- Billionaire sports mogul
- Prolific philanthropist, art patron and collector
- Husband of leftist documentarian Iara Lee and producer of her films
- Co-founder of the Iara Lee and George Gund III Foundation
- Co-founder of the Caipirinha Foundation.
George Gund III was born on May 7, 1937, in Cleveland, Ohio, the oldest of six siblings. His mother died in 1954; his father — a Cleveland banker, entrepreneur and philanthropist — died in 1966.
Gund dropped out of high school at age 16 and took a job as a deck hand on an ore boat. He joined the Marines two years later and went on to earn a General Educational Diploma and a Good Conduct Medal. He subsequently attended college but did not graduate.
In the business world, Gund made his mark most notably as co-owner of the National Basketball Association’s Cleveland Cavaliers and the National Hockey League’s San Jose Sharks. His other major sports-related business ventures all involved professional hockey: he was a partner with the California Seals, president of the Cleveland Barons, and chairman of the Minnesota North Stars.
Gund’s family has a long history of supporting the arts. His sister Agnes, for one, developed an extensive career an art collector, arts patron, trustee, educator, and nonprofit founder. George Gund himself owned large collections of Japanese, Western, and Northwest Coast Indian art; he was also a donor to the Cowboy Poetry Festival, an annual event that made headlines in 2011 when Democratic Senator Harry Reid sought to preserve its eligibility for taxpayer funding.
One of Gund’s artistic passions was the distribution of independent and foreign films. He was a board member of Robert Redford’s Sundance Institute, the Cleveland Film Festival, the Cleveland Cinemateque, and the San Francisco International Film Festival. He also served on the film committee for the Museum of Modern Art in New York, likely a connection facilitated by his sister.
In 1986 Gund met Korean-Brazilian filmmaker Iara Lee, whom he would later marry. Gund produced many of Lee’s films, from her early apolitical works in the 1990s to her later, hard-left, anti-Israel efforts including the 2010 film Cultures of Resistance. Gund and Lee also created an online activist network, likewise named Cultures of Resistance.
In 2004 Gund and his wife co-founded the Iara Lee and George Gund III Foundation (ILGGF); two years later they established the Caipirinha Foundation (CF). Both of these entities donate funds to numerous leftist organizations. Cumulatively in 2007 and 2008, Gund and Lee contributed $1,133,562 to ILGGF’s operations and $762,953 to CF.
Gund also served as a trustee of the George Gund Foundation, which was created by his father in 1952 and required all its grant applicants to specify precisely what they were “doing or considering to reduce or eliminate their impact on climate change.”
Over the years, Gund donated money to the political campaigns of numerous Democratic political figures, including such notables as Hillary Clinton, Dianne Feinstein, Nancy Pelosi, Barbara Boxer, John Kerry, Adam Schiff, Tom Udall, and Barack Obama. He also supported such organizations as ActBlue, America Coming Together, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, and the DNC Services Corporation.
Gund died of stomach cancer on January 15, 2013, at his home in Palm Springs, California.
Further Reading: “George Gund III, Owner of Sports Teams, Dies at 75” (NY Times, 1-21-2013); “George Gund III … Dies Tuesday at Age 75” (Cleveland.com, 1-16-2013); “George Gund” (IMBD.com); “A Tribute to George Gund” (Fest11.sffs.org); “Iara Lee’s World Beat” (MetroActive.com, August 10-23, 1998).