KEY POINTS

  • David Geffen cofounded DreamWorks with Steven Spielberg and Jeffrey Katzenberg in 1994
  • He has a net worth of $9.7 billion
  • Geffen signed music artists such as Cher, Elton John and John Lennon

David Geffen’s net worth is estimated to be $9.7 billion. Here’s how he built his massive fortune.

Geffen founded music labels Geffen Records and DGC Records and cofounded Asylum Records and movie studio DreamWorks, according to Forbes. With his $9.7 billion net worth, he ranked 185th in the 2020 Forbes list of richest people in the world and 65th in last year's Forbes 400.

Geffen is proof that one can find success even without a college degree. He dropped out of college and lied about having graduated from UCLA to keep his job in the mailroom of the Willam Morris talent agency in the early days of his career.

After leaving the talent agency, the Brooklyn, New York native became a music manager and cofounded Asylum Records in 1971 with partner Elliot Roberts. Among the talents he handled were the Eagles, Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan, according to Celebrity Net Worth.

The label was taken over by Warner Communications (now the Warner Music Group) in 1972 and later merged with Elektra Records to become Elektra/Asylum Records. Geffen became vice-chairman of Warner Bros. Pictures in 1974. 

In the 1980s, he launched Geffen Records and signed several marquee names in the industry such as John Lennon, Yoko Ono, Elton John, Donna Summer, Guns N' Roses, Aerosmith and Cher, among others. 

Geffen was not only successful in the music industry but also proved his magic in the film industry. He cofounded DreamWorks SKG in 1994 with Steven Spielberg and Jeffrey Katzenberg.

DreamWorks’ credits include the "Shrek" movies, "Antz" and "Kung Fu Panda," among others. Geffen stepped away from the company in 2008.

The 77-year-old also invested in art collection and real estate assets. His art collection is valued at around $3 billion. Geffen reportedly sold "Interchange," a 1955 painting by Willem de Kooning, and "Number 17A," a 1948 painting by Jackson Pollock, to hedge fund investor Kenneth Griffin in 2016 for $300 million and $200 million, respectively, a person close to the matter told CNN.

Geffen acquired a Beverly Hills property for $47.5 million in 1990, Variety reported. That amount would almost double when adjusted to current inflation rates. The property features a Georgian-style mansion, a tennis court, swimming pool, golf course and its own gas pump. 

His massive property in Beverly Hills is far from his only one. Geffen also bought a house worth $4.6 million and an empty lot with a price tag of $30 million. The former music studio executive has high-end condos in New York City, on top of a mansion at the ultra-exclusive Hamptons, according to Business Insider

David Geffen and Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts Chair Katherine G. Farley David Geffen and Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts Chair Katherine G. Farley attend Lincoln Center's American Songbook Gala red carpet at Alice Tully Hall on February 1, 2017 in New York City. Photo: Getty Images/Neilson Barnard