29) Norman Lear (up arrow)
Residence: Sullivan Canyon (above Brentwood)
Source of Wealth: Entertainment
Net Worth: $770 million
Last Year's Rank: 37
Background: After serving in World War II, started career in the '50s as a writer on the "Colgate Comedy Hour." Best known for creating "All in the Family," "The Jeffersons" and "Maude," which made him king of television satire. Went on to acquire movie theaters and television stations. Active in liberal causes; formed People for the American Way as response to the Moral Majority. Prolific Democratic fund raiser who has advised presidential candidates on how to win Hollywood support. Modeled "Maude" after acerbic ex-wife Francis, who died of cancer in 1996. (The divorce settlement cost him $112 million.)
Money Track: Used proceeds and royalties from his TV shows to buy movie theater chains and television stations. Sold eight television stations to Boston-based ABRY Broadcast Partners in 1994 for more than $500 million; three years later, sold his Act III theater chain to leveraged buyout giant Kohlberg, Kravis Roberts for $660 million. Still retains Act III Communications holding company.
Buzz: Frequent guest on the speaker's circuit; rues the political correctness that he says has stifled today's sitcom writers. "This isn't the best time for America laughing at ourselves," he says. Staunch defender of President Clinton. Set up a group to work on a grass-roots level to defeat the 13 House managers in the impeachment trial. On the home front, fought and won a year-long battle last summer with his Sullivan Canyon neighbors to build a tennis court atop his 51-foot-tall, 21-car garage.
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