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Image source: Top Gear.

What is Jeremy Clarkson's net worth? How did the controversial, but incredibly popular, television presenter and car aficionado make his fortune, and how much does he stand to gain from his recent deal with Amazon.com (NASDAQ:AMZN)

Jeremy Clarkson has never given a public statement on his net worth, so nailing down an exact figure is difficult without official documentation, but as of this year, some sources have estimated his holdings to be worth 30 million pounds, or roughly $47 million with today's exchange rate.

In light of the host's recent deal to deliver a 36-episode television show on Amazon's Prime Instant Video, his wealth seems poised to grow substantially. 

How Jeremy Clarkson built his net worth
Clarkson began hosting BBC's Top Gear in 2002, and is credited with saving the show from cancellation, and steering it to become one of the most popular television programs in the world. Prior to being booted from the program for punching a producer earlier this year, the presenter was reportedly raking in somewhere in the neighborhood of 1 million pounds annually for his hosting duties, in addition to dividend payments from a company that he co-founded with BBC to distribute Top Gear across the globe.

In 2012, Clarkson received 4.86 million pounds in dividend payments from that company in addition to an 8.4 million-pound buyout of his stake, according to a report last year in The Telegraph. Using today's exchange rate, that would bring his pre-tax haul for 2012 from those two payments to around $20 million.

Around the time of his firing this year, there was also speculation that BBC might be forced to pay Clarkson the remainder due of a seven-figure contract.  

Yet it hasn't been all wine and roses for the celebrity. In 2014, Clarkson divorced his wife of 21 years, Frances Cain, and Telegraph reported that a settlement payment to Cain could amount to roughly half of Jeremy Clarkson's reported 30 million pounds net worth. How the proceedings and the potential settlement played out has not been made public, muddying the waters for those wanting to know about Clarkson's holdings.  

The Amazon deal looks to be a winner for all parties involved
While exact details of Clarkson's deal with Amazon have not been released, CEO Jeff Bezos has made it clear that the presenter will be very well-compensated, and that he expects the related costs to be money well spent. In describing the price of wooing Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond, and James May away from the competition like Netflix, the Amazon CEO stated that winning the show for Prime Instant Video was "very, very, very expensive."

This, along with a reported budget of 160 million pounds, or roughly $250 million, for 36 episodes, confirms the show as a major investment for Amazon, and one that it anticipates will deliver significant returns. The exact portion of the $250 million budget that will be dispensed to key talent remains unclear, but Jeremy Clarkson's net worth should  see a significant cash influx.

Why Amazon's big budget car show will pay off
In 2014, Amazon increased the cost of a one-year Prime subscription from $79 to $99 -- a move that raised eyebrows at the time, but one that apparently hasn't diminished subscriber count. The Prime service has been a loss leader for the company, but post-price increase, the expensive signing of Clarkson, Hammond, and May and other investments in original content make it clear that Amazon is still spending to increase the value of the package rather than prioritizing profitability.

While pleasing existing subscribers was likely part of the motivation for the deal, the signing of Clarkson, Hammond, and May probably has more to do with adding new Prime members.

BBC's Top Gear broadcasts in 214 countries worldwide, and reportedly has as many as 350 million viewers. Clarkson and his compatriots' appeal was central to Top Gear's incredible popularity, and the draw of their upcoming car show could meaningfully impact Prime adoption across the globe.

Of an estimated 50 million Amazon Prime subscribers, somewhere in the neighborhood of 40 million reside in America, according to one report, while the large majority of Top Gear viewership comes from foreign markets. Adding the principal talent behind the world's most-watched factual show should significantly bolster the value of Prime for millions of potential subscribers worldwide -- a boon for Amazon, as members of the service spend roughly 2.4 times more on products from the online retailer than non-members, according to Consumer Intelligence.

Bezos referred to the new, globetrotting car program as one of the key elements that will define the Prime service -- a description that seems apt despite the fact that the 2016 show has yet to shoot. There's no denying Amazon spent big in order to win the series -- offering up an impressive production budget, and probably substantially bolstering the net worth of Jeremy Clarkson, but the upcoming show has "hit" written all over it.

Keith Noonan has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Amazon.com and Netflix. The Motley Fool owns shares of Amazon.com and Netflix. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.