Director Bong Joon-Ho with Kang-Ho Song, winner of the Palme d'Or award for his film "Parasite". The film also one Best Film and Director at this year's Oscars

The family capital behind the Oscars standout film in 2020 – and how it’s cosying up to other families


Family capital often underpins deals in the showbiz industry and the decision of CJ Group to invest in David Ellison’s Skydance Media is no exception.

CJ is familiar to cinema visitors as owner of the Korean production company behind Parasite, voted best picture at the Oscars this year. Originally a Samsung company, CJ was spun off in 1993: its original name was Chiel Jedang, or “first sugar manufacture” in English. 

You need to be exceptionally gifted, or lucky, to succeed in the entertainment sector, helping to explain why so much wealth is bestowed on so few, as others fall by the wayside

In recent years, CJ has seen global expansion in several sectors led by food, pharmaceuticals, home shopping and entertainment. 

The Lee family, which founded Samsung and runs CJ, is said to be worth $41 billion. CJ is chaired by Lee Jay-hyun,  who is worth $1.3 billion, according to Forbes. He served a short jail sentence for tax evasion in 2014 but he was pardoned by the Korean president and returned to his post in 2017. His son and daughter are viewed as his successors.

Sister Miky Lee runs CJ’s entertainments side. As well as a godmother to the Korean movie industry, Miky Lee is a keen promoter of K-pop music for CJ. 

It bought a 5% stake in DreamWorks film group in 1995, sold to Paramount in 2006. Building on the success of Parasite, Miky Lee aims to bring Korean movies, television and games to the attention of the world. 

Following its Oscar win, CJ has joined a $275 million syndicate backing Skydance Media, known for rebooting a wide range of film franchises such as Terminator and Mission Impossible. 

Skydance is growing fast in television, animation and games. Virtual reality is part of the prospective mix.

Skydance’s chief executive is David Ellison, son of Larry Ellison, worth $69 billion, and his third wife Barbara. Larry Ellison is a multi-billionaire and co-founder of computer technology group Oracle Corporation. He provided early finance, and contracts, for his son. 

Daughter Megan has worked on films with her brother, but runs an independent film company called Annapurna Pictures.

CJ has invested in Skydance with RedBird Capital Partners, led by former Goldman Sachs partner Gerald Cardinale. Seeking to emulate family offices, RedBird sets out to be a long-term and fair investor in growth companies. His head of entrepreneur and family office partnerships is Elizabeth Browne, who oversaw external relations for DNS Capital, the family office for Michael Pucker and Gigi Pritzker.

Cardinale brings sports contacts to the syndicate. He helped develop the Yes Network, the US sports TV network, now in partnership with George Steinbrenner’s Yankee Global Enterprises, Amazon, Blackstone, Sinclair Broadcast Group and Mubadala Capital. A RedBird company advises athletes on their brand potential.

In 2018, Skydance also secured $100 million in equity finance from Tencent of China, whose founder, Ma Huateng, also known as Pony Ma, is worth $46.7 billion, according to Forbes. 

Tencent has a broad sweep of businesses, but it is best known for its computer games, avatars and instant messaging.

Of the latest deal, Min Heoi Heo, chief executive of CJ’s media business says: “With partners who share our vision, together, we will create exceptional content to define the next chapter of the entertainment industry.”

You need to be exceptionally gifted, or lucky, to succeed in the entertainment sector, helping to explain why so much wealth is bestowed on so few, as others fall by the wayside.  

Political opposition to global technological expansion – particularly as far as the relations between the US and China are concerned – could throw spanners in the works.

But the rewards for success are huge. And it is easy to see the sector’s potential to grow faster, as streaming and sport enter the matrix.

Which explains why so many billionaires are so keen to turn the dreams of their next-generation into virtual reality.


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