Jeffrey Katzenberg

Jeffrey Katzenberg

: Photo from Wikimedia Commons / Author of Photo: Shankbone

Overview

* Top Hollywood producer
* Major donor and fundraiser for Democratic political candidates


Background

Jeffrey Katzenberg was born in Manhattan, New York on December 21, 1950. He enrolled as a student at New York University in 1971, but dropped out during his sophomore year in order to work for NYC Mayor John Lindsay’s unsuccessful campaign for the Democratic Party‘s 1972 presidential nomination.

In 1973 Katzenberg found work as an assistant to independent film producer David Picker. Soon thereafter, Picker introduced him to Paramount Pictures chairman Barry Diller, who hired Katzenberg and assigned him first to the company’s marketing department and then to the TV division, where he was tasked with reviving the Star Trek franchise. Over a nine-year period, Katzenberg worked his way nearly to the top of the Paramount corporate hierarchy, becoming president of production under Chief Operating Officer Michael Eisner.

In 1984 Katzenberg left Paramount to become the CEO of Walt Disney Studios, where he was responsible for a string of popular (and lucrative) animated movies.

In 1993, Katzenberg led Disney’s purchase of the film and television production/distribution company Miramax, which at that time was owned by Harvey Weinstein.

In 1994 Katzenberg teamed up with film producers Steven Spielberg and David Geffen to create the animation studio DreamWorks SKG, with each man investing more than $80 million in the venture. After some early setbacks, Katzenberg was able to replicate his previous success in animated films with the Shrek series.

In 2016, Katzenberg sold Dreamworks to Comcast for a price of $3.8 billion.

Supporter & Funder of the Democratic Left & Its Agendas

Over the years, the immensely wealthy Katzenberg has established himself as a major funder of the Democratic Party and its political agendas:

  • In 2000, Katzenberg actively backed Al Gore‘s run for the White House.
  • In 2004, Katzenberg initially supported John Edwards‘ bid for the Democratic presidential nomination, but then shifted his allegiance to John Kerry after Edwards’ campaign failed.
  • In January 2007, Katzenberg threw his support behind Hillary Clinton‘s newly announced bid to represent the Democrats in the following year’s presidential election. But when Barack Obama entered the primary race in February 2007, the filmmaker’s loyalties shifted abruptly away from Mrs. Clinton and toward the Illinois senator. During one February 2007 fundraiser alone, Katzenberg helped raise $1.3 million for Obama’s presidential primary campaign.
  • In June 2008, Katzenberg hailed candidate Obama as a political figure of historic dimensions. “Obama is the greatest,” he stated. “Nothing this great has happened to us in a long time.”
  • During the first two years of Obama’s presidency, Katzenberg became one of his top national fundraisers along with Spielberg and Geffen.
  • In 2009, Katzenberg voiced his strong support for wealth redistribution through tax hikes on high earners, contending that the American economy was marred by “an unhealthy concentration of wealth.” “Those days are over,” he added with satisfaction, alluding to the redistributive plans of the Obama administration.
  • In April 2011, Katzenberg, Spielberg, and Geffen collaborated to organize a $30,000-per-plate fundraising dinner on behalf of Barack Obama’s 2012 presidential re-election campaign.
  • In both 2008 and 2012, Katzenberg was Obama’s most prominent fundraising bundler.
  • Between 2008 and 2012, Katzenberg raised more than $6 million for Obama.
  • In early 2011, Katzenberg became one of the first major donors to Priorities USA and Priorities USA Action – a pair of newly formed committees designed to raise money for Democratic candidates. Other early donors to Priorities USA Action included Rob McKay, Ellen Malcolm, and Harold Ickes.
  • Mother Jones magazine reported the following about Katzenberg’s political expenditures in 2012: “Katzenberg gave $3.15 million to Democratic super-PACs during the 2012 cycle—almost 30 times more than his total reported giving in 2008. (There’s no telling how much he might have given to other groups that don’t disclose their donors.) … He hosted numerous fundraisers for Obama and raised more for the president than anyone else in California. All told, Katzenberg gave or raised more than $30 million to reelect Obama.”
  • On May 7, 2015, Katzenberg was one of 500 people to attend a massive fundraiser for presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton at the Beverly Hills home of the media mogul and billionaire Democrat mega-donor, Haim Saban.
  • Over the course of 2015, Katzenberg donated some $1 million to Mrs. Clinton’s campaign.
  • In mid-April 2016, Katzenberg hosted a fundraiser at George Clooney’s Studio City home, an event attended by 150 people who paid $33,400 apiece to participate. Katzenberg himself, as a host of the event, contributed $50,000. All proceeds were funneled to the Hillary Victory Fund, a joint committee for the Clinton campaign, the Democratic National Committee, and state Democratic Party committees.
  • On August 22, 2016, Katzenberg attended a dinner fundraiser for Mrs. Clinton at the Beverly Hills home of Haim Saban.
  • After presidential candidate Hillary Clinton experienced a medical episode that caused her to stumble while walking in September 2016, Katzenberg dismissed the incident as insignificant. “Hillary is the rock of Gibraltar,” he told the Hollywood Reporter in a brief interview. “This [incident] was minor and irrelevant. She remains the single most qualified person to be the next president, and everyone here in Hollywood and the rest of the world knows it.”
  • On October 24, 2016, Katzenberg and his wife Marilyn hosted a $100,000-per-person fundraiser at their home in Beverly Hills, an event attended by then-President Barack Obama.
  • On October 3, 2018, Katzenberg attended a $5,000-per-plate Beverly Hills fundraiser to raise money for Democrats in advance of the November midterm elections. The proceeds from the event went to American Possibilities, a Joe Biden-affiliated political action committee that supported Democrat candidates and causes.
  • On May 8, 2019, Katzenberg co-hosted a $2,800-per-person fundraiser for presidential candidate Joe Biden at the Los Angeles home of James Costos, a former HBO executive/U.S. ambassador to Spain under President Barack Obama.
  • From January 2005 through June 2019, Katzenberg donated atotal of $8.4 million to Democrat political candidates.
  • On June 27, 2020, Katzenberg and his wife hosted a small virtual fundraiser for Joe Biden’s presidential campaign.
  • On November 17, 2020, Katzenberg co-hosted a $15,600-per-person fundraiser for the Democrats’ Georgia Senate Victory Fund. The virtual event in support of Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, whose upcoming runoff elections would determine which party would have a majority in the U.S. Senate, reportedly raised $2 million.
  • In 2021, Katzenberg donated at least $500,000 to the “Stop the Republican Recall of Governor Newsom” committee, which was seeking to help California Governor Gavin Newsom beat the recall effort that aimed to remove him from office in September 2021.
  • As of June 25, 2021, Katzenberg had donated $64,800 to Governor Newsom’s 2022 reelection bid.
  • In the spring of 2022, Katzenberg spent a great deal of money funding advertisements aimed at boosting Rep. Karen Bass‘s candidacy for mayor of Los Angeles. Bass’ leading opponent at the time was businessman Rick Caruso, a real-estate developer who, by late May, had already spent $30 million on his own advertising campaign and was running neck-to-neck with Bass in the polls. Some of the ads funded by Katzenberg referred to Caruso as a “Republican” — even though Caruso had become an independent in 2011, and a Democrat in early 2022.
  • In April 2023, President Biden added Katzenberg to his 2024 re-election campaign’s team of “co-chairs.” Promising to deliver “all the resources” that Biden would need in order to win re-election, Katzenberg said in a May 2023 interview: “For us, this is about a 19-month marathon, it’s not a sprint. The excitement and enthusiasm level since he’s announced [his intent to run for a second term], certainly from the high-end donors I’ve been in touch with, has been very, very high. The president has shown that he’s 80 years young and brings with him the wisdom and knowledge and experience that he has shown during the past two years. He is fit and engaged and has a high level of energy.”
  • In recognition of the important role that Katzenberg’s largesse played in Biden’s political fortunes, the president said the following at a small, private, June 2023 event in Manhattan where the film mogul was seated near New York Governor Kathy Hochul: “I have a lot of assets in my campaign, but none more consequential than Jeffrey Katzenberg.”
  • In October 2023, Katzenberg was part of a small group of President Biden’s leading fundraisers and supporters who, as New York magazine reported, “met for a six-hour check-in.”

Contempt for Donald Trump

After Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, Katzenberg wrote an open letter which was published in The Hollywood Reporter on November 16 of that year. In the letter, Katzenberg characterized Trump’s recent victory as a “heart-wrenching, devastating event” in which a “demagogue” had ascended to the nation’s highest political office. Noting also that Mrs. Clinton had received “more popular votes” than Trump, Katzenberg emphasized: “I hope everyone, including Mr. Trump, recognizes that this was not an election that, by any stretch, resulted in a mandate.”

At an elite West Hollywood gathering of Democrat supporters on May 5, 2024, Katzenberg denounced Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump while praising the incumbent Democrat president, Joe Biden. Some notable quotes from Katzenberg’s speech at the event:

  • “I’ve known Donald Trump for 50 years. The only thing  I can say is he was a colossal asshole then and nothing has really changed.”
  • Katzenberg described Trump as a “catastrophe on a level that I don’t think people have fully paid attention to.”
  • Comparing Trump’s campaign rhetoric to that of Adolf Hitler and the Nazis of the 1930s, Katzenberg said: “When I was in high school, we were studying Third Reich Germany and the rise of Hitler, and over the holiday, our teacher suggested to the class that, to the degree which we could,  please go home and talk to your grandparents. Ask them, what did they read? What did they see? What did they hear? What they do? In the case of my family, on my mom’s side, they came from France, and on my dad’s side, from Germany, and they all said exactly the same thing: ‘We read it; we heard it. We literally did not believe it. Thought this guy was a clown, that what he was saying was so incredibly impossible, and unimaginable. And then we ran for our lives, quite literally.’”
  • “I’ve known Joe Biden for 40 years, maybe 45 years. He is actually one of the most decent human beings I know.”
  • “Joe Biden, for his entire career has been a huge supporter of Israel. It’s an incredibly complex and difficult set of circumstances … I think the President, both for better and for worse, has set himself a very, very high bar of wanting to bring what will be a multigenerational peace for the region.”

Funder of Gun-Control Advocacy

In February 2018, Katzenberg and his wife Marilyn pledged $500,000 to the student gun-control organization “March for Our Lives,” which had been formed in response to a mass shooting that killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida a few days earlier. “Marilyn and I are proud to stand with the brave young leaders from Parkland, Fla., who have taken their pain and grief and turned it into action,” Mr. Katzenberg said in a statement. Other luminaries who likewise pledged $500,000 apiece were Steven Spielberg, Oprah Winfrey, and the husband-wife team of George Clooney and Amal Clooney.

Supporting Republican Rep. Liz Cheney Because She Detested & Opposed Donald Trump

In 2022, Katzenberg donated at least $43,000 to the reelection bid of Republican Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, a steadfast “Never-Trumper” who was polling far behind the Donald Trump-endorsed Harriet Hageman. “We agree on little, if anything,” Katzenberg said in an interview with the New York Times. “But she [Cheney] has done something that very, very few people in history have done, which is she’s put her country over party and politics to stand in defense of our Constitution.”

Time 100 Impact Award

In February 2023, Katzenberg received a Time 100 Impact Award, whose purpose is to “recogniz[e] global leaders who have gone above and beyond to move their industries—and the world—forward.”

 

 

 

 

 

Katzenberg’s Immense Wealth

As of November 2023, Katzenberg’s estimated net worth was approximately $900 million.

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