‘Se­in­feld’ made Ban­non fab­u­lously rich.

The Washington Post Sunday - - OUTLOOK -

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.

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