Why Larry David Is Worth Less Than Half Of Billionaire Jerry Seinfeld (2024)

When Curb Your Enthusiasm ends its run on Sunday, after 12 seasons spanning more than 20 years, it’s a safe bet that Larry David’s story won’t end happily. After all, the 76-year-old comedian has made a career out of complaining about minutia and raging against the norms of polite society, first as the co-creator of Seinfeld in the 1990s and then as a fictionalized version of himself on HBO’s Curb. Even during media appearances, David plays up his curmudgeonly persona so much that it’s often hard to tell where the jokes end and the real Larry begins–just ask Elmo.

That shtick has proven to be enormously lucrative for David. Just don’t ask him how lucrative. When asked how rich he is during a CNN interview with Chris Wallace last week, David said the matter was, “none of your f*cking business,” calling Wallace’s proposed $500 million figure “ridiculous” and “so preposterous” before cutting off follow up questions with a disarming laugh and a firm “how ‘bout you shut up.”

But Wallace wasn’t too far off. Forbes estimates David’s net worth to be just under $400 million, enough to rank among the richest television producers in history, but paling in comparison to his most famous collaborator, Jerry Seinfeld, whose fortune Forbes now values at just over $1 billion. (Similarly, Seinfeld isn’t interested in discussing his net worth. A representative tells Forbes the figure is “ totally inaccurate.”)

The duo’s wealth comes primarily from Seinfeld’s syndication profits. Seinfeld and David negotiated for equal 15% cuts on all profits generated by the sitcom, which launched into cable and foreign distribution with a $1.7 billion deal in 1998 and has remained in high demand ever since. In 2021, Netflix spent an estimated $500 million to bring the show to its streaming service for five years. All told, Forbes estimates both Seinfeld and David have made well over $400 million from the series, which ran for nine seasons.

However, David’s wealth was halved in 2007 after his divorce from Laurie David, a producer who helped bring the Oscar-winning documentary An Inconvenient Truth to the big screen and who has since raised millions of dollars for climate change causes. If David’s divorce followed California’s 50-50 community property laws, Laurie would also be entitled to half of David’s stake in Seinfeld’s ongoing profits and half of the Curb brand, though fees for seasons created after their separation could be listed as separate property.

In interviews over the past decades, David has continually deflected attempts to pin down how much money he has made in his television career. In 1998, David told Forbes it was “gauche” to publish his earnings from the first syndication deal. In a 2015 interview with Charlie Rose, David scoffed at the suggestion that he had made $500 million from the sitcom. Using similar language from his exchange with Wallace, David told Rose to “mind your own goddamn business!”

Yet the topic remains of public interest, in part because so many plot lines of Curb Your Enthusiasm revolve around David’s relationship to money. It’s hard for many to imagine a centimillionaire having his day ruined over a bad cup of $1 lemonade from a child’s stand, as happened in a Curb episode from Season 7.

“I don’t have anything near what I’m reputed to have,” David told Rolling Stone in 2011. My wife got half of it, the whole thing is ridiculous, and yet people are obsessed with the fact that I’ve made millions of dollars from syndication. It comes down to, 'Jerry deserves it, he starred in it, you got lucky!'… It doesn't suit me, that's why, it's uncharacteristic for a person with my personality to have it, that's what's askew, right? Something's off, and I agree with you. I shouldn't! It's an anomaly!”

Since his sitcom ended in 1998, Seinfeld has remained an active touring comic for much of the last 20 years, selling out arenas and earning millions on a consistent basis. His low-budget talk show Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee became a hit on Crackle, and was eventually purchased by Netflix in a megadeal that licensed the existing catalog, ordered new episodes and commissioned a pair of stand-up specials. In 2017, Forbes estimated that Seinfeld received $500,000 for each episode of Comedians in Cars from Crackle and that the number likely rose when it moved to Netflix.

Meanwhile, David’s approach to Curb Your Enthusiasm has been more leisurely. He has taken multi-year breaks between seasons and even filmed an unaired death scene for his character in a previous attempt to end the show.

At the same time, HBO has given David the creative freedom to work when and how he chooses, and given the streamer’s limitations on traditional syndication, Forbes estimates David could earn as much as $1 million per episode during this final season. “Whatever deal he has is probably not like any other deal they have,” says one prominent TV agent. “HBO will be sad to see him go.”

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Why Larry David Is Worth Less Than Half Of Billionaire Jerry Seinfeld (2024)
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