‘Seinfeld’ made Bannon fabulously rich.
When I first profiled Bannon for Bloomberg Businessweek in 2015, I included a colorful detail he told me about his time in Hollywood: that he owned a piece of the hit television show “Seinfeld.” As Bannon told the story, he was running a boutique investment firm and helped negotiate the sale of Castle Rock Entertainment (which owned “Seinfeld”) to Ted Turner. In lieu of his full adviser’s fee, he accepted a stake in five TV shows. One of them was “Seinfeld.” “We calculated what it would get us if it made it to syndication,” Bannon told me. “We were wrong by a factor of five.”
After my piece was published, speculation ran rampant as to just how rich Bannon had gotten from the show, which has earned more than $3.1 billion in syndication. As the Wrap pointed out last November, if Bannon owned just 1 percent of the show, he’d have netted $31 million. But in a May profile of Bannon, the New Yorker’s Connie Bruck went looking for evidence of his “Seinfeld” residuals and couldn’t find any, noting that “neither CBS nor Castle Rock nor Warner Bros. has records of payments to Bannon, if those records are as they were described to me.” Bruck seemed to wonder if Bannon’s claim was even true.
To find out, I tracked down Kim Fennebresque, who was the chief executive of SG Cowen, a subsidiary of the French bank, Société Générale, that bought Bannon’s firm and who was later his boss. “I know he got a piece of ‘Seinfeld,’ ” Fennebresque told me. “Steve told me about it one night in ’98 or ’99 when we were on the subway to a Yankees game.”
A source familiar with the deal told me that the “Seinfeld” rights went to Société Générale when Bannon sold his firm, but that he and his partner still receive payments. Sure enough, Bannon’s White House disclosure form showed income from Société Générale of between $50,000 and $100,000 last year. Another source said the number was closer to $100,000. It’s been 20 years since Bannon struck the fateful deal, meaning that he’s probably collected as much as $2 million. That’s hardly pocket change, but it also means “Seinfeld” has had a relatively small impact on Bannon’s net worth, which may be as big as $48 million, according to financial disclosure forms.