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Business

Dreamworks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg Spent $353,000 On Dinner Yesterday

Dreamworks Animation has had a turbulent ride recently. Last year the company shut down its storied PDI Dreamworks facility and laid off around 500 people.

As recently as last month, studio CEO and founder Jeffrey Katzenberg said that his animation studio has been “in the toilet” and warned that the next year-and-a-half will be “choppy.”

The struggles of his company haven’t affected Katzenberg’s personal finances, however. Yesterday, he gave $353,400 to Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee for the opportunity to have dinner and drinks with the Democratic presidential candidate. He paid the vast sum for the honor of being an “event co-chair” (along with George Clooney) for the Clinton fundraising event. [UPDATE: This amount is in addition to the $1.1 million that Katzenberg had already donated to super PACS working on behalf of Clinton.]

In the afternoon, Clinton visited Katzenberg’s home in Beverly Hills, where she mingled with other guests including Steven Spielberg, James Cameron, George Lucas, George Clooney, Haim Saban, and Casey Wasserman, each of whom paid $50,000 to be co-hosts of the event. Later in the evening, the group attended a large dinner with 150 people at Clooney’s home, where tickets cost $33,400 per person.

Clooney’s event was marred by protestors who threw single-dollar bills at Hillary Clinton’s motorcade and blasted the song “We’re in the Money” in her direction.

Katzenberg, whose personal fortune was built largely from the labor of thousands of animation artists at both Disney and Dreamworks, has a net worth reportedly between $800 million and one billion dollars. Dreamworks is currently a defendant in an industry-wide class action lawsuit that alleges feature animation studios conspired to restrict competition by exchanging compensation information, fixing wage ranges for their employees, and refraining from solicitation of each other’s employees. The only studio that has agreed to settle, thus far, is 20th Century Fox-owned Blue Sky Studios.

In 2014, U.S. president Barack Obama awarded Katzenberg America’s highest artistic honor, the National Medal of Arts, making him just the second person in the animation art form to ever receive the recognition.

Photo: drserg/Shutterstock.com

  • Milo

    Thank goodness for Cartoon Brew. This is the kind of stuff CNN and the New York Times should be covering, but I guess it flies in the face of the liberal narrative too much, only animation enthusiasts get to read about it. Shameful.

    • KW

      I dont know about the fundraiser or anything else mentions as i’ve avoided the news the past few months, but I know the money throwing incident has been covered by the news.

    • DJM

      Actually, anything that talks/complains about the lavish lifestyles executives live despite company wide layoffs is a very liberal topic. Its a very anti-business topic. The fact that the lawsuit isn’t being reported at all on the major news channels proves how pro-bussiness/fiscally conservative they are. Pro-worker, pro-union are quintessential liberal themes, progressive themes. DreamWorks is a union outfit afterall, which is why they are outsourcing more and more to overseas. DW is doing what every conservative wants, and that is too please the shareholders at the expense of their workers. To infer that this isn’t a liberal narrative article only proves how uninformed you are on the topic of liberal ideas.

  • I guess we will have to wait and see how DreamWorks performs this time around. I do hope more people can keep their positions unlike last year.

    • If their next slate of films are any indication, It’s going to a tough ride as the years go by (but there may be surprises)….

  • I’m still baffled that they threw money around. Did they pick their bill up afterwards?? Tell me they didn’t just leave after that!

    • Earl Grey

      They threw $1000 total in real one-dollar bills. CNN reports that “once she passed, the group danced in the street, stomping on the dollar bills.” Maybe someone else picked it up.

      • Abdullah Zubair

        I’m guessing the guy who planned it all was the one who pocketed it all

  • Marcos GP

    I think you meant to say “Katzenberg ,whose personal fortune was built largely from taking the risk of investing his own money to start an animation company that employs and support thousands of families for over twenty years” the other sentence makes you sound like some kind of Marxist ideologue. Less Marx and more Ludwig Von Mises .

    • AmidAmidi

      It’s cute that you think Katzenberg used his own money to start Dreamworks. He put in a nominal amount and profited handsomely from it. Then he hit it big with the IPO of DreamWorks Animation. Read “The Men Who Would Be King” for more details.

      • Marcos GP

        I have read the book, When he cashed out the 250 million from Disney he could have lived pretty comfortably without doing anything else. Instead he risked loosing everything or a big part of it and in the process he has employed thousands of families for the last 20 years, or did he not?

  • Rodrigo

    It wouldn’t surprise me if Trump gets in that Hollywood’s lips will be sewn on his backside as well.

  • Daniel Rich

    Ah, yet another posting from someone with an axe to grind against DreamWorks. It isn’t news that JK is one of the largest fund raisers for the Democratic party. It’s also his money, not DreamWorks’, so it really isn’t anyone else’s business what he does with it.

    While DWA may be in for a rocky ride on the feature side of the house, they just posted one of the best quarters in the history of the company a few months back and paid out an annual bonus to the entire company.

    Don’t get me wrong, after watching 500 of my friends and coworkers lose their jobs last year I have no shortage of critisism for some of the decisions DWA’s upper management has made over the past few years. However, this post is probably more appropriate for a supermarket tabloid as it really has nothing to do with the animation industry and is just an attack against Mr. Katzenberg.

    • elliot Lobell

      I think what this article is pointing out is that he claims DreamWorks isnt doing so well and has to lay off hundreds of people, yet he’s still making huge personal gains

      • Daniel Rich

        It does no such thing. It doesn’t show that this is money he earned while the company was doing poorly (which was over a year ago, the latest shareholder reports and analyst forecasts have been very positive). I have read estimates that put JK’s net worth around $1B, if he wants to spend a small portion of that on something he believes in why is that anyone’s business but his? What does it have to do with the animation industry? It isn’t like there is a way for him to put that money into DWA, that isn’t how public companies work.

        I’m still impressed that he came up to PDI to announce the closure personally rather than doing it from afar. That is more than a lot of CEOs I have worked with over the years have done. I’m also not convinced that he had any say in the closure and layoffs or if it was directed by the board.

  • Eric Leiser

    great to read you report this amid, you are an essential resource! I cant understand to top it off they gave him that medal.

  • Fabrice Ducouret

    Well, yeah, he’s not going to spend this kind of money on stupid things no one needs like, I don’t know, good screenplays?

  • micky mao

    ‘what, mega rich people become wealthy off the backs of others then use that ‘influence’ to their own ends? I am surprised!’- said no one ever

  • Paul M

    George Clooney is backing Hillary? Dang, I used to respect the guy, and considered him to have half a brain.

    • WJD

      Considering Amal Clooney worked for HRC, I doubt he had much of a choice. To George Clooney’s credit, when blasted about the $353,400 per couple price tag for their fundraiser dinner, George agreed that is was an obscene amount of money.

  • Earl Grey

    Of interest to Local 839 members: IATSE endorsed Hillary Clinton months ago. She was “the only candidate that reached out to discuss issues affecting members of the IATSE,” so she won their endorsement.

  • Charles Norwood

    Frankly, I expect an elite white collar criminal / political influence-peddler to produce better family entertainment.

  • Andrew

    I wonder if this account trick of releasing failed movies works on animated movies too.
    That trick where when a movie bomb, you don’t have to pay the freelancers or raise salaries under the “reason” the movie failed so there’s “no money” to share? That trick is widely used in Hollywood, and may explain why DW does not seems to react to the recent events

  • Abdullah Zubair

    I was actually supporting him, my point was that he might be working his ass off trying to make DWA work but that doesn’t mean he won’t be enjoying a few luxuries himself…This seems pointless now that the company is sold