The amount Bannon has hauled in from the show is obscene
As many Americans have learned the hard way, Steve Bannon found his way to the White House with a long list of previous jobs and interests, almost none of which qualified him to be a political adviser. At various times, the lurking conservative figure has been involved in Hollywood dealings, with the IMDb page to prove it. While you might find a few familiar titles to his name, his work in the past decade or so focuses on documentaries and other politically charged niche fare.
But it’s Bannon’s financial involvement with the beloved NBC sitcom Seinfeld that has many dumbfounded—not just by the fact that he was involved with the legendary sitcom, but by how much money he has made off his dealings with it. Forbes reports that “he would have made about $32.6 million since 1998” in a profit participation deal before the show was picked up via an insanely valuable syndication package.
The mechanics of Bannon’s involvement are byzantine and, failing a working knowledge of the entertainment industry, a recent piece in The New Yorker explains how a Hollywood outsider turned a job at a Los Angeles Goldman Sachs office into a Hollywood megadeal.
The ‘Seinfeld’ story first became widely known after the Bloomberg Businessweek profile. Bannon said that, in 1992, Westinghouse Electric hired Bannon & Co. to sell its small stake in Castle Rock Entertainment, a TV production company. It soon emerged that Ted Turner was interested in buying all of Castle Rock, including its minority shareholders. Bannon advised Westinghouse to accept Turner’s offer, which included an interest in a package of several Castle Rock shows.
Bannon claimed that the Westinghouse executives told him, ‘If this is such a great deal, why don’t you defer some of your cash fee and keep an ownership stake’ in that package? He agreed. One of the shows was ‘Seinfeld.’ ‘We calculated what it would get us if it made it to syndication,’ Bannon said. ‘We were wrong by a factor of five.’ Bloomberg Businessweek said that Bannon continues to benefit from ‘a stream of ‘Seinfeld’ royalties.’
What’s perhaps most remarkable about Bannon’s involvement isn’t the cash he made, but rather the fact that no one in Hollywood seems to remember the guy. Speaking to The New Yorker, Larry David remarked recently, in archetypal Larry David fashion, “I don’t think I ever heard of him until he surfaced with the Trump campaign, and I had no idea that he was profiting from the work of industrious Jews!”
Once a shadowy operative, always a shadowy operative, it would seem.
If you’re worried about lining Steve Bannon’s pockets by continuing to enjoy the show, the effects of viewership in 2017 are as murky as his involvement in the first place. Bloomberg says that Bannon continues to benefit from Seinfeld royalties to this day; whereas The New Yorker piece claims that none of the administrative companies, Warner Bros., CBS, or Castle Rock, “has records of payments to Bannon.”
Yet Rob Reiner, a founder of Castle Rock, seems to lend credence to Bannon’s involvement at some point, saying simply, “It makes me sick.”