How Jeffrey Katzenberg Could Leave DreamWorks Animation $430 Million Richer

Jeffrey Katzenberg GETTY 2 - H 2016
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The billionaire (probably) media mogul stands to cash in once Comcast takes over the animation studio he founded with Steven Spielberg and David Geffen.

Jeffrey Katzenberg could walk away $430 million richer now that he's poised to sell the studio he founded with Steven Spielberg and David Geffen to Comcast's NBCUniversal. At least that's before taxes. 

But Katzenberg isn’t the only employee who will cash in, as a large percentage of DWA’s 2,300 employees hold stock in their retirement plans. Those shares are worth 51 percent more today than they were earlier this week, before Comcast agreed to acquire the studio for $41 a share.

On the downside, though, insiders worry that Comcast will be laying off perhaps hundreds of DWA employees once the deal closes later this year, including some of its major executive talent.

When DWA was on the ropes a few years back — struggling with underperforming titles, laying off 500 workers and selling its Glendale campus (which it now leases back from the buyer) — the company was saving money by luring top executives with stock instead of cash. 

While some of those executives may not survive looming layoffs, Comcast’s acquisition likely ensures they are well enough off to take their time lining up new positions. 

One mid-level executive with less than a decade of service made $43,000 between Tuesday and Thursday, while another made $57,000, according to insiders.

As for Katzenberg, he could be in line for a lump sum of $430 million, consisting of around $22 million for selling the studio, plus, the stock he owns is worth at least $408 million when the deal closes, and that’s 51 percent more than it was worth on Tuesday. 

On its annual list of the super wealthy, Forbes estimated Katzenberg's net worth at $750 million last year, so the Comcast windfall will probably make him a billionaire.

After the acquisition, Katzenberg will no longer be CEO of DWA, instead becoming chairman of a new entity called DreamWorks New Media, and he will be a consultant to Comcast. His salary for those roles hasn’t yet been disclosed.

Spielberg’s stake in DWA also more than doubled in the past two days to $187.6 million due to the pending acquisition, while Geffen cashed out of most — perhaps all — of his stake four years ago.

Others at DWA who will see massive windfalls when the Comcast-DWA marriage is consummated include president Ann Daly, whose stake in the company is now worth at least $40 million, and former vice chairman and CFO Lewis Coleman, who will cash out for at least $52.7 million.

Top executives (and former ones) will get large bonuses when the deal closes, but just the stock they already hold is enough to make them much richer than they already are. General counsel Andrew Chang's 38,431 shares are now worth $1.6 million, for example, while Michael Francis, who was chief global brand officer until a year ago, has 45,569 shares now worth $1.9 million.