake in the company, but in return Clarkson along with his old friend Andy Wilman, a co-producer on the show, receives the remainder of all the money made from Top Gear T-shirts, remote-controlled cars, watches, mugs, magazines as well as the crucial television royalty fees. Fans can even buy a £6.99 Stig Soap on a Rope, while John Lewis sells a £20 Top Gear board game, all of which helps boost Clarkson's pay.
Pre-tax profits at Bedder 6 jumped from £9.06m to £14.8m, while the dividend paid to the three shareholders – Clarkson, Mr Wilman and BBC Worldwide – increased from £1.68m to £5.95m. The success last year came about mostly because of the increasingly popularity of Top Gear in America, where it was remade for the local audience, and Australia, which receives the British version staring Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May.
BBC Worldwide owns half of Bedder 6, while Clarkson owns 30 per cent and Mr Wilman has a 20 per cent stake.
Clarkson's performance fee from the BBC ensures he is technically not one of the highest paid BBC stars. Last year 19 individuals were paid more than £500,000, but the deal with Bedder 6 calls into question how other corporation stars have structured their finances. Graham Norton is understood to have a similar deal, whereby his production company shares some of the royalty fees from the BBC show.
It is only in the last couple of years that Mr Clarkson has been able to reap the substantial rewards from the worldwide success of the show. Two years ago his dividend was £317,000.