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In an era of Netflix binging and 1,000-plus channels, it’s easy to forget there was a time when TV was limited to a handful of networks. Options for entertainment were slim, but at least viewers had Norman Lear dominating their screens. His sitcoms broke ground by simultaneously bringing laughs and addressing then-taboo topics. So whatever happened to the TV vanguard? In February, Lear received the Carol Burnett Award at the Golden Globes for his contributions to the medium. And he’s not done yet. Read about the project he’s working on today, and find out Norman Lear’s net worth now after his decades of working in show business.
Norman Lear Is A Television Legend
Lear, a former Air Force pilot who served in World War II, began his entertainment career writing comedy sketches for variety shows in the 1950s. But his breakthrough came in 1971 when CBS picked up his working-class sitcom All in the Family. His success snowballed from there—Sanford and Son, Maude, The Jeffersons, One Day at a Time, and Good Times were all hit shows that followed.
Lear’s success boiled down to his fearless risk-taking. His programs often examined serious social issues without sacrificing laughs. Prior to All in the Family, no other sitcom dared look at racism, homosexuality, economic inequality, sexual abuse, or the women’s liberation movement. Lear managed to tackle them all in a single series. He cleverly shed light on controversial topics through ignorant characters like Archie Bunker.
And viewers were there for it. All in the Family was number one in the Nielsen ratings for five years. Sanford and Son also did exceptionally well, ranking in the Nielsen top ten for five seasons. The series made Lear a pioneer for Black sitcoms.
He also has countless accolades for his visionary work. To date, Lear has six Emmys, two Peabody Awards, a National Medal of Arts, and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
And his iconic characters endure. In 2019, ABC aired live revivals of All in the Family (starring Woody Harrelson and Marissa Tomei) and The Jeffersons (with Jamie Foxx and Wanda Sykes). And from 2017-2020, a three-season reboot of One Day at a Time aired on Netflix.
Ever the proud progressive, Lear is not married to the past. He is currently partnering with Seth MacFarlane and basketball star Steph Curry to reinvent Good Times for a modern audience. The show, coming to Netflix (release date TBD), will be an animated production.
He’s Closing In On His 100th Birthday
Lear, a living legend, will turn 100 on July 27. Of making it to his 99th birthday in 2021, he told People that humor was the secret to his longevity.
“The laughter I’ve enjoyed most is laughter that has brought numbers of us together,” he said.
He told the outlet he knew “from the history of humankind that there’s no such thing as ageless.” But he added, “I’m sure laughter has added time to my life as a result of the way it has satisfied every part of me.”
When Lear received the Carol Burnett Award at this year’s Golden Globes, he reiterated the point.
“At close to 99, I can tell you that I’ve never lived alone, I’ve never laughed alone and that has as much to do with my being here today as anything else I know,” he said in his acceptance speech.
He Was Ordered To Pay Millions To His Ex-Wife In The 80s
Lear was a success in the entertainment industry, but his personal life has admittedly been a little messier. The three-time husband met his first wife, Charlotte Rosen, in 1939 when he was 17. They were married from 1943 until 1947, and they had a daughter named Ellen. But the relationship fell apart when Lear moved from Los Angeles to New York for better career opportunities.
In 1956, he married his second wife, Frances. The union lasted an incredible 30 years, but it didn’t end well. According to a New York Times obituary, “she had felt constantly ignored and undervalued, had had little self-esteem and had often been depressed.” She received between $100 million and $112 million in their divorce settlement, which was one of the highest figures ever recorded at the time.
It seems the third time was the charm. Lear married his current wife Lyn in 1987. The couple has three children: Brianna, Madelaine, and Benjamin. (Lear also has two older daughters, Maggie and Kate, from his marriage to Frances.)
“He’s the last of the real romantics,” Lyn told Closer in March. “Every morning, he wants to have a kiss when I wake up. It’s a nice way to start the day.”
What’s Norman Lear’s Net Worth Today?
Despite losing a nine-figure sum in his second divorce Lear has an astounding estimated net worth of $200 million.
We are sure Lear’s career as a producer and writer has been lucrative. However, he hit pay dirt in 1985 when he and his business partner sold their production company Embassy Communications to Coca-Cola for $485 million in cash and stock. The deal included syndication rights to a number of his series, such as One Day at a Time and The Jeffersons.
Lear has found creative ways to spend that money. In 2000, he paid $8.14 million for a 1776 copy of the Declaration of Independence. He then set off on The Declaration of Independence Road Trip—a three-and-a-half-year tour meant to inspire people to participate in civic life.
However, Lear has struggled to make money on his lavish home. In 2020, he dropped the price on his Brentwood estate from $55 million to $35 million. We’re not too worried about his bottom line, though—he paid $6.5 million for the place in 1988, so he’ll probably still make a hefty profit when it finally sells.