David Geffen

Music Producer / Business Personality / Film Producer

Born: 21 February 1943
Birthplace: Brooklyn, New York
Best known as:

The billionaire entertainment mogul behind Geffen Records and Dreamworks

David Geffen is the music, film and theater mogul whose many successes have made him one of the richest and most powerful men in entertainment. Rolling Stone magazine once called him "a pop-culture colossus" and said he was "savvy, ruthlessly competitive, willful, restless [and] unpredictable." David Geffen was born in New York to Jewish immigrants from Russia. He spent a semester at the University of Texas before flunking out, then returned to New York City and eventually he landed in the mailroom at the William Morris Agency. Less than two years later he was an agent, handling Laura Nyro and other rising stars. From the first he showed his knack for sniffing out hits and for building strong relationships with the hitmakers. (Joni Mitchell wrote her song "Free Bird in Paris" after a trip to Paris with Geffen.) He founded the record label Asylum in 1970, signing acts like Jackson Browne, The Eagles and Linda Ronstadt and turning them into superstars. He made millions when Asylum was acquired by Warner Communications. In 1976, Geffen was diagnosed with terminal bladder cancer; he quit business, collected art, and partied at Studio 54 until he discovered in 1979 that the diagnosis had been a mistake. The next year he founded Geffen Records, another huge success; he sold the company to MCA for stock valued at over $600 million when MCA was later bought by the Japanese firm Matsushita. He also began producing in the theater, backing hits including Dreamgirls (1981), Cats (1982) and M. Butterfly (1988). Geffen was at it again in 1994, joining Steven Spielberg and Jeffrey Katzenberg to create the movie studio Dreamworks SKG. The studio produced Oscar-winners like American Beauty (1999) and Gladiator (2000). Geffen is also a prominent philanthropist: he donated $200 million to the UCLA School of Medicine in 2002, and the school was renamed the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. In 2012, Forbes magazine estimated his worth at $5.5 billion. He was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame as a non-performer in 2010.

Extra credit:

David Geffen was described as "5-foot-7 1/2, 148-pound(s)" in a 1993 profile in The New York Times… He has never married and announced publicly that he was gay in 1992.

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