Reported by Lyonel Laverde-Hansen
More than 30 years after its initial release, the Star Wars series remains popular with millions of people. Since that time, its creator, George Lucas, is still reaping financial rewards from its success. Of course, it was virtually impossible to have guessed back in 1977 when he first introduced the world to that “galaxy far, far way,” that he would become one of the greatest philanthropists in history. It seems that Lucas was meant to use his fame and fortune for good.
Lucas sold his film company in 2012, and with it, the rights to the Star Wars and Indiana Jones franchises for $4.05 billion. Included in the sale were his companies Industrial Light and Magic (ILM) and Skywalker Sound. Since Lucas owned 100% of these companies and received every penny of the sale from Disney.
With that one transaction, Lucas’ own net worth shot into space to a whopping $5 billion (after taxes). With that sale, Lucas could build his own life-size replicas of Star Wars sets, but he has no plans to hold on to any of it. This is completely characteristic of him. He did, after all, establish the George Lucas Educational Foundation to deal explicitly with educational issues.
Through his foundation, he gave $175 million to his alma mater, the University of Southern California. Throughout the years, he’s also been generous to the Make-A-Wish foundation, Stand Up to Cancer, and the Film Foundation.
Another example of his level of generosity is when he signed Bill Gates’ and Warren Buffett’s Giving Pledge in July of 2010. With the signing of this pledge, Lucas had already promised to give away half of his fortune before his death.
Upon making his pledge to donate his billions from the Disney sale, Lucas put out the following message:
“For 41 years, the majority of my time and money has been put into the company. As I start a new chapter in my life, it is gratifying that I have the opportunity to devote more time and resources to philanthropy.”
Lucas established the George Lucas Educational Foundation and its offshoot, Edutopia, to deal with and fix the state of kindergarten through 12th grade education in the United States. The foundation puts the emphasis on project-centered, hands-on education over the current, much maligned concentration on standardized tests for students.
After disbursing his $5 billion fortune, he will become one of the world’s top individual philanthropists.
Though Gates and Buffett clearly dwarf him in donations, with a combined $45 billion in planned giving, Lucas enters a rare circle with benefactors such as Michael Bloomberg, Eli Broad, Carlos Slim Helu, and George Kaiser, who have all donated more than a billion dollars to charity and other worthy causes.
As of now, Lucas ranks as the world’s wealthiest film directors, but after giving away his fortune, he’ll give up that title with ease.