NET WORTH: $700 million, estimated
SOURCE OF WEALTH: Writer and Producer
FUNDING AREAS: Civil Liberties, Environment, Education, Arts & Media
OVERVIEW: One of leading progressive philanthropists from the entertainment industry, Lear helped form People For the American Way, a nonprofit that speaks out for "Bill of Rights guarantees and monitors violations of constitutional freedoms." USC Annenberg School of Communication is the site of the Norman Lear Center, a research and public policy center. As well, Lear and his wife Lyn move their philanthropy through the Lear Family Foundation, which has given away in the neighborhood of $2 - $3 million annually of late, funding efforts toward civil liberties, education, arts, media, and more.
BACKGROUND: Norman Lear began his television writing career in 1950 when he and his writing partner were signed to write for The Ford Star Revue, starring Jack Haley. Lear teamed with director Bud Yorkin to form Tandem Productions. Together, they produced several feature films, with Lear taking on roles as executive producer, writer and director. In 1967, he was nominated for an Oscar for his script for Divorce American Style. In 1970, CBS signed with Tandem Productions to produce All in the Family, which ran for nine seasons. All in the Family was followed by other television hits such as Maude, Sanford and Son, Good Times, and The Jeffersons.
CIVIL LIBERTIES: Lear co-founded People For the American Way, a nonprofit "designed to speak out for Bill of Rights guarantees and to monitor violations of constitutional freedoms." Lear Family Foundation grantees have included Mother Jones, Equality Now, ACLU Foundation of Southern California, and Death Penalty Focus, a nonprofit "committed to the abolition of the death penalty through public education, grassroots organizing and political advocacy, media outreach, and domestic and international coalition building."
ENVIRONMENT: Lear's wife, Lyn, is a social and political activist whose main passions are the arts and the environment, with a focus on climate change. Lyn, Lear, and Cindy and Alan Horn co-founded Environmental Media Association (EMA), "a nonprofit created to inspire and coordinate an entertainment industry response to the global environmental crisis." The Lear Family Foundation's grantmaking has supported EMA, as well as places like Oceana, Heal the Bay, Rainforest Alliance, Global Green USA, NRDC, Conservation International, and 350.org, an "international effort to raise awareness of the need to decrease carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere to 350 parts per million." At least $1.3 million went to Peconic Land Trust in Eastern Long Island last decade.
ARTS: In addition to Lear's long Hollywood career, Lyn is also the president of Lyn Lear Productions, a trustee at Sundance Institute, and serves on the board of LACMA. Recent outfits receiving money include LACMA, Sundance Institute, Ballet Hispanico in New York, Friends of UCLA Jazz, and MusiCares.
EDUCATION: USC Annenberg School for Communication is the site of the Norman Lear Center, "a multidisciplinary research and public policy center dedicated to exploring the convergence of entertainment, commerce and society." Other grantees have included the Martin Marty Center for the Advanced Study of Religion at University of Chicago, and Harvard Westlake School.
LOOKING FORWARD: Norman Lear is in his 90s, and has been involved with philanthropy for years. It's not known whether he plans to create a foundation that operates in perpetuity, but it's been estimated that he has substantial wealth, so that does seem like one possibility.
The Lear Family Foundation doesn't provide a method of contact, but below is an address:
Lear Family Foundation
100 N. Crescent Dr., Ste. 120
Beverly Hills, CA 90210