What is Jay Leno's Net Worth and Salary?
Jay Leno is an American comedian, actor, writer, producer, and former late-night television host who has a net worth of $450 million. After doing stand-up comedy for years, he became the host of The Tonight Show with Jay Leno on NBC from 1992 to 2009. During his time hosting The Tonight Show, Jay earned $320 million in salary, before taxes. Jay famously still performs dozens of standup shows throughout the year and reportedly only ever lived off this money, while banking his NBC salary checks. Jay owns an extremely valuable car collection. The value of his 300+ vehicle stable is, at minimum, $100 million.
- Richest Celebrities › Richest Comedians
- Net Worth:
- $450 Million
- $15 Million Per Year
- Date of Birth:
- Apr 28, 1950 (72 years old)
- Place of Birth:
- New Rochelle
- 5 ft 10 in (1.803 m)
- Actor, Television producer, Screenwriter, Voice Actor, Stand-up comedian, Television presenter, Comedian
- United States of America
James Douglas Muir Leno was born in New Rochelle, New York, on April 28, 1950. His mother was a stay at home mom and his father was an insurance salesman. He had an older brother, Patrick. Leno grew up in Andover, Massachusetts. He graduated from Andover High School in 1968. He got his bachelor's degree in speech therapy from Emerson College and started a comedy club at his university in 1973.
Jay Leno made his first appearance on "The Tonight Show" on March 2, 1977, as a featured comedian. During the 1970s, Leno appeared in a number of minor roles in films and televisions shows including "Good Times," "Fun With Dick and Jane," "Laverne & Shirley," "Alice," "One Day at a Time," and "American Hot Wax." He also appeared on "Late Night with David Letterman" as the featured comedian several times.
Leno was a regular substitute host for Johnny Carson on "The Tonight Show" starting in 1986. In 1992, he replaced Carson as host in the midst of controversy with David Letterman, who had been hosting "Late Night with David Letterman," which aired after "The Tonight Show," since 1982. Many people, including Carson, expected Letterman to be the next host of "The Tonight Show." The story of the drama surrounding this transition was turned into a book and a movie.
Leno continued to perform as a stand-up comedian during his years on "The Tonight Show." In 2004, Leno signed a contract extension with NBC to keep him on "The Tonight Show" until 2009.
Jay stepped down to retire in 2009 but soon made a return to television with a prime time talk show called "The Jay Leno Show." The show aired weeknights on NBC in September 2009 but was canceled in January 2010. Jay then caused a national outcry when he reclaimed his position as host of "The Tonight Show" in 2010, pushing aside his replacement Conan O'Brien. On April 3, 2013, NBC announced that Leno would leave "The Tonight Show" in spring 2014, with Jimmy Fallon as his designated successor.
Leno has maintained an active schedule as a touring stand-up comedian appearing in about 200 live performances a year in venues across the United States and Canada as well as charity events and USO tours. He has also made appearances on "The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon" and on "Late Night with Seth Meyers," as well as being a guest on the finale of "The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson."
Jay Leno has been married since 1980 to Mavis Leno. The couple has no children. Mavis is a leading feminist in California, the United States, and internationally. Mavis Leno keeps a low profile in comparison to her husband, choosing instead to work behind the scenes of the non-profit, politically charged groups she supports and runs. Leno has been the chair of the Feminist Majority Foundation's Campaign to Stop Gender Apartheid in Afghanistan since 1997. In 1999, Mavis and Jay donated $100,000 to the organization, to further the cause of educating the public about the plight of Afghan women under the Taliban.
In 1993, Leno's mother died at the age of 82 and in the following year, his father died at the age of 84. Leno's older brother Patrick Leno died in 2002 at the age of 62 after a battle with cancer.
Leno is dyslexic and has a prominent jaw, which has been described as mandibular prognathism.
Leno does not drink, smoke, or gamble.
At the end of his reign as host of The Tonight Show, Jay was earning an annual salary of $15 million. His peak Tonight Show salary was $30 million per year. He actually agreed to a 50% pay cut after the 2011 season to help his staff get raises and keep their jobs. Jay earns around $10 million per year from a hectic stand-up touring schedule which includes more than 200 dates a year. Incredibly, throughout his career, Jay never touched his Tonight Show salary and instead lived off his stand-up income. Furthermore, Jay does not have an agent or a manager to help him negotiate deals. Here's his salary breakdown from 1992-2013.
- 1992- $1 million
- 1993- $1 million
- 1994- $3 million
- 1995- $3 million
- 1996- $5 million
- 1997- $5 million
- 1998- $5 million
- 1999- $10 million
- 2000- $12 million
- 2001- $15 million
- 2002- $20 million
- 2003- $20 million
- 2004- $20 million
- 2005- $20 million
- 2006- $20 million
- 2007- $20 million
- 2008- $20 million
- 2009- $30 million
- 2010- $30 million
- 2011- $25 million
- 2012 -$15 million
- 2013 -$15 million
Total career earnings: $320 million
Jay Leno's Real Estate
In 2017, Leno bought an oceanfront mansion in Newport, Rhode Island for $13.5 million. The estate, known as Seafair, was built in the 1930s. It's built in a novel semicircular shape in order to match the curve of the Atlantic coast on the nine-acre property. Once you get through the gate and the long drive, you'll be introduced to the 12-bedroom, 13 1/2-bath home by way of an old-fashioned formal entry hall, just the space to accommodate Jay Leno's stand-up comic buddies when they come over to play poker.
Luxury amenities that belong to whoever lives at Seafair include not just one but two elevators, a carriage house, walled garden, tennis court, and a swimming pool that faces the ocean, just like practically every other part of the house, which has ocean views purportedly in every room through elaborate floor-to-ceiling windows. Upstairs joining the master suite are a pool room, plenty of storage space, and (naturally) an ocean front terrace.
The 15,851 square foot home sits on 9-acres and has 12 bedrooms, 12 full bathrooms, and three half-baths. The property has an oceanfront pool and tennis court.
Leno also owns two homes in Bel Air, California. He bought the first home, a 3,400 square foot, five-bedroom property in 1987, and added the second property down the hill in 1997.
Leno also has a 122,000-square-foot hangar in Burbank, California that serves as the garage for most of his collection of cars and motorcycles.
Jay Leno's Car Collection
Before Jay was even a car salesman, Jay has had a passion for cars (maybe that's why he took that job!). A young Leno had a passion for automobiles, and before he even earned enough money to become a car collector he purchased his first one for just $350. He told CNBC the tale:
"I bought a '34 Ford pickup truck and it didn't run and my dad said, 'You've got two years before you get your license, so get busy working on it. I learned how to fix it and make it run."
As he made money, he bought more cars. And over the years he has built one of the most impressive private car collections in the world. At his home he can take an elevator straight from the bedroom to the garage. Jay also has a larger garage in Burbank where he houses the majority of his collection which now totals 170 cars and more than 100 motorcycles.
A handful of his cars are worth over $1 million on their own. Some of his most valuable cars include a 2014 McLaren P1 valued at $1.35 million, a 1955 Mercedes 300SL Gullwing Coupe valued at $1.8 million and a one-of-a-kind 2006 GM EcoJet that is almost considered priceless do to its rarity.
One of Jay's rarer purchases was a Lamborghini R485 tractor. The tractor was designed in the late 60s by Ferruccio Lamborghini. The famed designer began his professional vehicle design career making tractors and other industrial vehicles in Italy, post-World War II. Mr. Leno's model was available in 1968 and 69. It is a far cry from the stunning machines for which Lamborghini has become famous, and it is certainly not a performance vehicle. It has a 5.0 liter, four cylinder engine and a maximum speed of 14 miles per hour. It also sports a two foot clutch, 12 forward gears, and a starter motor from a Lamborghini Countach. While it is not exactly a luxury vehicle, it's still a pretty cool bit of history and a great addition to an incredible collection.
Of course, he also has a Website and TV program called Jay Leno's Garage.
In total, Jay Leno's car collection is valued conservatively at $50 million. It's possible the total value touches $100 million.
Leno's key to getting—and staying—rich is quite simple: Never have just one source of income.
"I had two jobs because I realized that was the quickest way to become a millionaire," shared the 67-year-old former Tonight Show star, who now hosts CNBC's Jay Leno's Garage. (Take a peak at the impressive rides in his own collection.)
When Leno was just starting out, he banked the money he made working at a car dealership and spent the funds he brought in as a comedian.
"Then I got to the point where the comedy money was, like, five times the other money, so I decided to flip it around and save the comedy money," he continued. "I would always spend the lesser amount of what the two were."
Leno continued this strategy throughout his entire life and who can argue?
Leno also avoided credit cards and never carried any debt. When he does use a credit card, he pays it off at the end of the month. He didn't buy his house until he could pay cash for it.
Leno is well known in the industry for his work ethic, which is something he learned while working at McDonald's. Ensuring that you're producing a great product should be the number one goal. After a long day prepping for and filming The Tonight Show, Leno would go home and get to work writing more jokes. In a 1993 episode of 60 Minutes, Leno said:
"I meet with the writers at about midnight or so and work until about 4:00am. I sleep four hours, maybe five. If you have time to complain, you don't have enough work to do."
Leno also believes that you learn the best lessons from mistakes. Every mistake gives you empathy for other people when they make the same mistake, he said. Plus, failure keeps you humble.
As of 2022, we estimate Jay Leno's net worth to be $450 million