Belfast Telegraph

Revealed: How rich are Rory McIlroy, Liam Neeson, Kenneth Branagh, James Nesbitt, Christine Bleakley and Stephen Nolan?

By Stephen Gordon

We trawl through the accounts of top local stars and find out who’s really in the money.

The earning power of famous faces is a constant source of curiosity and speculation.

Many stars channel all or some of their income through registered companies,  making it relatively easy to have a peak at their finances.

Move over Tiger, McIlroy’s the new king of the course

Rory McIlory made headlines earlier this month when he replaced Tiger Woods as the face of a popular golf video game.

The deal with EA Sports golf series will bag the Holywood man £5m and the new console game will be available on PlayStation4 and Xbox.

It was a clear sign of the changing of the guard among golf’s elite, with World No 1 McIlroy, 25, replacing Woods as the game’s biggest star.

EA Sports built its PGA Tour series around Woods from 1998 until it ended its relationship with him in 2013, when he was still No1 in the world. McIlroy has been No1 since August. He and Woods shared the game’s cover in 2011.

According to the US wealth magazine Forbes, McIlroy earns £16.6m per year with more than £13m coming from endorsements - making the Open Champion the 35th highest paid athlete in the world.

But with McIlory replacing Woods as the golf’s biggest star, his earning power is set to soar.

McIlory has lucrative contracts with Nike, Bose, Omega and Santander and he’s now well on course to earn a whopping £100m.

UK Companies House reveals little about Rory’s growing fortune.

But it does show he keeps a slice of his wealth in the UK - and in the family.

Rory’s London-registered Boywood Ltd -- which has assets of nearly £2m -- has, since November 2011, included his dad Gerry and mum Rosie as co-directors.

However, it has been reported that McIlroy is set to swing the lion’s share of his global earnings to Dublin where companies benefit from a lower corporation tax rate than the UK - 12.5% compared to 20%.

Rory has just set up Rory McIlroy Inc with Companies Registration Office in Carlow. The company headed by Donal Casey will manage the star’s earnings.

His dad Gerry famously worked in three jobs - including cleaning toilets - to finance Rory’s golfing progress and entry into junior tournaments in the USA. Rosie and Gerry have been by Rory’s side at tournaments around the world.

Rory’s  Boywood Ltd is due to report new accounts . But its last published accounts show assets of £1,884,000, cash reserves of £710,000 and a net worth of £1.6m.

Extraordinary sums for a 25-year-old but, of course, that’s just a fraction of the full wealth of the star who recently bought himself a new pad in his hometown - Holywood, Co Down.

His property portfolio also includes a stunning £7.2m bachelor pad in Jupiter, Florida which has a gym, swimming pools and a games room (including a pool table donated by his ex fiancee Caroline Wozniacki).


Sir Kenneth Branagh’s rags to riches fairytale

Belfast actor/director Sir Kenneth Branagh’s latest Hollywood movie Cinderella is set to be a blockbuster of ‘Frozen’ proportions.

The Disney fairytale directed by Branagh took gross box office takings of $67.9 million on its debut weekend - outshining Ballymena man Liam Neeson’s latest action thriller Run All Night which took $11,012,305.

Sir Kenneth was in Belfast last week for a Special Charity Premiere of Cinderella at the Movie House complex.

The plumber’s son from north Belfast has become Hollywood’s go-to director for action packed, big budget films.

His recent hits include Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (2014) with Chris Pine, Keira Knightly and Kevin Costner and the Marvel blockbuster Thor (2011) which grossed £181 million and spawned a 2013 sequel which proved an even bigger box office hit.

The 54-year-old’s latest Disney smash stars Lily James (Lady Rose in Downton Abbey), Cate Blanchett and Branagh’s former lover, Helena Bonham Carter.

Thor was a game-changer for the man previously best known for performing and directing Shakespeare.

“They (producers) used to think they couldn’t send me certain stuff, and that may still be true, but I think they now consider me to have adventurous tastes. The turning point was Thor.”

US magazines have estimated Branagh’s wealth at around $55m (£37.5m).

In the UK he’s currently a director of three companies, the longest running being Kenneth Branagh Ltd which he set up in nearly 25 years ago when he was 30.

Kenneth Branagh Ltd’s most recent accounts boast assets of £2,263,436 including £1,752,594 cash in hand.

Linfield fan Sir Kenneth, proud of his Belfast roots, was in the city last week for the premier of Cinderella.

The actor/director said he wants to do more work in Northern Ireland.

“I’m involved in Northern Ireland Screen and have been for a long time so I keep my eyes open and ears to the ground,” he said.

“I’d love to come back and do something myself. It’s about time, so I’m in conversation and I hope it’s going to happen.”


Colin Murray ’s still netting a tidy profit

Former Match of the Day presenter Colin Murray has desribed himself as a “slow, steady kind of guy” when it comes to money.

But Peter and Iris Robinson’s former paperboy has been rapidly raking in the cash since first hitting the big time in London as a Radio 1 DJ.

The 38-year-old Talksport presenter’s Belfast Boy company’s most recent published figures show it has a handy £766,030 in the bank.

Belfast Boy Ltd’s

shareholder funds stand at £711,000 and net assets at £709,000 - up from £674,00 on the previous year.

New figures are due to be published any day.

Murray founded Belfast Boy in 2006 to channel his radio and TV earnings. His partner, Canadian composer/musician Carly Paradis became company secretary in 2011.

Paradis scores the music for the BBC2’s hit police drama Line of Duty which is filmed in Northern Ireland.

Hardworking Murray said: “I have earned money since I was 11. I used to pack potatoes for a local shop, nine hours a week for £6.”

Later, the Ballybeen lad became a paperboy and after leaving Dundonald High School at 16 he got a job at McDonald’s flipping burgers for £2.20 per hour.

By day he took a journalism training course in Belfast connected to the Youth Training Programme, recieving £29.50 a week.

In a 2012 newspaper interview about money, the presenter said: “I am a slow, steady type of guy. The most I have ever spent in one go was on my first car in 2009, a second-hand mini that cost £7,000.”


 James Nesbitt is no bit player

Actor James Nesbitt has put his money where his heart is - investing his time and money in Northern Ireland and its film industry.

G&H  trucks have become a familiar site across Northern Ireland as our TV and film production industry has boomed in recent years.

The G&H Film and TV Services Ltd are a sign that the likes of Game of Thrones or The Fall are being shot in the area.

But few people know that Hobbit star Nesbitt is the key man behind the firm that keeps the wheels rolling for the film and TV industry.

The 50-year-old Coleraine man invested in the Holywood, Co Down based company in 2012 - it supplies essential location services including wardrobe, make-up, tollet blocks and dining buses. It also supplies weapons and marked police cars for film production.

G&H’s accounts are due to be published shortly but the most recent accounts for the year ending June 2013 shows assets of £315,000, liabilities of £623,000 and a net worth of minus almost £1m. But with the industry here growing Nesbitt and his partner Maurice Brown’s firm is well established as the go-to company for location services.

Companies House records show Nesbitt’s Brown Cow Films Ltd owns 60pc of G&H’s shares.

Nesbitt and his estranged wife Sonia are co-directors of Brown Cow Films Ltd - founded in 1991 - and the firm’s most recent published figures put its net worth at £2.48m including £352,000 cash in hand.

2014 was another successful year for Nesbitt. He starred in two of the year’s biggest TV hits. He played London police commander Richard Miller in Danny Boyle’s Babylo and he won acclaim as distraught dad Tony Hughes in the haunting drama, The Missing.

As well as investing in the local film industry, Nesbitt has backed a number of causes over the years, ranging from the Wave Trauma Centre to his beloved Coleraine FC, and he’s long been UNICEF UK ambassador working with HIV and AIDS sufferers.

Asked about his attitude to money, canny Nesbitt pointed to his north coast roots, saying: “I grew up with three older sisters in a place called Castlerock.

“My father was the headmaster of the small school I attended and he was very good with money. He used to preach to us kids never to get into debt and I took that message very seriously.”


Patrick Kielty's big box of cash

Comedian Patrick Kielty’s big box of money just keeps on growing.

The Dundrum man, who has shows in Belfast, Lisburn and Derry in the coming weeks, is sole shareholder in Warrentpoint-registered Boxed Productions, which has reported assets of £821,149 including just shy of £500,000 cash in hand.

Kielty’s firm’s net assets and shareholders funds were put at £820,754 for the year ending March 2014 — up from £757,781 in 2013 and £639,463 in 2012.

The figures published by Companies House reveal that during the year the 43-year-old received advances of around £290,000 from his firm and repaid almost £38,000.

Kielty, who married glamorous presenter Cat Deeley in 2012, spends much of his time in LA where his wife is a huge star, hosting each episode of the hit show So You Think You Can Dance.

Several years ago Cat purchased a two-bed, two-bath, 2,988 square-foot architectural-style home in the Beverly Crest area of Los Angeles for $2,699,000. Built in 1978 on just under an acre, the home has an office, gym, two guest suites, pool and spa, entertaining area, and great views.

The couple divide their time between the LA home, west London and south Down, where PK has long had a luxury home.

The stylish pad has a cinema and a home gym and enjoys a prime location overlooking Dundrum Bay and the Mourne Mountains.

Last year, the house was put on the market for £400,000, prompting speculation that PK would be spending less time in Northern Ireland now that he was married.

But the funnyman says they never had any intention of quitting the Dundrum area and they are staying put.

“We put it up for sale because we were in the middle of buying another house, and then that fell through so we kept it,” he said recently.

“Even if we had sold that house, we were buying another one here — we will always have a place here; the missus loves it.

“We spent Christmas and New Year’s Eve in Northern Ireland and we’re now here more than in London.

“Any time Cat is back, because nearly all of her work is in America, when she gets as far as London she wants to come back to Ireland, see the family and hang out, walk the dog on the beach.”

Patrick, who has earned millions during a hugely successful career, has admitted he loves splashing the cash.

“I’m not going to be the richest man in the graveyard — money is for spending,” he said. “I also have an inability to say no. A few years ago, I bought a speedboat in a pub toilet not long after I’d bought a racehorse with a priest.”

Christine Bleakley sitting on a fortune

DOUBLE Millionairess Christine Bleakley’s Chrisola Entertainment Ltd is due to file new accounts this week.

The This Morning star’s company last filed in November 2013 when it reported current assets of £2.75m — up by a cool £500,000 on the previous year.

The glamorous 35-year-old Newtownards woman’s cash reserves stood at a very tasty £2,267,852.

Christine set up Chrisola Entertainment in 2009 to handle her massive earnings after landing her big break co-hosting the BBC’s One Show in 2007 with Adrian Chiles.

Her younger sister Nicola became and remains company secretary of the Somerset-registered company.

Christine received an advance of £287,622 for the year ending February 2013 but repaid £149,285. In the previous year she was paid £350,000 and returned £103,000.

The accounts also show canny Christine is planning well ahead. The firm operates a money purchase pension policy scheme.

But while Christine may be a double or even triple millionairess, she’s still some catching up to do on footballer fiance Frank Lampard.

The 35-year-old Man City star’s wealth has been estimated at £37m.

But in a newspaper questionnaire, Christine stressed her “unending quest” is to be independent.

“Mum instilled that in me from an early age. She understands the freedom a woman has when she doesn’t depend on anyone else.”

As for her most prized possession, she said: “A Rolex watch I bought myself when I moved to London. It was a scary, lonely time.

“I’d never lived away from home so it was an enormous step, personally and professionally, but I’m glad I took the plunge.”


Stephen Nolan: BBC star’s bank balance isn’t flagging

BBC NI heavyweight Stephen Nolan is piling on the pounds again — £1.7 million of them!

The busiest presenter on the airwaves has published the latest annual accounts for Stephen Nolan Broadcasting Ltd — and they show he’s put on a massive £640,000 in just 12 months.

While workaholic Nolan has been famously bemoaming his flagging manhood in recent weeks, his firm’s bank balance is bulging to the tune of £1.4m in cash — up by more than £350,000.

Its total assets are put at £1,738,418, suggesting the 41-year-old is well on his way to being a double millionaire — if he’s not already there.

Stephen Nolan Broadcasting is the vehicle for the star’s earnings from TV and radio shows including his UK-wide Radio 5 Live Show and his BBC NI programmes.

He’s the sole director and shareholder of the Belfast-registered company.

Figures just published by Companies House show total assets of £1.75m for the year end February 28, 2014.

The company’s total assets less liabilities due within the next 12 months are put at £1,204,000 while its total cash in hand is put at exactly £1,412,601.

Hard-working Nolan recently celebrated 10 years presenting the hugely successful Nolan Show on Radio Ulster — and over the years he’s regularly quizzed politicians and others on their earnings and expenses.

But when Sunday Life first revealed two years ago that Nolan’s bank balance had swollen to £700,000 he found himself on the receiving end of jibes, including one from his colleague Gerry Anderson, who sadly passed away last year.

Anderson memorably quipped: “The Nolan Show, where the people have the power and the presenter has all the money.”

Last year Nolan’s published bank account topped the magic £1m mark for the first time — a fantastic achievement for the working-class celeb from the Ballygomartin Road area of Belfast.

He currently works seven days a week across BBC Radio Ulster, BBC One NI and BBC Radio 5 Live.

Nolan worked behind the counter in petrol stations before launching his broadcasting career at Citybeat.

He’s on record as saying: “I started off with nothing and you know what I’m trying to do? I’m trying to be successful as I can.”

The multi SONY Radio Academy award winner has since turned 40 and talked of cutting down his workload. He winds down on holidays in Santa Monica, California and Las Vegas.

He lives in a luxury home on the shores of Strangford Lough, which he often refers to on his shows as Fantasy Island after a Sunday Life front page story on the pad back in 2008.

He is also a partner in the Invicta Film Partnership No23 LLP which invested in the blockbuster movie the Da Vinci Code starring Tom Hanks. Nolan is part of a 175-strong syndicate put together by City financiers to buy the master print of the movie for £125m in a scheme designed by accountants to defer income tax payments for up to 15 years.

Even though the BBC is funded by licence payers it has always refused to reveal details of how much it pays its big stars.

Nolan — like many top BBC stars — is not on the BBC’s staff payroll but instead has his fees for TV and radio broadcasts paid to his company, which means he is responsible for his own tax arrangements.

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