David Lawrence Geffen (born February 21, 1943) is an American business magnate, producer, film studio executive, and philanthropist. Geffen created or co-created Asylum Records in 1970, Geffen Records in 1980, DGC Records in 1990, and DreamWorks SKG in 1994. As philanthropist he has donated to the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and other educational and research institutes.
David Lawrence Geffen
February 21, 1943
New York City, U.S.
|Alma mater||University of Texas at Austin|
|Occupation||Founder of DreamWorks SKG/Dreamworks Records, Asylum Records, Geffen Records/Geffen Pictures, and DGC Records|
|Net worth||US$8.6 billion (September 2018)|
David Geffen was born in Borough Park, Brooklyn, New York, to Abraham Geffen and Batya Volovskaya (1909—1988). Geffen's mother owned a clothing store in Borough Park called Chic Corsets by Geffen. Both of his parents were Jewish immigrants who met in British-mandated Palestine and then moved to the United States. Geffen graduated from Brooklyn's New Utrecht High School in 1960 with a 66 percent average. He attended the University of Texas at Austin for a semester, and then Brooklyn College, before again dropping out. He then moved to Los Angeles, California to find his way in the entertainment business. He attended Santa Monica College (then known as Santa Monica City College) in Santa Monica, California, but soon left. Geffen attributed his challenges in school to dyslexia.
After a brief appearance as an extra in the 1961 film The Explosive Generation, Geffen began his entertainment career in the mailroom at the William Morris Agency (WMA), where he quickly became a talent agent. In order to obtain the WMA job, he had to prove he was a college graduate. As he later reported in an interview, he claimed in his job application at WMA that he had graduated from the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA). Because he worked in the mailroom, Geffen was able to intercept a letter from UCLA to WMA which stated that he had not graduated from UCLA. He modified the letter to show that he had attended and graduated, then submitted it to WMA.
His colleagues in the mailroom included Elliot Roberts, who later became Geffen's partner in a management company. Geffen left William Morris to become a personal manager and was immediately successful with Laura Nyro and Crosby, Stills and Nash. When Geffen was engaged in the process of looking for a record deal for young Jackson Browne, Atlantic Records founder Ahmet Ertegün suggested that Geffen start his own record label.
Geffen founded Asylum Records in 1970 (with Elliot Roberts) after Geffen was unable to get Jackson Browne a record deal anywhere else. The name Asylum was chosen because of the owners' reputations for signing artists who would struggle to find a record company that would contract with them. The label was distributed by Atlantic Records at this time. Asylum signed artists such as the Eagles, Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, Tom Waits, Linda Ronstadt, Warren Zevon, Judee Sill, and J.D. Souther. Asylum was later acquired by Atlantic's parent company, Warner Communications, and merged with Elektra Records in 1972 to become Elektra/Asylum Records.
Geffen remained in charge until December 1975, when he went to work as vice chairman of Warner Bros. film studios. He then retired and in 1977 was informed (erroneously) that he had cancer. During his retirement period he spent a short time (the fall of 1978 and spring of 1979) teaching a noncredit seminar on the music industry and arts management at Yale University, where he featured classroom guests Jackson Browne and Paul Simon. In 1980 a new medical diagnosis revealed the error in the original diagnosis and Geffen was given a clean bill of health, whereupon he decided to return to working in the entertainment industry.
In 1980, he founded Geffen Records and recruited Warner Bros. Records exec Ed Rosenblatt as president. The Geffen label's meteoric rise to prominence within the year proved a bittersweet success. Geffen's first artist to sign on was Donna Summer, who was anxious to leave Casablanca/PolyGram Records. Geffen shortly after released her The Wanderer album, the lead single of which reached #3 on the Billboard Hot 100, and the album certified gold. Casablanca countered by releasing more singles off her 1979 Bad Girls album such as the song Walk Away and a similarly named hits compilation to compete, but by then New Wave sound was dominating the airwaves.
The November 1980 release of John Lennon's album Double Fantasy seems an impressive feat for a new label, but at the time Lennon stated that Geffen was the only one with enough confidence in him to agree to a deal without hearing the record first. Yoko Ono, Lennon's wife and partner, stated that Geffen was the only label head to pay attention to her. In December 1980, Lennon was murdered and Double Fantasy became a massive seller. Over the years Geffen Records/DGC has become well known as a label, releasing works by the likes of Olivia Newton-John, Asia with Steve Howe and John Wetton, Elton John, Cher, Sonic Youth, Aerosmith, Whitesnake, XTC, Peter Gabriel, Lone Justice, Blink-182, Guns N' Roses, Nirvana, Lifehouse, Tyketto, Pat Metheny, Sloan, the Stone Roses and Neil Young.
The label was distributed by Warner Bros. Records since its inception but, in 1990, the label was sold to MCA Records. Geffen continued to run the label before leaving Geffen Records in 1995. The Geffen label is today is part of the Interscope-Geffen-A&M division of MCA's successor, Universal Music Group, formed as the result of the 1999 merger between the MCA and PolyGram families of labels.
Through the Geffen Film Company, Geffen produced dark-tinged comedies such as (the 1986 version of) Little Shop of Horrors, Risky Business and Beetlejuice. Geffen was the Broadway backer for the musicals Dreamgirls and Cats. In 1994, Geffen co-founded the DreamWorks SKG studio with Steven Spielberg and Jeffrey Katzenberg. In 2008, Geffen left DreamWorks.
Until 2017 Geffen owned a Malibu compound on Carbon Beach. In 1983 Geffen was granted permits from the California Coastal Commission to build a Cape Cod-style compound over multiple beachfront lots in exchange for creating a public pathway to the beach. He failed to build that pathway and in 2002 filed a lawsuit to block public access altogether. After a protracted three-year legal battle, Geffen reached a settlement with the Coastal Commission, granting the public a nine-foot-wide easement to the beach and reimbursing the state and non-profit groups $300,000 in legal fees. The pathway was opened on May 30, 2005 to national and international media coverage. The controversy has been called the "most famous Malibu battle" for beach access. The Coastal Commission later contacted the state transportation department without receiving a response to ask if the curb cuts that prevented public parking were valid, amid rumors that Geffen had installed four fake garage doors.
Geffen has developed a reputation as a prominent philanthropist for his publicized support of medical research, AIDS organizations, the arts and theatre. In 1995 he donated $5 million towards UCLA's Westwood Playhouse. The theatre was renamed the Geffen Playhouse.
According to Forbes ("The 400 Richest Americans of 2004") and other sources, Geffen has pledged to give whatever money he makes from now on to charity, although he has not specified which charities or the manner of his giving. In 2002, he announced a $200 million unrestricted endowment for the School of Medicine at UCLA. The School thereafter was named David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. Along with Kenneth Langone's gift to New York University School of Medicine, Geffen's donation is the largest donation ever made to a medical school in the United States. On December 13, 2012, UCLA announced that Geffen had donated another $100 million in addition to his 2002 donation of $200 million, making him the largest individual benefactor for the UC system. The latest donation funds the full cost of attendance for up to 30 students per year, beginning with the Class of 2017.
In 2015, Geffen pledged $100 million toward renovation of what was then called Avery Fisher Hall, part of Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in New York. His gift, which amounted to about 20% of the hall's renovation costs, gave him naming rights in perpetuity over the building, now known as David Geffen Hall.
He was an early financial supporter of President Bill Clinton. In 2001 he had a falling out with the former president over Clinton's decision not to pardon Leonard Peltier, on whose behalf he had lobbied the President.
Geffen was an early supporter of Barack Obama for president and raised $1.3 million for Obama in a star-studded Beverly Hills fundraiser. On February 21, 2007, in an interview with Maureen Dowd of The New York Times, Geffen described Hillary Clinton and Bill Clinton in unflattering terms: "Everybody in politics lies, but they do it with such ease, it's troubling." He said that Hillary Clinton was "incredibly polarizing" and described Bill Clinton as "reckless" and cast doubt on those who say he has become a different person since leaving office.
Geffen was named one of the 2010 recipients of Ahmet Ertegun Award from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Geffen was awarded with the President's Merit Award for "indelible contributions to the music industry" from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences at the 53rd Grammy Awards in February 2011.
Geffen has an estimated net worth of $8.6 billion, making him one of the richest people in the entertainment industry.
Joni Mitchell and Geffen were close friends and, in the early 1970s, made a trip to Paris with Robbie Robertson and Robertson's wife, Dominique. As a result of that trip, Mitchell wrote "Free Man in Paris" about Geffen.
Geffen can be heard on Barbra Streisand's The Broadway Album, released in 1985. The track "Putting It Together" features Geffen, Sydney Pollack, and Ken Sylk portraying the voices of record company executives talking to Streisand.
Geffen is the subject of several books, most recently The Operator: David Geffen Builds, Buys, and Sells the New Hollywood (2001) by Tom King, who initially had Geffen's cooperation, but later did not. An earlier biography was The Rise and Rise of David Geffen (1997) by Stephen Singular. He is also a featured character in Mailroom: Hollywood History From The Bottom Up by David Rensen, in Mansion On The Hill by Fred Goodman, in Hotel California by Barney Hoskyns, and in several books about Michael Ovitz.
His older brother Mitchell (born Mischa) Geffen (1933–2006) was an attorney who attended UCLA Law School and later settled in Encino, California. Mitchell Geffen fathered two daughters, who are David's closest surviving relatives.
Geffen is a keen collector of American artists' work, including Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko and Willem de Kooning. According to the chief curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, Paul Schimmel: "There's no collection that has a better representation of post-war American art than David Geffen's."
In October 2006, Geffen sold two paintings by Jasper Johns and a De Kooning from his collection for a combined sum of $143.5 million. On November 3, 2006, The New York Times reported that Geffen had sold Pollock's 1948 painting No. 5, 1948 from his collection for $140 million (£73.35 million) to Mexican financier David Martinez. Martinez is the founder of London-based Fintech Advisory Ltd, a financial house that specializes in buying Third World debt. The sale made No. 5, 1948 the most expensive painting ever sold (outstripping the $134 million paid in October 2006 for Gustav Klimt's portrait Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I, purchased by cosmetics heir Ronald Lauder).
In February 2016, Bloomberg News reported that Geffen had sold De Kooning's 1955 oil painting, Interchanged, for $300 million, and Pollock's 1948 painting, Number 17A, for $200 million, both to hedge fund billionaire Ken Griffin.
In 2007, Geffen bought a half-share in friend Larry Ellison's luxury yacht Rising Sun, then at 138 meters (453 ft) the sixth largest motor yacht in the world. After Ellison ordered a new and more compact 91 metres (299 ft) yacht, he sold his remaining half share in Rising Sun to Geffen in 2010.
In 2009, Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich agreed to a divorce settlement with his wife Irina that resulted in her taking ownership of the 115-meter (377 ft) yacht Pelorus. Approached on Geffen's behalf by broker Merle Wood, Geffen bought Pelorus in 2011 for $300 million. In 2011 Geffen sold Pelorus to Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan for 214 million euros.
Asylum Records is an American record label, founded in 1971 by David Geffen and partner Elliot Roberts. It was taken over by Warner Communications (now the Warner Music Group) in 1972, and later merged with Elektra Records to become Elektra/Asylum Records.
After various incarnations, it is currently geared primarily towards hip-hop, along with rock and alternative metal. It is owned by Warner Music Group, and is currently distributed through Alternative Distribution Alliance.Billi Gordon
Wilbert Anthony Gordon Jr. (September 2, 1954 – February 22, 2018), better known as Billi Gordon, was an American author, television writer, neuroscientist, actor and model,DGC Records
DGC Records (an initialism for the David Geffen Company) is an American major record label that currently operates as a division of Interscope Geffen A&M Records, which is owned by the Vivendi-based Universal Music Group.David Geffen Hall
David Geffen Hall is a concert hall in New York City's Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts complex on Manhattan's Upper West Side. The 2,738 seat auditorium opened in 1962, and is the home of the New York Philharmonic.
The facility, designed by Max Abramovitz, was originally named Philharmonic Hall and was renamed Avery Fisher Hall in honor of philanthropist Avery Fisher, who donated $10.5 million ($59 million today) to the orchestra in 1973. In November 2014, Lincoln Center officials announced Fisher's name would be removed from the Hall so that naming rights could be sold to the highest bidder as part of a $500 million fund-raising campaign to refurbish the Hall. In 2015, the hall was renamed David Geffen Hall after Geffen donated $100 million to the Lincoln Center.David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA
The University of California, Los Angeles School of Medicine—known as the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA (DGSOM)—is an accredited medical school located in Los Angeles, California, USA. The School was renamed in 2001 in honor of media mogul David Geffen who donated $200 million in unrestricted funds. Founded in 1951, it was the second medical school in the UC system, after the UCSF School of Medicine.David Ho
David Da-i Ho (Chinese: 何大一; born November 3, 1952) is a Taiwanese-American medical doctor and HIV/AIDS researcher who was born in Taiwan and has made many innovative state of the art scientific contributions to the understanding and technological treatment of HIV infection. He is the scientific director and chief executive officer of the Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center and the Irene Diamond Professor at Rockefeller University in New York City.
David Ho was born in Taichung, Taiwan, to Paul (何步基 Hé Bùjī, an engineer) and Sonia Ho (Jiang) (江雙如 Jiāng Shuāngrú).
David Ho attended Taichung Municipal Guang-Fu Elementary School until sixth grade before immigrating to the United States with his mother and younger brother to unite with his father, who had already been in the US since 1957. He grew up in Los Angeles and graduated from John Marshall High School there. He received his bachelor of science in physics with highest honors from the California Institute of Technology (1974) and MD from the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology (1978). Subsequently, he did his clinical training in internal medicine and infectious diseases at UCLA School of Medicine (1978–1982) and Massachusetts General Hospital (1982–1985), respectively. He was a resident in internal medicine at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles in 1981 when he came into contact with some of the first reported cases of what was later identified as AIDS.DreamWorks
DreamWorks Pictures (also known as DreamWorks SKG or DreamWorks Studios, commonly referred to as DreamWorks) is an American film production label of Amblin Partners. It was founded in 1994 as a film studio by Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg and David Geffen (together, SKG), of which they owned 72%. The studio was formerly distributing its own and third-party films by itself. It has produced or distributed more than ten films with box-office grosses of more than $100 million each.
In December 2005, the founders agreed to sell the studio to Viacom, parent of Paramount Pictures. The sale was completed in February 2006 (this version is now named DW Studios). In 2008, DreamWorks announced its intention to end its partnership with Paramount and signed a $1.5 billion deal to produce films with India's Reliance Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group, re-creating DreamWorks Pictures into an independent entity. The following year, DreamWorks entered into a distribution agreement with Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, wherein Disney would distribute DreamWorks films through Touchstone Pictures; the deal continued until 2016. As of October 2016, DreamWorks' films are marketed and distributed by Universal Pictures. Currently, DreamWorks operates out of offices at Universal Studios.
DreamWorks' former feature animation unit, now known as DreamWorks Animation (which currently owns the DreamWorks trademarks), was spun off in 2004, and as of August 2016 is a subsidiary of NBCUniversal. Spielberg's company continues to use the DreamWorks trademarks under license from Universal Studios.DreamWorks Records
DreamWorks Records (often referred in copyright notices as SKG Music, LLC) was an American record label founded in 1996 by David Geffen, Steven Spielberg and Jeffrey Katzenberg as a subsidiary of DreamWorks SKG. The label operated until 2003 when it was sold to Universal Music Group. The label itself also featured a Nashville, Tennessee-based subsidiary, DreamWorks Nashville, which specialized in country music and was shut down in 2005. The company's logo was designed by Roy Lichtenstein and was his last commission before his death in 1997.Elliot Roberts
Elliot Roberts (born Elliot Rabinowitz, February 22, 1943) is an American music manager and record executive, best known for helping to jump-start the careers of singer-songwriters from the late 1960s and 1970, including those of Neil Young and Joni Mitchell.
After graduating from high school and dropping out of two colleges, Roberts attempted a career in acting before going to work for the William Morris Agency where he met David Geffen, an agent at the firm. Roberts later formed Lookout Management with Geffen, and helped to create Geffen's Asylum Records in 1970, which merged with Elektra Records in 1972 to form Elektra/Asylum Records.
Roberts is well known for his associations with Mitchell, Young, Buffalo Springfield, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Bob Dylan, the Eagles, Tom Petty, Talking Heads, Devo, Tracy Chapman, Spiritualized, Mazzy Star, Devendra Banhart, The Alarm, and other musicians.Film Society of Lincoln Center
The Film Society of Lincoln Center is a film presentation organization based in New York City, United States. Founded in 1969 by three Lincoln Center executives—William F. May, Martin E. Segal and Schuyler G. Chapin—the film society spotlights American independent cinema and world cinema, and recognizes and supports new filmmakers. The Film Society of Lincoln Center is one of the eleven resident organizations at the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts.
Over the last four decades, the film society has introduced to American audiences the works of many of the world's most acclaimed filmmakers, including François Truffaut, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Jean-Luc Godard, Pedro Almodóvar and Martin Scorsese.
Each year the organization presents its annual Gala Tribute, honoring legendary stars and industry leaders at Lincoln Center’s David Geffen Hall, formerly known as Avery Fisher Hall.
The Film Society of Lincoln Center also hosts the annual New York Film Festival and is a co-presenter (with the Museum of Modern Art) of the New Directors/New Films Festival. The Film Society also publishes the bi-monthly film journal Film Comment.Geffen Playhouse
The Geffen Playhouse (or the Geffen) is a not-for-profit theater company founded by Gilbert Cates in 1995. It produced in two venues, both owned by University of California Los Angeles. The Playhouse is located in the Westwood neighborhood of Los Angeles, California. It was named for donor David Geffen. The current executive director is Gil Cates Jr.Geffen Records
Geffen Records is an American record label owned by Universal Music Group through its Interscope Geffen A&M Records imprint.
On March 23, 2017, Billboard announced that Geffen was relaunching with longtime A&R Neil Jacobson as President, who reports to John Janick, CEO and chairman of Interscope Geffen A&M.Landing on Water
Landing on Water is the 15th studio album by Canadian musician Neil Young. The album was released on July 21, 1986, by Geffen Records. Several of the songs on the album were resurrected from Neil Young and Crazy Horse's failed 1984 sessions - a set of sessions where, according to longtime producer David Briggs, the musicians "played like monkeys".
Landing on Water came after Young settled out of court a lawsuit from Geffen Records, who had sued Young for $3.3 million, on the grounds that Young's mid-'80s records were non-commercial and musically uncharacteristic. Later, David Geffen would personally apologize to Young for the lawsuit and interfering with his work.Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts
Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts (simply known as Lincoln Center) is a 16.3-acre (6.6-hectare) complex of buildings in the Lincoln Square neighborhood of the borough of Manhattan in New York City. It hosts many notable performing arts organizations, which are nationally and internationally renowned, including the New York Philharmonic, the Metropolitan Opera, the New York City Ballet and the New York City Opera.Mostly Mozart Festival
The Mostly Mozart Festival is an American classical music festival based in New York City. The Festival presents concerts with its resident ensemble, the Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra, principally at David Geffen Hall of the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. Other Festival concerts occur at such venues as:
Alice Tully Hall
Stanley H. Kaplan Penthouse
Merkin Concert HallThe current artistic director of the Festival is Jane Moss. Louis Langrée is the Festival's current music director.The Geffen Film Company
The Geffen Film Company (also known as The Geffen Company, The Geffen Film Company, Inc., and later Geffen Pictures) was a film distributor and production company founded by David Geffen, the founder of Geffen Records, and future co-founder of DreamWorks. Geffen founded the company in 1982, having recruited Eric Eisner as president, and distributed its films through Warner Bros. Geffen operated it as a division of Warner Bros., and as a result, following The Geffen Film Company's shutdown in 1998, Warner Bros. now owns the company's library. However, the only Geffen Film Company title Warner Bros. does not own is the 1996 Mike Judge comedy Beavis and Butt-Head Do America, itself owned by Paramount Pictures via Paramount Animation and MTV Films.The spherical Geffen Pictures logo (based on the logo of its record-label counterpart) was created by Saul Bass.Thomas Martin Einstein
Thomas Martin Einstein (born 1955), is an anesthesiologist and physician, at the UCLA Medical Center in Santa Monica and the great-grandson of physicist Albert Einstein.Walk the Talk (film)
Walk the Talk is a 2001 Australian film directed by Shirley Barrett and starring Sacha Horler and Sal Coco. It was funded by David Geffen.