A rare opportunity to fact-check the “celebrity net worth” sites


The late John Mahoney left an estate worth "north of $5 million" according to documents obtained by celebrity news site TMZ.

This gave me a rare opportunity to fact-check various "celebrity net worth" sites.

  • celebritynetworth.com says $16 million. Archived page. "All net worths are calculated by applying a proprietary algorithm. The results are then fact checked and confirmed by a team of editors. We scan all publicly available data and resources and work diligently to ensure that our numbers are the most accurate and up to date net worth data you will find anywhere on the internet."
  • networthpost.com says $15 million. Archived page. "According to authoritative sources, it has been estimated that John Mahoney's net worth is as high as $15 million." I like this hedge. It's not saying that authoritative sources estimate Mahoney's net worth at $15 million. It's saying that authoritative sources have reported that Mahoney's net worth has been estimated at $15 million.
  • celebritynetworth123.com says $15 million. "The John Mahoney net worth and salary figures above have been reported from a number of credible sources and websites." I suspect those credible sources and Web sites are "all the other celebrity net worth sites."
  • therichest.com says $15 million (archived page) and cites no sources.
  • getnetworth.com says $15 million (archived page) and cites no sources.

My guess is that everybody copied their data from celebritynetworth.com, because their estimates all agree with the estimate of celebritynetworth.com as of 2017. celebritynetworth.com revised their estimate early in 2018, but the other sites haven't caught up.

Now, technically, all of these estimates are "north of $5 million", but one would think that if the documents said $15 million, TMZ would have reported something closer to that value. "North of $5 million" suggests that the actual value is between $5 million and $6 million.

Comments (6)
  1. cheong00 says:

    Getting data yourself and do analysis is difficult.

    On the other hand, scrap data from other site and find the mode is easy, so usually the minimum energy path is chosen.

  2. Adrian says:

    My guess is that the $5 million comes from an early estimate used on the paperwork to start probate. It was probably easy to show that the estate had at least $5 million, which is perhaps a threshold for the type of probate being requested. Higher estimates likely came later after there was more time to determine the extent of the estate.

  3. DWalker07 says:

    That’s about as far north as you can go.

  4. Peter Doubleday says:

    I love the “proprietary algorithm” schtick. Almost as hilarious as the routine “you asked for it under the Freedom of Information Act, but we can’t tell you, because it would breach Commercial Confidentiality.”

    In memory of the great John Mahoney, a Chicago stalwart, I would suggest that he would deny any figure “north of” but quite possibly accept one that was “north by northwest of.”

    (Small geographical joke, incorporating the fact that both John and Cary Grant were born in England.)

  5. Andrew says:

    My guess is that these sites’ analysis is based almost entirely on estimating total assets, and without accounting for the other half of “net worth,” i.e., total liabilities.

  6. Steve Friedl says:

    Shouldn’t we just ask Facebook, because they have everybody’s authoritative data anyway?

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