Big Brother winner Craig Phillips keeps it real with £6.9 million fortune
Big Brother star and Shropshire property owner Craig Phillips was today named one of the richest reality TV stars – despite giving away his £70,000 prize money when he won the show 14 years ago.
Since winning the first-ever Big Brother in 2000 – and famously giving away his prize money – the Scouser has been raking in the cash and is now worth £6.9m.
He will be ranked 15th in Sunday's Reality TV's Richest 2014 star list, among a host of Towie and Made In Chelsea stars.
Craig was back in Newport today, where he lived for 10 years before Big Brother and still visits regularly to look after properties he owns and rents out in the town.
Speaking to the Shropshire Star, he said: "I think for me I was lucky because I already had a construction trade called Craig Phillips which I ran from Shropshire for 10 years before the show and that opened doors for me.
"A lot of people think they are going to go on a reality show and just become rich from it but the likelihood is, it is not going to happen.
"As quickly as they are making Big Brother and the X Factor, they come and go and they are ready for the next one before the stars of the last one have landed on their feet."
Craig gave away his Big Brother prize money to his friend Joanne Harris, of Shrewsbury, who suffered with Down's Syndrome.
The donation made the then 25-year-old a national celebrity, and the money was planned to fund a possible heart and lung transplant for her.
Joanne tragically died after falling ill with an infection, but Craig continues to raise funds for charity events in her memory.
Craig has made hundreds of TV appearances, more than 500 personal appearances and even given lectures on cruise ships.
He's set up his own production company, Avent Productions, remains a popular after-dinner speaker, and makes corporate films for the construction industry.
Since winning Big Brother, the 42-year-old has remained in the public eye.
But he has also amassed a property empire – he's bought and renovated more than 40 properties, and owns a £300,000 cottage in Shropshire, a £675,000 penthouse in Liverpool, as well as a £60,000 Mercedes.
In 2001 he was brought in as the DIY expert for the BBC, on an exclusive £750,000 contract. Although no longer exclusive, it has been renewed every year for over a decade, and since then he has been the resident building expert on more than 800 TV programmes.
This included shooting 80 episodes of 60 Minute Makeover every year since 2007.
Craig said: "When I'm not doing TV and media stuff, I jump straight into my properties. I buy old properties at auctions and buy building plots and spend my time doing them up. I love doing it, especially now it is just a hobby."
He added: "I also make money through sponsorships and endorsement, with a number of companies including Check-a-Trade, which is something I support a lot being in construction."
The firm provides visitors to its website with a list of "trusted traders" in a bid to prevent people falling victims to so-called "cowboy builders".
The summer of 2009 saw publication of his autobiography Building Beyond Big Brother, for which he earned around £800,000 and Craig also owns the largest independent construction training academy in the north, which was opened in 2006 by Cherie Blair.
Craig famously gave away his Big Brother prize money to his friend Joanne Harris, of Shrewsbury, who suffered with Down's Syndrome. The donation made the 25-year-old a national celebrity, and revealed a sincerity that had endeared him to the reality show's audience when he confronted "Nasty Nick" in the house.
The rich list, which will be released on Sunday, was compiled by ranking the highest-earning stars who originally found fame participating in a UK reality TV show.
Towie's Sam Faiers and Joey Essex also make the list, trumping their Made In Chelsea rivals Millie Mackintosh, Jamie Laing and Spencer Matthews, who all managed to make the top 50.
Craig lived in Shropshire for 10 years and still has strong links in Shropshire. He still owns the house where he lived, renting it out as part of his property portfolio.
He said: "I come back regularly to manage properties. I have got three cottages that we rent out all over Newport. It is always like catching up with old friends and walking down the High Street I always bump into someone. People still recognise me from the first Big Brother but more so the DIY programmes."
Craig says he rarely watches Big Brother, but remains friends with his fellow housemates. He said: "I keep in touch with a few of the Big Brother contestants.
"I spoke to Melanie Hill not long ago and talk to Nasty Nick now and again. It was a big part of my life, but so much has happened to me since."
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