Here's How Much Shonda Rhimes Is Really Worth

If you've spent any time watching TV over the past 15 years, it's likely you've seen at least one episode of a Shonda Rhimes show. The highest-paid woman in television, Rhimes is the creative genius behind "Grey's Anatomy," "Private Practice," "Scandal," "How to Get Away with Murder," "Off the Map," "The Catch," "Station 19," "Bridgerton," and 2022's "Inventing Anna."

Born in a Chicago suburb in 1970, Rhimes has always been interested in telling stories. After graduating from the USC School of Cinematic Arts, she had a fairly meteoric rise, turning out hit after hit, and becoming one of ABC's biggest assets along the way. Then, in 2017, she shook up the entire industry when she ended her longstanding relationship with the network and took her talents to Netflix. The deal she signed with the streaming service made her the highest-earning female showrunner in television history.

Outside of television, Rhimes is a mom to three daughters and is a dedicated philanthropist. While she prefers to live a quiet life away from the spotlight, there's no ignoring her creative genius. That creative genius has made her a multi-millionaire — Shonda Rhimes is worth an estimated $140 million. Keep reading to take a closer look at Rhimes' finances and the various ways she's earned her money.

Shonda Rhimes stays grounded in Hollywood

Like many of her characters, Shonda Rhimes seems to have sprung, fully formed, from some murky off-screen world into the spotlight. Those of us who have been watching her career from the start are aware that she must have a background story, though its precise contours feel vague and hastily plotted. This is, in large part, exactly as Rhimes wants it to be. A self-described introvert, the TV mogul doesn't share too much of her personal life with the public, indicating to The Hollywood Reporter that she doesn't care for the typical trappings of Hollywood.

Rhimes wrote in her book, "Year of Yes": "Hollywood is a bizarre place. It's easy to lose touch with reality here. But nothing keeps a person grounded like a host of siblings who, when someone requests your autograph, ask in a truly horrified tone, 'Her? Shonda's autograph? Are you sure?'"

Indeed, Rhimes has has five older siblings, and she was born to a schoolteacher mother and businessman father in University Park, Illinois, a suburb near Chicago. Homes in that area typically sell for around $200,000 in 2022 according to, and Rhimes attended Marian Catholic High School, a private school with an annual tuition just shy of $13,000; the price for admission when Rhimes attended isn't known. While she might have grown up solidly middle class, Rhimes emphasizes her parents' dedication, noting in her book that they "worked extremely hard so we could have crazy things like food and gas and clothes and tuition."

She got her start at HBO

Shonda Rhimes told The Hollywood Reporter that her first adult job, after graduating from Dartmouth College, was a "very lowly" post at the advertising firm McCann Erickson in San Fransisco. It's unclear exactly what she did (perhaps junior copywriting), but according to PayScale, associate level employees currently earn between $46,000 and $55,000 yearly on average. Of course, Rhimes was working there about 30 years ago.

Whatever the salary, it wasn't enough to keep Rhimes around for very long. After a brief stint in the corporate world, she left to attend film school at USC. In "Year of Yes," Rhimes recalled, "...when I was a struggling graduate student in film school, I often had no money. And so I often had to choose between wine and things like toilet paper." She made it her goal to someday purchase steak and wine at the same time, worry-free.

Following her graduation from the MFA program, Rhimes worked on "Hank Aaron: Chasing the Dream," as a research assistant for HBO. The project seems to have been just the boost of credibility Rhimes needed. Not long after the documentary wrapped, she sold her first script, a rom-com called "Human Seeking Same" which New Line bought for what "felt like a lot of money at the time," she told The Hollywood Reporter. From there, Rhimes completed a number of successful projects: writing the Britney Spears film "Crossroads" (the payday enabled her to buy a home), "The Princess Diaries 2," HBO's "Introducing Dorothy Dandridge," and an unnamed TV pilot that was turned down by ABC.

Her big break came with Grey's Anatomy

ABC — the network that would go on to host "Thank God It's Thursday," a three-hour block of shows produced by Rhimes — initially turned down one of her ideas. It seems to be a case of bad timing (the show centered on female war correspondents, and producers were concerned that the recently begun Global War on Terrorism would make it all a little too realistic), rather than a bad concept. But whatever the reason, we're glad that pilot wasn't picked up as it left room in the primetime schedule for Rhimes' second pitch, and biggest hit, "Grey's Anatomy."

When "Grey's" first hit the airwaves, Forbes reports, Rhimes was earning an estimated $30,000 per episode for her writing and producing work. By 2021, when the show was in its 17th season, that number had climbed to an incredible $250,000 per episode. While the pay bump was much deserved, it seems the network wasn't always eager to hand over more money, leaving Rhimes to fight for her raises. She told Forbes, "It's really startling to realize how much money your work is earning for a place and then to discover how much they think you're worth versus that."

The outlet noted that over the course of her tenure, "Rhimes has brought in more than $2 billion to ABC's parent company, Disney," so even $250,000 an episode isn't all that much.

Shonda Rhimes found a home at ABC

Shonda Rhimes had multiple streams of income while working with ABC. After the wild success of "Grey's Anatomy," the network greenlit (almost) every other project the producer brought them. In quick succession, she created "Private Practice," produced "Off the Map," created "Scandal," and produced "How to Get Away with Murder" and "The Catch." While salary arrangements surely differed for each of these series, the Writer's Guild of America minimums indicate that Rhimes would earn at least $27,000 for every episode she wrote, if she were writing them today. Given her prowess and popularity, it could be much more.

The writing and producing fees Rhimes earned for each episode came on top of the $10 million-a-year deal she signed with ABC in 2014. Forbes, among the first to report on the contract Rhimes made with ABC, also revealed that the showrunner was earning 10% of the profits (at least) in streaming and syndication sales for her primary series ("Grey's Anatomy," "Private Practice," "How to Get Away with Murder," "Scandal"). In all, this amounted to about $1 million per episode per sale. Rhimes had already made history as the first Black female showrunner on a major network, and her deals in the last decade have certainly garnered attention.

Her Netflix deal made history

An astute businesswoman who is keenly aware of the value she brings, Rhimes wasn't content with staying at ABC forever. In 2017, she signed a groundbreaking deal with Netflix that was reportedly worth $100-150 million and would keep her with the streaming service for four years (per The Hollywood Reporter). Following the massive success of her first original series, "Bridgerton," which Forbes reports was seen by an incredible 40% of Netflix's paying households in the first 28 days it was on the platform, Rhimes was offered an extension.

The new deal, which is worth between $300-400 million, to be paid out over the course of five years, includes not just TV series but feature films, virtual reality content, and games (per The Hollywood Reporter). It also includes millions of dollars of built-in bonuses that will be awarded based on the success of the various series she creates, an unusual feature for these sorts of contracts, Forbes notes.

The expensive deal, which officially made Shonda Rhimes the highest-paid female showrunner in television, made headlines around the world. But having her paycheck details splashed around didn't seem to bother the creator, who told Forbes, "I never worried that I deserve the money. I deserve every penny I make."

Shonda Rhimes owns her own production company

One of the main reasons Shonda Rhimes has been able to keep so much of the money she's earned through her writing, producing, and creating gigs is that she owns her own production company: Shondaland. The various deals she's made with networks and streaming services through the years have all been done through Shondaland, which has allowed her to hold on to the cash instead of splitting it with a third party like she would have done if she had been employed by another production company.

As its own entity, separate from the various Rhimes-sponsored shows that come out of it, the global media company that is Shondaland has made Rhimes a considerable amount of money. In 2017, the business launched, a digital content hub, in partnership with Hearst. Two years later, in 2019, the brand announced a three-year deal with iHeartRadio which would see Rhimes produce at least a dozen podcasts for the platforms. In reference to the deal, Rhimes told The New York Times that Shondaland was "just beginning [their] digital journey."

As Shondaland is a privately owned company, information about revenues, salaries, and contracts isn't public. But we're sure, given Rhimes' business acumen, she's not making these partnerships without there being a significant financial benefit for her company and herself. It certainly wouldn't be surprising to find out that she earns several million through Shondaland's various arms, annually.

She works on projects outside of TV

Telling great stories isn't the only way Shonda Rhimes makes her money. For example, in 2017, she launched a TV writing course with MasterClass. Over the span of about 7.5 hours, Rhimes teaches aspiring screenwriters the nuts and bolts of creating good, marketable stories and scripts. The Hollywood Reporter writes that MasterClass pays instructors a 30% cut of whatever their courses earn, on top of a flat fee of $100,000.

Other notable ventures for Rhimes include writing her first book, "Year of Yes," which was published by Simon & Schuster. The non-fiction, self-help title was a New York Times best-seller that invited readers to purchase an accompanying journal. The book's contents have also been turned into a "Year of Yes" course for Peloton, a deal that likely saw Rhimes earning both something upfront and a set amount per stream (Front Office Sports writes that musicians earn 3.1 cents every time one of their songs is played through the Peloton app, for a bit of comparison). Finally, Rhimes has been an ambassador for Dove's "Real Beauty" campaign since 2017 and serves as Real Beauty Productions' Chief Storyteller. Given both parties' status, it seems safe to assume that the budget for talent (aka Rhimes) was quite high.

Shonda Rhimes is a dedicated philanthropist

Shonda Rhimes has chosen to keep much of her personal life private. We don't have that much to report, therefore, about the way she chooses to spend her money, whether she's a saver or a splurger, etc. One thing we can say with certainty, however, is that the mom of three is committed to giving back.

According to her website, Rhimes began her own charity, The Rhimes Family Foundation, which aims "to support arts, education, and activism," in 2016. Aside from the work she does here, the mogul serves on the board of at least five other non-profits and foundations, including Times Up, the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, and Beyond 12. Other service-oriented positions she currently holds include a spot on the Obama Foundation Storytelling Committee and the Writers Guild Inclusion Committee (she is co-chair).

In 2019, Rhimes tweeted her general perspective on charitable giving, writing, "Everyone can give back, but I truly believe when you make it personal, there's an opportunity to make impactful change."

Shonda Rhimes' real estate ventures

Shonda Rhimes used her first big paycheck, from the Britney Spears vehicle "Crossroads," to buy an L.A.-area home in the early 2000s. While it seems she no longer owns that particular home, she currently has at least three other properties: two in Los Angeles and one in New York City.

Early in 2022, the Los Angeles Times reported that Rhimes sold her biggest home, a 99-year-old mansion designed by famed architect Elmer Grey. The 7-bedroom, 10-bathroom home fetched a record-setting $21 million. But the sale doesn't mean the Rhimeses have left the neighborhood. The creator actually owns two other properties in the same area: an English Country manor-style home bought in 2017 for about $4.6 million, and a $1.66 million duplex purchased in 2007.

On the other side of the country, Rhimes owns a 5-room Park Avenue penthouse. According to The Real Deal, she purchased the co-op for $11.75 million in 2018. Although she spends most of her time in L.A., we're sure the NYC apartment makes for a luxurious crash pad for when she does find herself in The Big Apple.