Claims that Steve Bannon continues to profit from “Seinfeld” re-runs could be a show about nothing.
A profile of the Trump adviser appearing in the May 1 issue of The New Yorker dedicates six paragraphs to untangling the claim that Bannon has fueled his right-wing campaign in part on a steady revenue stream from the show’s syndication deal.
The passage describes negotiations facilitated by Bannon & Co. between Westinghouse Electric, Castle Rock Entertainment and others. Bannon has claimed that Westinghouse executives encouraged him to take an ownership stake in the deal, which led to “a stream of ‘Seinfeld’ royalties,” according to Bloomberg Businessweek.
But when The New Yorker’s Connie Bruck went looking for evidence of that steady stream, she found the equivalent of a bunch of crackers in Kramer’s briefcase.
From the New Yorker:
There were several companies involved in the deal: Turner Broadcasting Systems; Castle Rock; Sony, which owned a stake of about forty-four per cent in Castle Rock; and Westinghouse, with a fifteen-per-cent stake. In the end, Westinghouse received its cash compensation, plus a small percentage of the TV package, and Bannon & Co. got a smaller one. In 1995, Westinghouse acquired CBS, and CBS became the surviving company.
That fall, “Seinfeld” went into syndication. After Turner Broadcasting merged with Time Warner, in late 1995, Turner’s Castle Rock came under the Warner Bros. umbrella. Warner Bros. started sending out all “Seinfeld” profit-participation statements, including Westinghouse’s, which goes to CBS. The Castle Rock and the Westinghouse records from the early months of syndication are not readily available. It is possible that Bannon’s deal was capped and paid out at that time. But, since then, neither CBS nor Castle Rock nor Warner Bros. has records of payments to Bannon, if those records are as they were described to me.
The New Yorker profile also mentions “Seinfeld” in reference to Bannon’s divorce. The piece describes an April 1997, “income and expense declaration” that includes no evidence of profit participations from “Seinfeld.”
“Either they were not substantial or Bannon failed to disclose them in a sworn statement,” Bruck writes.
The New Yorker even solicited a comment from “Seinfeld” co-creator Larry David, who said, “I don’t think I ever heard of him until he surfaced with the Trump campaign and I had no idea that he was profiting from the work of industrious Jews!”