Sure, George Lucas may not technically own Lucasfilm anymore. He did sell it to Disney, after all. Notwithstanding, the franchise he launched in 1977 continues to make the father of Star Wars a very, very rich man. In fact, just two decisions that Lucas made with respect to the franchise have led to a net worth of over ten billion dollars. So how, exactly, did he turn a science fiction movie no one wanted at first into a multi-billion dollar industry in and of itself?

Rise of Skywalker; Star Wars; George Lucas
The opening crawl that started it all. (Image: Lucasfilm Ltd.)

The first step to becoming one of the world’s billionaires took place well over four decades ago. In order to get the studio to green-light Star Wars, George Lucas proposed an alternative payment structure. Instead of taking the full salary to which he was entitled, he took a reduced cash salary and two means of deferred compensation. The first? He retained the rights to all merchandising related to the franchise. Secondly, he retained the rights to all sequels. Star Wars, of course, when on to become an international sensation. The revenue Lucas earned from those two things alone made him a billionaire. His net worth grew exponentially when he sold Lucasfilm to Disney.

George Lucas: a Star Wars and Disney Billionaire

George Lucas; Star Wars; Disney
George Lucas and Then-Disney CEO Bob Iger sign the deal for the Lucasfilm purchase. (Image: Disney)

It’s common knowledge that Lucas sold Lucasfilm to Disney for a whopping four billion dollars in the winter of 2012. What many don’t know is that he didn’t take that all in lump-sum cash. George Lucas accepted a little over $2 billion in cash and took the rest of the consideration in Disney shares. 37,076,679 shares, to be exact. Now consider this: It took Disney a scant six years to recoup the Star Wars investment and turn a profit on the purchase. Factor in the success it’s had owning the Marvel franchise, plus Star Wars, and now Fox….

George Lucas

As we learned just this morning in a press release from Trading Platforms, the Walt Disney Company, “Disney recorded assets of close to $201B in 2020, the first time it broke the $200B mark and the only media company to do so.” Not a bad company in which to own over 37 million shares. In today’s dollars, the stake George Lucas owns in Disney helps him top out his net worth at around $10 billion. As it turns out, Lucas isn’t just a creative genius. He’s a financial one, as well.

[UPDATE] We’re starting to see comments that Lucas sold his Disney shares back in 2013 and that he no longer owns any stake in the company. That’s not the case. What he did was file a notice with the SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission) regarding a simple transfer of the assets into trust. Lucas continues to control the entirety of the shares he received in 2012.]