Meet Millionaire Entertainment CEO Byron Allen
One of the most successful men in Hollywood is someone you probably never heard of — unless you were a fan of TV's "Real People" in the late 1970s. (Hint: He was a host.)
Byron Allen has gone from being an under-the-radar comedian to being a Hollywood power player as the head of one of the largest privately held media companies in the world. Here's a look at how the CEO came to be.
He Has a Personal Net Worth of $800 Million
Byron Allen's humble comedy beginnings led to him being a major behind-the-scenes Hollywood power player. His companies have grown by leaps and bounds in the past three decades.
With a $4.5 billion valuation, his company is the largest privately held media company in the country and one of the largest in the world. Allen's personal net worth has doubled from $400 million to $800 million in the past decade alone.
Allen Had an Interest in Entertainment from an Early Age
Byron Allen was born in Detroit, Michigan, in 1961. When he was still a child, he and his family moved to Los Angeles, where his mother found work as an NBC Studios publicist.
Allen would sometimes accompany her to the office and soon found his calling. He wanted to work in the entertainment industry. He said, "I fell in love with television. The art of making television and the business of making television and being a comedian."
He Got Help in Comedy from a 1970s Superstar
When he was just 14, Allen began strutting his comedy chops at clubs around L.A.
His act caught the attention of none other than Jimmie "JJ" Walker, who was at the peak of his fame through the sitcom "Good Times." Walker invited Allen to join his team of stand-up writers, which already included a young Jay Leno and David Letterman, who both went on to late-night TV fame.
He Made His TV Debut When He Was Just 18
That experience led to his TV debut on "The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson" one week before his high school graduation. He was the youngest stand-up comedian to appear on the show and still holds that record today.
After that appearance, Hollywood came calling, and the young comic received plenty of offers, but he decided to go with "Real People," one of the first reality entertainment shows ever made. It ran from 1979 to 1984.
During that time, Allen continued his stand-up but started to cast his eye on the business side of the industry.
Allen Starting Producing His Own TV Shows
Allen hosted various shows throughout the 1980s and "learned how to sell television shows directly to TV stations." He created a once-a-week, one-hour show where he interviewed movie stars about their projects and called it "Entertainers With Byron Allen."
He contacted stations around the country, asking them to buy the show and got about 150 stations to take it on. It still airs in most major markets 30 years later.
He Founded Entertainment Studios in 1993
Allen's company, Entertainment Studios, initially made low-cost, syndicated non-fiction shows when it started in 1993, but in 2012, the company began producing original scripted programming with the sitcoms "Mr. Box Office" and "The First Family."
In 2015, Entertainment Studios purchased the film company Freestyle Releasing. Freestyle's first release, 2018's "47 Meters Down," made $44 million at the box office.
He Purchased the Weather Channel — in Cash
In 2018, he made his biggest acquisition yet — the Weather Channel. Allen's was an all-cash offer of $310 million. In a lifetime of firsts, he is the first Black American to own a 24-hour cable news network.
He said his purchase is meant to help keep people informed: "The Weather Channel had a way of making sure that they didn’t offend folks, and they would never talk about climate change and global warming because there were some people who said it wasn’t happening, and some people said it was happening. I’m going to go with the scientists because people don’t truly understand that climate change and global warming are the greatest threats to human beings on planet Earth. We have to inform folks, so we can help save their lives. I mean, it actually means you’re going to die."
He Launched His Own HD Networks
Sometime in the early 2000s, Allen discovered Verizon was investing $20 billion in 150 high-definition channels. He told the company he wanted to launch 10 channels through that deal. While he didn't get all 10, he did get six and launched them all simultaneously in 2009.
Currently, he owns more than 10 channels serving nearly 220 million subscribers — Pets.TV, Comedy.TV, Recipe.TV, Cars.TV, ES.TV, MyDestination.TV, JusticeCentral.TV, This.TV, LocalNow.TV and PATTRN.
In 2016, Allen's company also purchased TheGrio, a news website for the African American community.
He Recently Purchased 21 Fox Regional Sports Networks
In 2019, Allen, in conjunction with Sinclair Broadcasting, continued the growth of his media empire with the addition of 21 Fox Regional Sports Networks in a $10.6 billion acquisition deal.
He outbid other high-profile bidders, such as Ice Cube who had financial backing from A-list figures, including Magic Johnson, LL Cool J and Serena Williams.
He Recently Made History with a Malibu Real Estate Purchase
At the end of 2022, Allen purchased a Malibu property for $100 million. It is, thus far, the most expensive home purchased by African American buyer in the country.
At just over 10,000 square feet on 3.6 acres, the beachfront property features eight bedrooms and 12 bathrooms.
Allen also owns a Beverly Hills mansion, an Aspen mansion, oceanfront property in Maui and an apartment overlooking Central Park in Manhattan.
His real estate portfolio is valued at nearly $200 million.