Steve Bannon’s strange connection to “Seinfeld” is one of the most Google-able bits of trivia about the senior Trump adviser’s past. And as a New Yorker profile Monday revealed that “Seinfeld” co-creator Larry David is very unhappy that the former Breitbart News boss benefited financially from the show’s success.
“I don’t think I ever heard of him until he surfaced with the Trump campaign and I had no idea that he was profiting from the work of industrious Jews!” David said in the profile, which explores Bannon’s early years in Hollywood, before he became a conservative media executive and Trump strategist.
Rob Reiner, one of the founders of Castle Rock, which produced “Seinfeld,” added of Bannon’s profits, “It makes me sick.”
As TheWrap and others have previously reported, long before he became the chief strategist of Trump’s White House and the executive chairman of Breitbart News, Bannon was an investment banker. He launched his own firm, Bannon & Co., in 1990. He was brought in to help Westinghouse Electric negotiate a minority stake acquisition in Castle Rock Entertainment — the producer of the iconic Jerry Seinfeld comedy — a person familiar with the deal told TheWrap.
Bannon and his team accepted a stake in the royalties of five Castle Rock shows, including “Seinfeld.” Bannon’s involvement with Westinghouse was not disclosed to Castle Rock Parters at the time, who dealt directly with Turner in the 1992 sale.
“We calculated what it would get us if it made it to syndication,” Bannon told Bloomberg in 2015. “We were wrong by a factor of five.”
How much Bannon has earned from his stake in the show is unknown. The Financial Times reported in 2013 that “Seinfeld” had earned $3.1 billion in reruns. Even at 1 percent, that would mean Bannon & Co. would have made over $31 million since the show went off the air.
But in the New Yorker story, Connie Bruck noted that Bannon’s profit participation in “Seinfeld” may have been capped out and paid out around 1995, when the show entered syndication and Turner Broadcasting merged with Time Warner. “Since then, neither CBS nor Castle Rock nor Warner Bros. has records of payments to Bannon, if those records are as they were described to me,” she wrote.
In addition, Bruck reported that no “Seinfeld” profit participations were included when Bannon submitted an “income and expense delcaration” in April 1997 in connection with his divorce from his first wife, whom the magazine did not name. “Either they were not substantial or Bannon failed to disclose them in a sworn statement,” she wrote, noting that he claimed an annual salary of about $500,000 and total assets of $1.1 million.