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Hollywood CEOs: Oprah


Any which way you look at it, Oprah is a powerhouse.


For millions of followers worldwide, their time of worship occurs not on Sunday mornings but weekday afternoons. Their altar consists not of holy artifacts or a pulpit but of a television and some throw pillows. In lieu of the Eucharist, a cranberry scone and Diet Coke will suffice.

Welcome to the Church of Oprah. Attire: Casual. Sermons: Upbeat. Attendance: Mandatory!

Oprah Winfrey, 55, has established herself as one of the most powerful and influential entities in history. Her devoted following watches her program intently in 145 countries, waiting for the slightest hint of a life-path suggestion or directive. Oprah's Twitter account tops two million subscribers -- an amount roughly equal to the number of members in her book club, according to And her Harpo Productions is responsible for dozens of Oprah-related projects.

Television, magazines, Broadway shows, satellite radio, philanthropy, spin-off series, websites. Oprah commands a global empire, touches every facet of a person's existence, and is arguably the most successful Hollywood CEO of all time.

The genesis of the Oprah brand started in Nashville with an anchor slot in the local news. A stint in Baltimore followed, then a big move to Chicago for a hosting job. Her emotional, heartfelt interviews -- not to mention the sensationalist topics in early seasons -- struck a chord with folks across the country. What began as a local morning talk show in 1984 became a nationally syndicated program two short years later. Already, Oprah was getting more viewers than Phil Donahue.

It was at that time that Oprah founded Harpo Productions and created Harpo Studios in Chicago where The Oprah Winfrey Show is shot. Harpo expanded its female-centric entertainment with made-for-TV movies, feature films, and miniseries such as The Women of Brewster Place, which earned two Emmy nominations and starred, who else, Oprah. Though it was the second critically acclaimed role she had performed since her role as Sofia in the Broadway production of The Color Purple, Oprah seldom appears in roles outside of her hosting gig.

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