15. Jeff Skoll

Founder of Participant Media

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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