By Steven Barboza
Though several years off, President Obama’s next gig is already shaping up to be a sweet deal.
He may be deep in the groove of his Presidency. But we do know he has given thought to what happens next. Before he even sat at the Resolute Desk, he inked a deal to deliver a post-presidency book, raking in hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Millions will follow, no doubt, because after you’ve pulled the nation back from the brink of economic disaster, and perhaps even a second Great Depression, what you do for an encore will be worth paying for.
He’ll rack up on the speakers’ circuit. He’s one of the world’s most gifted orators, so money won’t be an issue.
Neither will his age. When he leaves the White House — in either 2013, or 2017, at the age of 52 or 56, depending on the outcome of the next election — he will still have a dangerous jump-shot and a bop in his walk, and his children will still be youngsters.
“He’ll be a relatively young ex-President, so he’ll have a long career,” said Alan Brinkley, a historian at Columbia University. “I think we’ve had somewhat younger Presidents fairly recently, and also people are living longer now, so ex-Presidents seem to be around for a longer time. Some of them are very active, like Clinton and Carter, and others seem to just disappear. I doubt that Obama will disappear.”
As a member of what Herbert Hoover called the “most exclusive trade union in the world,” Obama stands to reap the rewards of having served as leader of the free world in times of global crisis. The Clintons, who never earned much during their years in public office and who left office with crushing legal bills, were able to earn $100 million just eight years after leaving Pennsylvania Avenue. If Obama leaves office with high approval ratings and with the country believing itself to be on the right track, he could follow in Bill Clinton’s footsteps, or perhaps earn more.
As the first African American President, Obama has cracked a mold that was cemented at the nation’s founding. This trail-blazing isn’t simply symbolic; it’s cash value is priceless.
Obama, the grandson of a goat herder, is already wealthy. As the 44th President, the former constitutional law professor and civil rights attorney earns an annual salary of $400,000. His perks: access to $150,000 in expenses, $100,000 in a tax-free travel account, and a $20,000 entertainment budget, plus free housing.
His net worth has been calculated at $5 million, a figure that will boom in the years to come. Obama is regarded not simply as President but as a highly cherished brand that could one day connect with consumers just as he has done with voters. Already, news articles have been written about the millions of dollars worth of publicity he generated for Research in Motion just by using a BlackBerry PDA.
In 2008, before taking office, he received royalties of $2.5 million for his two books, “Dreams From My Father,” which was written before he was elected to the U.S. Senate, and “The Audacity of Hope.”
In January 2009, he signed a deal with Crown Publishing Group to write a youth-oriented version of his published memoir. He agreed to an advance of $500,000 for an abridged version of “Dreams From My Father” aimed at middle school and young adult readers.
By presidential standards, the advance was low. Bill Clinton got $15 million for his book, “My Life.” George Bush reportedly got a $7 million advance for “Decision Points,” now a best-seller.
The fortunes of former Presidents vary widely and are tied to their times. The richest former President was George Washington, whose net worth, in today’s dollars, was $525 million, according to the editors of 24/7 Wall St. In contrast, Abraham Lincoln’s net worth was less than $1 million.
Several recent Presidents had great fortunes. Theodore Roosevelt’s wealth was estimated at $125 million. FDR’s was about $60 million. Lyndon Johnson’s was estimated at $98 million. And John F. Kennedy could tap a family estate worth nearly $1 billion.
George H.W. Bush’s fortune is about $23 million, while his son, George W., is worth about $20 million.