Postcards

How the power players do it - by Fortune senior editor at large Patricia Sellers

Chelsea Handler's tips for negotiating a $25 million deal

November 18, 2011: 1:29 PM ET

The $25 million two-year deal that Chelsea Handler just chalked with the E! network says something about the enterprising queen of late-night TV talk. She sure knows how to negotiate.

Chelsea Handler at the MPW Summit Credit: Asa Mathat

"I do behave badly and I get paid well for it," Handler told Piers Morgan on CNN (TWX) last evening, adding, "It's a really good time to be me."

Last month, when I interviewed Handler on stage at the Fortune Most Powerful Women Summit, she was in the middle of negotiating with NBC Universal's (CMCSA) E!--playing hardball, dropping hints that she might leave for a rival network.

When I asked her for her best negotiating tips, here's what she said:

"I don't listen to anyone or any advice because I know exactly what I want and how I want it."

And when an agent or a manager says, 'You can't ask for that...that's not done," what does Handler say? "Well, why don't you go ask?!"

"And then you get it," she said, instructing the MPW audience: "You have to ask for what you want. Just because there are parameters that have been set doesn't mean they can't be blown open."

For what it's worth (that is, $25 million), Handler's new contract with E! calls for her to continue to be host and executive producer of Chelsea Lately through 2014 and develop other projects through her company, Borderline Amazing Productions. Handler's company produces her After Lately, a spinoff show, as well as Chelsea Lately, which is the most-watched late-night talk show among female viewers, 18 to 34.

An increasingly valuable franchise at NBC Universal, Handler is, in addition to her E! deal, executive producing and appearing in Are You There, Chelsea?, a sitcom based on one of her best sellers, Are you There, Vodka? It's Me, Chelsea. The show will premiere on January 11.

Of course, a stand-up comic does not turn herself into a multi-media brand without rewarding the folks who helped her along the way. To celebrate her E! deal, Handler decided to give $1,000 cash to each of 138 staffers.

Yes, she is generous--and cunning too. "I probably shouldn't say this," Handler told me at the MPW Summit, going on to explain how she sometimes uses her staffers as negotiating bait to get sweet deals for herself. Here's Handler on her ultimate negotiating tip...

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