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Katzenberg Strengthens Grip on DreamWorks

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DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffry Katzenberg (Photo credit: David Shankbone)Flexes Muscles in Liberal Politics, Philanthropy

DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg has strengthened his control of the studio after David Geffen converted his stock to shares that carry less voting power, the studio revealed in filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Geffen has converted three million Class B shares into Class A stock, the studio said. “All of the shares of Class B common stock, which represent approximately 61 percent of the company’s total voting power, are held by Jeffrey Katzenberg and entities controlled by him,” the studio said in a regulatory filing. It didn’t specify how much Class A stock he holds.

Founded in 1994 by Katzenberg, Steven Spielberg, and David Geffen, DreamWorks Studios has been responsible for such hit films as Best Picture Oscar Winners American Beauty and Gladiator, Woody Allen’s Small Time Crooks, Match Point, and Curse of the Jade Scorpion, and the Shrek and Kung Fu Panda series. It launched DreamWorks Animation in 2004 and has had a rocky stock ride. Some analysts complain that its business is not diversified and that its animated films are at the mercy of a declining home entertainment market.

Like most of his Hollywood ilk, Katzenberg is a staunch supporter of the Democratic Party. Just last week he hosted both former President Bill Clinton and President Barack Obama at his Beverly Hills home for a private meeting with 12 deep-pocketed Democratic donors. In addition to being one of Obama’s key campaign fundraisers, Katzenberg personally contributed $2 million in seed money last year to Priorities USA, an organization that, according to its Web site, is “at the forefront of efforts to draw clear contrasts between progressive policies and those of the far right.”

In addition to his political donations, Katzenberg, 61, is a longtime philanthropist who has helped raise more than $200 million for the Motion Picture and Television Fund, which provides financial assistance, healthcare, and social services to members of the entertainment community. He also sits on the boards or serves as a trustee of AIDS Project Los Angeles, the American Museum of the Moving Image, the California Institute of the Arts, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, the Geffen Playhouse, the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research, the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts, and the Simon Wiesenthal Center. He has an estimated worth of $800 million according to Forbes.

Katzenberg will be feted with an honorary Oscar next month. The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences will bestow Katzenberg with the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, an honor given for an individual’s outstanding contributions to humanitarian causes. Past Jewish Hersholt winners include Samuel Goldwyn, Lew Wasserman, Danny Kaye, Arthur Hiller, and Jerry Lewis.

Prior to co-founding DreamWorks, Katzenberg was best known for his period as chairman of The Walt Disney Studios when Disney produced some of its biggest hits, including The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and The Lion King.

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