DreamWorks CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg Seals $391 Million Payday After Comcast Buyout

Jeffrey Katzenberg Dreamworks Comcast
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UPDATED: DreamWorks Animation shareholders had already cashed in on the sale of the cartoon studio in April, when Comcast’s acquisition brought them $41 a share, a near 50% premium for the company that created “Shrek” and “Kung Fu Panda.”

The public owners laughed all the way to the bank … or the yacht dealership. On Tuesday, executives and board members got their turn, as Comcast’s $3.8 billion purchase of DreamWorks closed  — with outgoing CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg’s writing a heartfelt final memo to his workers, on the day he received a more than $391 million cash-out package. The founder (along with Steven Spielberg and David Geffen) of one-time uber studio DreamWorks SKG walked away with 10 times more money than the next highest ranking studio employee, President Ann Daly.

Katzenberg claimed the ginormous payday on the strength of 10.2 million DWA shares and options, a regulatory filing showed.

But Katzenberg suggested in a farewell memo to employees that his final hours as DreamWorks boss were filled with anything but thoughts about newly-claimed riches or about “the beautiful campus, the fountain, the panini maker or even the movies.” Instead, he said said that when he drives out the DreamWorks gates for the final time he will think about people — “incredibly talented individuals from around the globe, united by an amazing goal: to bring joy, wonder and laughter to the world.” It

Katzenberg didn’t reach to the classics — cinematic or other — to sum up his 22 year run at the company he and his partners founded in 1994. Instead he was inspired by a veteran animator and a cartoon classic.  “As as Jakob Jensen, a longtime colleague of ours recently reminded me (via Dr Seuss): ‘Don’t cry because it’s over, be happy because it happened,’ ” Katzenberg wrote, adding: “I couldn’t agree more.”

Point made. But no one said an oversized final paycheck had to crimp one’s warm fuzzies. And its not as if the former DreamWorks CEO (that descriptor is going to take some getting used to) will be bereft of responsibilities. He will work as a consultant to Comcast. And he will serve as Chairman of DreamWorks New Media, including looking for growth possibilities for properties like the studio’s Awesomeness TV unit.

Related Content Comcast Completes $3.8 Billion Purchase of DreamWorks Animation

A friend of the man once in line for the throne at Disney (before he was jilted by then CEO Michael Eisner) confirmed Katzenberg’s eye-popping good fortune — though the friend came up with a slightly more modest $385 million total.

Sources said Katzenberg got to sell a total of 9,186,260 shares he held variously via direct ownership, a trust and a series of entities he owns with his wife Marilyn. That part of the deal netted him more than $376.6 million. He also got to exercise options on more than 1 million additional shares, priced at $24.28 a share and at $35.30 a share — bagging $14.9 million more.

Disney President Ann Daly got the second biggest payday, at just under $40 million. Like Katzenberg, the bulk of that came via the sale of shares at the full price of $41 a share. With more than 886,000 shares, that netted Daly more than $36 million. Added to nearly $3.5 million more from options sales, Daly takes home a total of more than $39.8 million.

The haul for a couple of other DreamWorks officers looks almost parsimonious, compared to the two top corporate dogs. Chief Financial Officer Fazal Merchant received about $3 million, while Chief Counsel John Chang netted roughly $2.5 million.

Katzenberg could not immediately be reached for comment. Reports that the mogul was eyeing an offer on Disneyland’s Matterhorn could not be immediately confirmed.