How Trump's top aide Stephen Bannon made money from 'Seinfeld'

Trump's newly-appointed chief strategist, who has faced an onslaught of antisemitism allegations, reportedly makes millions from sitcom royalties.

November 17, 2016 16:46
2 minute read.

Seinfeld cast members. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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Donald Trump's selection this week of Stephen Bannon as his chief strategist has sparked controversy with critics hurling accusations of antisemitism and bigotry at the former head the alt-right website Breitbart.

Democratic Senate leader Harry Reid has labeled Bannon as a "champion of white supremacy" while the Anti-Defamation League has denounced him for having "embraced the alt right, a loose network of white nationalists and anti-semities."

Therefore, it may come as a surprise, or ironic twist, that he has been profiting off of royalties from television's possibly most iconic Jewish sitcom: Seinfeld.

Among his vast list of varied past undertakings, including military service, investment banking at Goldman Sachs, a stint in Hollywood producing, serving as the head of Trump's scandal-ridden presidential campaign and "yada, yada, yada"... Bannon also managed to gain involvement in the quintessential Jewish comedy.

Stephen Bannon (Reuters)

As part of a budding venture in the early 1990s, Bannon acquired a stake in the show.

After leaving Goldman Sachs and forming his own boutique investment with a handful of colleagues, Bannon's self-named firm Bannon and Co. helped arrange the sale of Castle Rock - the producing studio behind Seinfeld -  to American media mogul Ted Turner.

As partial payment for the transaction, Bannon received a small portion of ownership in a handful of TV shows, one of which was Seinfeld. At the time, the sitcom created by Jewish entertainment personality Larry David and staring Jewish comedian Jerry Seinfeld was in its third season and yet to become a chart-topping hit.

As news of Bannon's lucrative gains from Seinfeld came to light this week, one of the show's stars, Jason Alexander, said he did not see the humor in the situation.

"So Steve Brannon makes residuals on SEINFELD. I know there's a joke there somewhere but right now I only find it sad," the actor who played the series' George Costanza wrote Wednesday on Twitter.

Seinfeld ran for nine seasons and eventually came to earn the network an estimated $200 million in profit per season.

While exact figures on Bannon's earnings from the show remain unknown, the Financial Times in 2013 reported that the sitcom made $3.1 billion in reruns. Citing that figure, Yahoo TV this week reported that at that rate Bannon & Co. would have raked in more than $31 million since the series went off air in 1998.

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