Stan Lee, whose real name is Stanley Martin Lieber, was born to Jewish immigrants from Romania. Lee grew up during the Great Depression and witnessed his parents struggle to put food on the table. His work ethic and down to earth personality can likely be attributed to his humble upbringing.
“I saw my parents struggling to pay the rent. My father was always unemployed, and when he did have a job, he was a dress cutter. Not very much money there,” he recalled during a 2014 interview with Playboy.
In the interview, Lee explained how he got started in the comic industry in 1939 after his uncle helped him get an assistant job at Timely Comics. The owner, Martin Goodman, later renamed the company to Marvel. When Lee was only 18-years-old, he helped write for Captain America and was soon named as Marvel’s editor. He remained editor until 1972. During the 1960’s, he worked with iconic artists such as Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko to develop superheroes such as The X-Men, Spider Man, The Fantastic Four, and The Hulk.
In 2005, The Guardian reported that Marvel paid Lee an annual salary of $1 million per year. In 2000, he sued Marvel for failing to pay him a percentage of the profits from the television and film spin-offs of Spider Man. Lee said the company had breached their contract, which entitled him to 10% of the profits. In 2005, a judge ruled in Lee’s favor, earning him tens of millions of dollars. The Independent reported that he ultimately received a one-time payment of $10 million and a $1 million annual salary for the rest of his life. The settlement would end up costing Lee a sizable fortune, since he traded his percentage ownership for the one-time payment.
“Since I am deeply fond of Marvel and the people there, I sincerely regret the situation had to come to this,” Lee said in a statement after the lawsuit. He remained with the company as its “chairman emeritus.”
In the 2014 interview with Playboy, Lee said Marvel and Martin Goodman, who passed away in 1992, had always been fair to him.
“I was happy enough to get a nice paycheck and be treated well,” he said. “I always got the highest rate; whatever Martin paid another writer, I got at least that much. It was a very good job. I was able to buy a house on Long Island.”
In 2009 when Disney acquired Marvel Entertainment for $4 billion, according to the Hollywood Reporter, Lee didn’t make anything from the sale. He explained that he had traded away his percentage of the movie profits for the $10 million settlement, saying “I was stupid in a business way. I should have been greedier.”
Lee said that after the sale to Disney, his daughter stumbled across an article which said he was worth $250 million.
“My daughter was looking at the internet the other day and read that Stan Lee has an estimated $250 million,” Lee told Playboy in 2014:
“I mean, that’s ridiculous! I don’t have $200 million. I don’t have $150 million. I don’t have $100 million or anywhere near that. I never dreamed I should have $100 million or $250 million or whatever that crazy number is. All I know is I created a lot of characters and enjoyed the work I did.”
Lee won a number of awards for his amazing career in the comic industry. In 1994, he was inducted into the Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame and the Jack Kirby Hall of Fame in 1995. In 2008, The Washington Post reported that Lee received the National Media of Arts, the highest government award for creative artists. He also has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in front of the Live Nation Building on Hollywood Boulevard in 2011.
More money, more problems.
In 2018, Lee sued his former business manager Jerardo Olivarez, alleging him of fraud, financial abuse of an elder, conversion and misappropriation of his name and likeness, The LA Times reported. The lawsuit also accused Olivarez and other “unscrupulous businessmen, sycophants and opportunists” of trying to take advantage of him after his wife died. The suit claimed that Olivarez manipulated Lee into firing his banker and longtime lawyer and signing a power of attorney to gain control of Lee’s assets. The suit said that he stole near $1.4 million from Lee’s accounts “through a series of complicated wire transfers.” The lawsuit also alleged that Olivarez orchestrated a scheme to steal Lee’s blood and sell it as a “merchandising item”.
Stan Lee’s Net Worth is estimated to be $50 million according to CelebrityNetworth.com. Lee passed away at the age of 95 on November 12, 2018.
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