Barbara Walters Set The Bar High

A trailblazing pioneer in the world of television, the late Barbara Walters’ storied career spans more than six impressive decades. During that time, she built a reputation as one of the most talented journalists in the world, winning multiple Daytime and Primetime Emmy Awards.

Over her illustrious career, Walters amassed a significant personal fortune, reportedly worth nearly $200 million.

Barbara Walters’ Early Life

Barbara Walters wasn’t born into a rich family with a silver spoon in her mouth. Instead, her wealth was hard-earned – the product of decades of journalistic work that turned her into an industry icon and one of the most sought-after television hosts in the country.

Born in Boston, Massachusetts, on September 25, 1929, Walters is the oldest of three children. She grew up in a middle-class household. Her father, Lou Walters, was a booking agent, theatrical producer, and the owner and founder of the famed New York City nightclub The Latin Quarter. Her mother, Dena Seletsky, was a homemaker.

After graduating with a degree in English from Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, New York, she did a brief stint in an advertising agency before becoming the publicity director’s assistant at WNBC, the Peacock network’s owned affiliate station in New York City. Soon after this initial exposure to writing and producing for television, Walters gained a job as a writer for NBC’s popular Today show in 1961. And that’s where her road to stardom really began.

Barbara Walters Was a Trailblazer

Thanks to a potent combination of intellect, camera presence, and strong journalistic work, Walters rose up the ranks at the Today show and, in the process, turned herself into one of the program’s most popular personalities.

Fast forward to 1974, when she became the show’s first female co-host, winning an Emmy a year later – the first of many – for “Outstanding Host or Hostess in a Talk, Service, or Variety Series.”

Soon afterward, Walters signed a contract with ABC to become the first woman to co-anchor an evening network news program. This prominent role came with a $1 million annual salary – higher than any other journalist at the time.

More prestigious awards, high-profile interviews of famous figures, and high-flying roles followed. Chief among them a position as co-host of ABC’s newsmagazine show, 20/20. Years later, in 1997, she created and co-hosted the widely popular talk show, The View, cementing Walters’ place in TV history and turning her into an even bigger household name.

Success Brought Wealth

Throughout her career, Walters excelled at leveraging her status, popularity, and journalistic prowess to her financial advantage. In other words, she knew what she was worth – a vital insight that led to the series of impressive salaries that formed the bedrock of her fortune.

For a glimpse of her standing in journalistic circles, consider this:

By the time 2004 came around, she’d conducted over 700 interviews with everyone from Ronald Reagan and Muammar Gaddafi to Elton John. Her Monica Lewinsky interview garnered more than 70 million views alone. Over her career, she interviewed every sitting United States President and First Lady, from Richard and Pat Nixon to Donald and Melania Trump, before retiring at the age of 86.

Such was her influence that, according to Fortune, by 1976, Walters was already earning an impressive $700,000, equal to over $3.5 million in 2023, as co-host of the Today show. She’d go on to be labeled “the million-dollar baby” after signing the 5-year, $5 million contract with ABC referenced earlier.

That $1 million annual salary – worth over $5 million today – was unprecedented for a female anchor in 1976, not to mention exceeding her male counterparts at the time. Yet it would pale in comparison to the reported $12 million she’d go on to earn from ABC News and 20/20 in the nineties.

This amount was another record salary, dwarfing the earnings of other ABC News stars, such as Peter Jennings.

Various best-selling books she authored over the years, including Audition: A Memoir and How to Talk to Practically Anybody About Anything added to her reputation and fortune. However, it wasn’t until years later, when she left The View, that Walters’ net worth skyrocketed.

As one of the talk show’s creators, she had a 50% stake in the program she sold after leaving in 2014. Nobody knows exactly what she made from the sale, but it’s thought to be at least eight figures. All told, these various sources amounted to sizeable wealth. At the time of her death in December 2022, it’s estimated that Barbara Walters’ net worth was approximately $170 million.

A Journalistic Legacy

The late Barbara Walters was a highly successful and influential figure in the twin worlds of journalism and TV. While she retired from active broadcasting eight years ago, her legacy and impact on the industry continue to be felt today. Moreover, her journalistic ability, appeal on screen, and business acumen allowed her to grow her net worth into the nine-figure range.

This post was produced by Dividend Power and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.

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