How Judge Judy Negotiates a Salary of $47 Million a Year

August 25, 2017, 1:11 PM UTC

Judge Judy’s trick to negotiating her salary is—well, she doesn’t.

So how did Judy Sheindlin, star of the reality court TV show, go from supervising judge in a New York family court to the second highest paid TV news host with a $47 million annual salary? Sheindlin explained her approach to landing eye-popping deals in a deposition recently obtained by The Hollywood Reporter. Every three years, she has a renegotiation with broadcaster CBS. And every three years, she comes prepared—with a written list of her demands.

“And we go to the Grill on the Alley with the president of the company. We sit across the table, and I hand him the envelope and I say, ‘Don’t read it now, let’s have a nice dinner. Call me tomorrow. You want it, fine. Otherwise, I’ll produce it myself.’ That’s the negotiation.”

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Only one person has attempted a counter-offer. John Nogawski, former president of CBS TV Distribution, once tried to give Sheindlin his own envelope. Sheindlin reportedly refused to accept the envelope, saying, “Well, John, if I look at your envelope, it’s a negotiation. This isn’t a negotiation.”

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With an annual salary of $47 million, Sheindlin is No. 2 on the list of TV’s highest-paid reality or news hosts. Ellen Degeneres just barely edges her out, earning $50 million annually. The success of Sheindlin’s show—averaging 10.3 million viewers a week last year—gives her leverage, as does her ownership of rights to produce the show herself. As Judge Judy herself put it, “They pay me the money that they do because they have no choice.” How’s that for a verdict?