The earning power of famous faces is a constant source of curiosity and speculation. Here, Margaret Canning trawls through the accounts of eight of our leading stars and finds out who is really in the money
It has been an eventful time for many of Northern Ireland’s celebrity cohort — and a lucrative one, too.
Adrian Dunbar’s national treasure status has been cemented with his starring performance in the latest series of Line of Duty.
And fellow local actor James Nesbitt left his role as chirpy geezer Adam in Cold Feet far behind with a leading role in the gritty Bloodlands, as well as his photographic cameo as baddie Marcus Thurwell in Line of Duty. Nesbitt has also maintained other successful business interests.
In the last 18 months or so, Derry Girls writer Lisa McGee, golfer Rory McIlroy and TV personality Christine Lampard have welcomed new babies.
Liam Neeson joined forces with son Micheal Richardson for family tragedy movie Made in Italy, which bore a poignant parallel with their own family history. Neeson also tackled some James Joyce during lockdown.
And Northern Ireland’s best-paid broadcaster Stephen Nolan continued to rattle cages and expand his personal wealth with his radio and TV programmes.
Entertainers and high-earning figures working in the media usually set up limited companies to deal with their earnings.
The entities are usually small enterprises which only have to publish accounts with limited detail such as assets, cash at bank and in hand, etc. The annual financial statements are usually unaudited and abridged.
But the information does give us an idea of how their finances are performing.
Paddy Kielty is a well-loved entertainer who has been married to fellow celebrity Cat Deeley since 2012. Paddy maintains a directorship at one Northern Ireland company, Boxed Productions Limited, a small company which filed its latest unaudited abridged accounts for the year ending March 31, 2020 at the end of March.
Paddy’s address is given as Fulham in London, although the company’s registered address is in Warrenpoint. His occupation is stated as an entertainer.
That company had total net assets of £1,071,541, which was up slightly from £1,041,607 a year earlier. Boxed Productions Ltd also had cash at bank and in hand of £276,170, which was down a little from £284,936 the year before.
Paddy was previously linked to another company, Green Inc Film and TV, registered in Holywood, Co Down, but resigned as a director in 2011.
Last June he resigned as a director of DTK Capital, a property company he was involved in with his brother-in-law Max Deeley, after six years. Max is still a director of the company. In year ending May 2019, its net assets were £56,687, down from £107,910. His occupation at DTK was described as a consultant, while Max’s role is described as accountant.
Of his ability to enjoy his wealth, Paddy once mused in an interview: “I’m not going to be the richest man in the graveyard — money is for spending,” he said.
Paddy’s representative did not return a request for comment.
Christine Lampard has had plenty of cause to celebrate after giving birth to baby boy Frederick, her second child with ex-Chelsea manager Frank Lampard, in March.
At the outset of her broadcasting career on national TV with The One Show around 2009, she joined with her sister Nicola Bleakley to set up a company Chrisola Entertainment Ltd. Nicola is company secretary.
The “unaudited, filleted financial statements” for Chrisola for the year up to June 30, 2020 show a healthy financial picture, with net assets of £2,407,467, down slightly from 2019’s £2,516,907.
The company has an address at Weston-Super-Mare. There is no sum given for cash at bank and at hand.
But its performance over the last decade demonstrates how Christine has amassed a respectable fortune with her broadcasting work, to say nothing of any joint assets held with her husband.
Chrisola Entertainment’s first filed set of accounts were for the year to the end of February 2010 and reported total net assets of £35,002, a drop in the ocean compared to its most recent £2,407,467.
A representative did not return a request for comment.
It has been a busy year for broadcaster Stephen Nolan as he held coronavirus regulations-breakers to account, and exposed scandals relating to the distribution of emergency Executive funds such as the £500,000 wrongly paid to wind turbine owners.
Between 2019-20, Nolan earned between £390,000 and £394,999 from the BBC, up by around £65,000 on the previous year and placing him in the top 10 of BBC presenters for pay.
Last year he told the Belfast Telegraph he has “always been upfront about this” and that he’s “trying to earn as much money as I possibly can, like any other working man or woman... I’m a Belfast boy from the Ballygomartin Road who didn’t pass his 11-Plus...”
For the year ending August 2019, accounts for Stephen Nolan Broadcasting Ltd show total net assets of £1,427,340, up £1,000 on the year before.
There was cash at bank and in hand of £550, down from £631,116. But what he is owed from debtors had gone from £797,243 to £1,428,894, according to the accounts, which reflect earnings from TV and radio shows including his UK-wide Radio 5 Live Show and his BBC NI programmes.
Nolan’s Third Street Studios is the company behind television programmes including The Top Table, Made in NI and documentary Finding Faith, which was shown last month.
Unaudited abridged accounts for 2019, filed in January this year, showed Third Street Studios had total net assets of £3,175,224, nearly double from the previous year’s £1,558,806.
Cash at bank and in hand was £1,633,682, up from £1,021,774.
The statistics do not include the award-winning broadcaster’s personal savings, property or other investments.
Mr Nolan declined to comment.
They talk about comedy gold — and for Derry Girls writer Lisa McGee, there is definitely gold in them thar gags.
Lisa and her husband Tobias Beer, a screenwriter and actor, have a limited company called Derry Products Ltd — a nod to her origins in the north west and the sitcom creation which made her name — which was set up in 2014.
For the year to the end of September 2019, unaudited abridged accounts show net assets of £93,174 — a turnaround from £2,009 liabilities a year earlier.
Cash at bank and in hand had gone to £153,966 from £15,352. That could reflect the impact of Derry Girls on the couple’s bottom line, as the first series went out on Channel 4 in January 2018.
Looking back to September 2014, cash at bank and in hand had been £21,729, with total net asset of £8,194 — showing the impact of years of creative graft and the runaway success of Derry Girls. The high-flying creative pair also wrote and executive-produced The Deceived for Channel 5 and Virgin Media Ireland. They now have two sons after welcoming another bundle of joy in October 2019.
Ms McGee declined to comment.
Fans of Line of Duty may have been divided on the series six finale last weekend.
But it is fair to say none of us could quibble with Adrian Dunbar’s portrayal of the flawed hero and outgoing head of AC-12, Ted “like the battle” Hastings.
With a Channel 5 travelogue also under his belt, his national treasure status is now unassailable.
Adrian Dunbar and wife Anna Nygh, an actress and casting director, have set up a company Kinlow Ltd, which had net assets of £232,409 in recently filed micro company accounts, up from £178,711. There were fixed assets of £321,575, according to accounts filed last month covering the year up to the end of June 2020.However, Ms Nygh’s appointment as director terminated in August and the number of employees also halved to one.
As well as playing Ted Hastings in the sixth series of Line of Duty, Adrian also took presenting duties on the Channel 5 series Coastal Ireland.
Adrian was born the eldest of seven children in Enniskillen on August 1, 1958. His family later moved to Portadown a decade later because “there was no work in Enniskillen”. The family then moved back to Enniskillen.
A representative was contacted for comment.
Actor James Nesbitt is a director of a number of successful businesses and probably provides one of the best examples of spreading your interests.
His firm G&H Film & Television Services provides equipment to film sets like toilet blocks, dining buses, weapons and marked police cars — perhaps the less glamorous side of the TV game but an essential one.
Accounts for G&H for the year ending June 30 2019 showed net assets of £1,402,762 down from £1,559,114.
The amount of cash at bank and hand was down from £127,347 to £16,764.
Maurice Brown is a fellow director in both G&H and another company, Nesbro Ltd. Described by Companies House as for the buying and selling of real estate, Nesbro’s interests include Elite Golf Tours Ireland.
Nesbro had fixed assets of £2,372,127 in the year to June 2019, up from £1,944,918, but net liabilities of nearly £35,000 after payments to creditors of £2.4m were stripped out.
According to unaudited accounts, his main company Brown Cow Films had net assets of £5,210,305 up from £4,684,427 in year to end of March 2019.
Cash at bank and in hand was £1,275,914 down from £1,630,129.
Former wife Sonia resigned as a director in 2016.
A representative was contacted for comment.
Liam Neeson, the Ballymena-born star of movies like Taken, and Oscar-nominated for Schindler’s List, has a net worth of $145m, according to website Celebritynetworth.com.
And while one of our wealthiest celebrity exports, he has also been the most consistently philanthropic.
In February, he lent his support to stop the sale of the American Irish Historical Society’s building on Fifth Avenue. Liam held his wife Natasha Richardson’s wake at the location 12 years ago after her death in a skiing accident.
He has also been a continued advocate of integrated education in Northern Ireland for many years and has worked with the Integrated Education Fund (IEF) as an ambassador to champion the process of conversion. His much-loved mother Kitty (94) passed away peacefully last June in a nursing home in Ballymena, but Liam could not attend due to Covid-19 travel restrictions.
He has been sharing plenty of memories of his screen career on the promotion trail for his recent movies — including that director Rob Reiner deemed the 6ft 4in strapping Ballymena man “not tall enough” for the role of giant Fezzik in The Princess Bride.
Making a virtual appearance on the Jimmy Kimmel show, he said he had read up to 31 books during lockdown including James Joyce’s Ulysses and Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment — a more highbrow choice than most of the rest of us have managed in the pandemic.
The wealthiest Northern Irish person on our list today is also the youngest — 31-year-old Rory McIlroy. According to the Sunday Times Rich List for 2020, the golden boy from Holywood has an estimated fortune of £170m, an increase of £32m on 2019.
Daughter Poppy Kennedy McIlroy was born to Rory and wife Erica in August last year.
In his PGA Tour career, he has earned over $53m (£38m) in prize money, including $32m (£23m) as a FedEx Cup bonus — according to research by William Hill.
And accounts from last year show revenues at his management and image rights firm had surged by 37% to $24.2m.
Dublin-based Rory McIlroy Management Services Ltd recorded a pre-tax loss of $1m in 2019 after a non-cash write down of $18m in the golfer’s image rights during the year in accordance with accountancy rules.
But it is unlikely Rory’s day to day comforts will have been much diminished as prize money and other such earnings are not part of the Irish company’s revenue.
Cash generated by the company from operating activities after tax totalled $14.7m for 2019.
The main activity of the company is managing royalty earnings and management fees for the golfer. In 2020, earnings on the Covid-19 disrupted US PGA tour earnings total $4.4m. He is estimated to have racked up a massive $1,920 (£1,378) in winnings with each stroke during his PGA Tour career.
The earnings for the McIlroy company from royalties and management fees last year increased by $6.56m from $17.6m to $24.2m.
Its cash pile increased more than seven-fold from $2.14m to $15m.
A representative in Dublin was contacted for comment.