Dreams can make money, too:
Forbes magazine loves to release lists of people who make ton more money than you. In the new "Celebrity 100" list of the world’s most powerful celebrities,  a goodly number of midlife women make the cut – topped, of course, by Oprah:

Ratings for the self-made billionaire’s flagship production, The Oprah Winfrey Show,
may have diminished, but her earning power appears bulletproof—at least
for now. She will debut the Oprah Winfrey Network in partnership with
Discovery Communications next year. She also has a three-year, $55
million deal with XM Satellite Radio. Her Harpo production company
helped create Dr. Phil and  The Rachael Ray Show. Less successful: a recent reality-TV show,  Oprah’s Big Give.

Other over-40 women on  the list include Madonna, who "cut a deal with concert
promoter Live Nation that gave her a reported $18 million signing
bonus," and J.K. Rowling, whose payday last year topped Oprah’s.

It was wizardry that transformed J.K. Rowling from a destitute single
mother on welfare into a best-selling billionaire. Her adventures of
teenage magician Harry Potter and his classmates at Hogwarts became a
children’s literary sensation in 1998 with the U.S. publication of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. It and the six subsequent books have now sold 375 million copies worldwide. The final one,  Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, has sold 44 million since it was published last July, including 15 million in the first 24 hours.

Rowling’s also on Forbes’ companion list of "The World’s Youngest Billionaires," whose list of rich fortysomethings is far more global.

Chinese billionaire Zhang Xin, 43, worked in a factory stitching apparel in Hong Kong at age 14 before eventually getting a master’s at Cambridge University. Today she and her husband Pan Shiyi run one of China’s most successful property developers, SOHO China, known for its sleek and modern buildings across the country.

Russian Elena Baturina, also a former factory worker, isn’t in business with her husband, Yuri Luzkhov, but his position as Moscow’s mayor probably hasn’t hurt her company. Baturina founded Inteko in 1991, and it later became one of the city’s biggest construction companies. Inteko sued the publisher of Forbes Russia over a December 2006 cover story about the company. The court ruled in Inteko’s favor.


Driving the private equity dialogue:
This week’s  Economist highlights profiles Dominique Senequier, who went from owning two declining French wineries to a career in the tumultuous world of private equity:

She bought two Bordeaux estates: Chateau Kirwan, whose wines had particularly impressed Thomas Jefferson when he visited in the 18th century, and Chateau Clinet. It was a pleasurable start to a career in private equity, and a lucky one: Ms Senequier met Claude Bébéar, then chief executive of AXA, another insurer, who was also buying vineyards. In 1996 he picked her to start a private-equity business.

Twelve years later, with $25 billion under management,
AXA Private Equity claims to be the biggest private-equity firm in
Europe and the tenth largest in the world. Few people thought an
insurance company could build a successful private-equity arm—most got
out of the business when AXA was getting in. At first it was hard
going. Mr Bébéar insisted that Ms Senequier raise funds from outside
(only a third of AXA Private Equity’s funds come from its parent), so
she went to America, cap in hand. She recalls, “Some investors said,
‘Why should we invest in France, which is full of communists and
unions, when we can buy Californian venture capital?’” The solution, Ms
Senequier discovered, was to expand beyond France; once the firm
promised to invest in Germany as well, money came in.

Senequier,
says the Economist, also hopes to make private equity ess subject to
public opprobrium, in part by doing something radical: sharing the
wealth.

She thinks the industry should rename itself
“long-term equity”. She has also suggested an amendment to France’s
labour code to oblige private-equity firms to distribute 5% of the
capital gains from firms they sell among all the employees.

“At the moment the debate about private equity is on the split of
rewards between shareholders and top management,” says Ms Senequier. “I
want to open a discussion about the split between top management and
the rest of the employees.” The idea is not all that revolutionary, she
says: when AXA Private Equity sold Camaïeu, a French clothing company,
last year, for instance, it paid the employees a bonus of a month’s
salary, and other French buy-out firms have made similar payments…..

“She got the entire industry against her,” says one private-equity
executive. Some of her rivals reckon that she may be positioning
herself for a second career, in politics.

News of Senequier’s rise may cheer the women of Wall Street’s private equity firms — who, as Portfolio.com noted in April, seem to hit a sort of fiberglass ceiling.

Private
equity firms have some of the thickest glass ceilings in all of
finance, employing few women and hardly any in top dealmaking
positions…

Even though some private equity firms have ballooned in size and
broadened their activities beyond corporate buyouts, most maintain the
macho culture forged in their early days as small partnerships. Because
the firms are highly secretive, it’s hard to take a census, but the
overall picture looks something like this: The 10 biggest private
equity shops, ranked by announced deal volume for 2006, employ roughly
1,000 investment professionals in areas ranging from classic private
equity buyouts to real estate investing. It’s difficult to determine
how many of those are women, but it is possible to count how many
of their U.S.-based, partner-level women are in charge of putting
together deals. And the number is four. That’s right: four.

Maybe I should just start my own business: In "She Got Rich Doing What?",
MORE magazine profiles five women who, far from the entertainment or
Wall Street worlds, have made  millions in ways most never would have
dreamt. One is the author of "The House that Faux Built", who learned that decorative arts could transform homes, spaces and her life.


When she retired after 20 years in the army, Adrienne van Dooren, now
48, immediately started working on her personal reinvention. Living off
her pension of $30,000 a year, she took advantage of an educational
program for vets and signed up for art classes. Her goal wasn’t to get
a painting into a museum (though that would have been nice) but to
become a faux finisher, using trompe l’oeil techniques to create the
illusion of three-dimensional, textured surfaces.

This is a very specific kind of passion, and van Dooren fell into it
by accident. In her army career, she had been reposted so many times to
nondescript rental houses that she had started fixing them up herself,
which made her realize she had a talent for decorative painting.

…Van
Dooren’s decision to work for meaning rather than money proved to be
such an effective business strategy. Her projects to raise money for
Hurricane Katrina survivors (which have brought in almost $50,000) and
her many other philanthropic efforts (among them renovating a church in
inner-city Chicago) have allowed her to partner with other leading
names in the decorative arts industry, enabling her to charge higher
prices. "Customers like knowing that the money they pay me helps
underwrite my charity work," she says.

By Chris Lombardi

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