Remembering Norman Lear — The Net Worth and Legacy of a Comedy Maestro

Jamie Lerner - Author

Dec. 6 2023, Published 12:21 p.m. ET

Norman Lear
Source: Getty Images

The Gist:

  • Comedy legend Norman Lear, creator of All in the Family, passed away at 101, leaving behind a rich legacy in television and entertainment.

  • With a net worth over $200 million, Lear's financial success came from iconic sitcoms, films, and strategic real estate deals, despite a significant divorce settlement.

  • A lifelong philanthropist, Lear supported causes like People for the American Way, with representatives suggesting donations to the organization instead of flowers in his memory.

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On Dec. 5, 2023, the world lost a comedic legend in Norman Lear. Norman was famous for creating the American sitcom All in the Family, but his career spanned far beyond the Emmy-winning series. Since the 1950s, Norman was creating comedy with one rule in mind: “Make ‘em laugh.”

He created multiple television shows, plays, comedic acts, and documentaries, and in his later years, he even wrote a book and hosted a podcast. He died at 101 years old, so he lived a long and full life, but what was his cause of death? And what was his net worth when he died?

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Norman Lear
Source: Getty Images

Norman Lear had an estimated net worth of over $200 million.

As one of the world’s most prolific comedy writers, it’s no surprise that his net worth extended beyond hundreds of millions of dollars. When he first got started after he fought with the U.S. Air Force in WWII, he joined forces with his cousin’s husband, Ed Simmons.

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The pair got their big break writing for Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, earning a whopping $52,000 each for writing three of the comedic duo’s specials. That’s equivalent to $500,000 today, so that’s definitely not nothing. After that, Norman’s career skyrocketed as he wrote for various theatrical films. By the late 1960s, he pitched All in the Family, securing his spot in the Hollywood Hall of Fame.

Norman Lear

Screenwriter and producer

Net worth: $200 million

Norman Lear was a screenwriter and producer famous for creating All in the Family and Sanford and Son. Throughout his storied career, he won six Emmys, two Peabody Awards, the National Medal of the Arts, the Kennedy Center Honors, and the Golden Globe Carol Burnett Award.

Birth name: Norman Milton Lear

Birthdate: July 27, 1992

Birthplace: New Haven, Conn.

Date of death: Dec. 5, 2023

Mother: Jeanette Lear (née Seicol)

Father: Hyman "Herman" Lear

Spouse: Charlotte Rosen (m. 1943–unknown), Frances Loeb (m. 1956–1986), Lyn Lear (née Davis) (m. 1987)

Children: Ellen Lear (b. 1947), Kate Lear (b. 1957), Maggie Lear (b. 1959), Ben Lear (b. 1988), Madelaine and Brianna Lear (b. 1994)

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All in the Family was the first sitcom to film in front of a live audience, and it was one of the first television shows to combine humor with elements of controversial societal issues, such as homophobia, racism, sexual assault, and more. It spawned over six spin-off series, including The Jeffersons and 704 Hauser.

Simultaneously, Norman and his production company, Tandem, produced Sanford and Son, which was another award-winning sitcom. Norman produced hit after hit until his later years when he later hosted the podcast, All of the Above with Norman Lear and published his memoir, Even This I Get to Experience.

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Norman and Lyn Lear
Source: Getty Images

But he amassed wealth through other means, as well. He and Jerry Perenchio bought and sold Avco Embassy Pictures in 1982 and 1985, respectively, for $485 million in Coca-Cola shares. Adjusted for inflation, their earnings were about $600 million each. And he was offered $55 million for his Los Angeles estate in 2015 after some renovations.

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Of course, in his divorce settlement from Frances Lear after 28 years of marriage, he lost $112 million. But the money went to a good cause—Frances founded the feminist magazine, Lear’s, for women over 40.

Norman Lear’s cause of death is believed to be natural causes.

101 years old is a pretty long life — Norman lived through the aftermath of WWI, the Holocaust and WWII, the Cold War, and other more recent historical events. But even the funniest and most beloved people must die at some point, so it was just his time to go. However, he did live through his 100th birthday, when he was celebrated with various television specials.

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Norman Lear, Hillary Clinton, Diane Sawyer
Source: Getty Images

Throughout his life, he worked with various causes and used his net worth for good. He founded People for the American Way to defend First Amendment rights, Business Enterprise Trust to encourage integrity in American businesses, and Declare Yourself to encourage young people to vote. Survived by his third wife, Lyn Davis, six children, and four grandchildren, Norman’s representatives encourage donations to People for the American Way instead of flowers.

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