15. Jeff Skoll

Founder of Participant Media

Oct 5, 2011
Outside
Outside Magazine

Bankrolls films that matter

Hollywood is squeamish when it comes to trying new things (for proof, see last summer’s Thor, The Green Hornet, and X-Men: First Class). So when a script comes along dealing with social issues or the environment, the man you want to get a meeting with is Jeff Skoll, 46, whose Participant Media funds the untouchable message movies the rest of Holly­wood laughs at. Skoll, the first president of eBay, made roughly $2 billion after cashing in his stock in the early 2000s. In 2004, the Ontario ­native launched Participant Media with a freshman slate of movies including Syriana, Murderball, North Country, and Good Night, and Good Luck, which combined garnered 11 Oscar nods. Follow-ups have included a few titles you might find familiar: An Inconvenient Truth; Food, Inc.; and The Cove, the graphic documentary about Japanese dolphin harvesting that won the 2010 Oscar for Best Documentary Feature. Skoll has dumped hundreds of millions into Participant and doesn’t ­expect it back. (His Skoll Foundation is equally generous, having given $168 million in grants to social entrepreneurs.) Participant recently optioned a story about the Deepwater ­Horizon spill, released this summer’s The Help, and is producing a film about Bobby Martinez, a gang member who went on to ­become a surfing world champ.

By the Numbers 35: films ­Participant Media has financed;
18: Oscar nominations those films have received

Second Opinion “To most of Hollywood, movies are ten dollars and a box of popcorn, but to Jeff Skoll they are a way to change the world,” says Louie Psihoyos, director of The Cove. “Hollywood thinks ‘butts in seats’—he thinks ‘minds in seats.’ ”

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