Material Girl Madonna is world's top-earning celebrity

Madonna 55 is the world's top-earning celebrity. Credit: EMPICS Entertainment

Pop diva Madonna, 55, is the world's top-earning celebrity, according to a Forbes list.

She raked in an estimated $125 million (£80m) in the past year, mainly from her $305 million-grossing (£196m) MDNA tour, but helped by sales of clothing, fragrance and various investments.

Director Steven Spielberg, who had a big hit last year with the film Lincoln, was a distant second with earnings of $100 million (£64m) in the year ended June 2013, most of which came from his catalog of past hits such as E.T. and Jurassic Park, which continue to bring in the big money.

Simon Cowell is at number 3.

At number 3 with earnings of $95 million in the past year was a three-way tie among 50 Shades of Grey author E.L. James, radio shock jock Howard Stern and music and television producer Simon Cowell.

Commentators believe Lady Gaga is channelling Madonna's earning power. Credit: Charles Guerin/ABACA USA/Empics Entertainment

The 27-year-old Lady Gaga's $80 million (£64m) in earnings come largely from the singer's Born This Way Ball world tour, placing Gaga 10th on the list.

Oprah Winfrey earned $165 million taken in the previous year

Forbes compiles its annual list of celebrity earnings using input from agents, managers, producers and others to calculate its estimates for each celebrity's entertainment-related earnings.

The figures do not reflect tax deductions, agent fees or "the other expenses of being a celebrity."

Madonna's top spot compares with her previous peak of $110 million in 2009, but falls short of the $165 million taken in by Oprah Winfrey in the previous year, Forbes said.

The Forbes top ten earners were:

  • Madonna - $125 million

  • Steven Spielberg - $100 million

  • Simon Cowell - $95 million

  • E.L. James - $95 million

  • Howard Stern - $95 million

  • James Patterson - $91 million

  • Glenn Beck - $90 million

  • Michael Bay - $82 million

  • Jerry Bruckheimer - $80 million

  • Lady Gaga - $80 million

Talk show queen and media mogul Winfrey took a big pay cut this year according to Forbes, falling to number 13 on the list with earnings of $77 million.

Others in the top 10 earners in the Forbes List included TV host Glenn Beck, director Michael Bay of the Transformers franchise, and thriller novelist James Patterson, who Forbes said was now the best-selling author of all time.

Both Spielberg and Bay also made last year's top 10, though with significantly larger earnings.