The Life & Career of Ryan Kavanaugh
(Photo : The Life & Career of Ryan Kavanaugh)

Ryan Kavanaugh has built one of the most successful careers of anyone in Hollywood.  However, you may have never heard his name; That's because Kavanaugh is not a celebrity actor, rather, as one of the biggest producers of blockbuster movies in the world, he is the man that hires those celebrity actors you know so well. Suffice I to say that the film industry is extremely competive, and building a successful career is tough... here's a bit about Kavanaugh's journey to the top...

Kavanaugh was born on December 4th, 1974 right in Los Angeles where he has continued to make a name for himself. His mother was a real estate broker, and his father was a dentist and businessman who emigrated from Poland with his parents at the age of 2 - his parents (Kavanaugh's grandparents) were holocaust survivors who arrived in America with exactly  $10 to their name after spending 5 years in Nazi death camps. A rough start for any family. But, it was this lesson of "fight for what is right" that Kavanaugh was brought up with which helped him realize much of his success.

He is a Southern California guy through and through as he would go on to attend UCLA. With two smart and successful parents and a college degree, Kavanaugh then set out to build his own career and make a name for himself. As we sit here in 2020, it is not a leap to say that he has done that successfully. Even with all of his success at the young age of 45, Ryan Kavanaugh's career is proof that he is not one to rest on his laurels. 

Today, we are taking a look at the journey of Ryan Kavanaugh's career and what lies on the horizon for him going forward. His life to this point can serve as a blueprint for other young professionals looking to break into film production, film financing, or just in business in general. 

The Beginning of Ryan Kavanaugh's Career

 The Life & Career of Ryan Kavanaugh

His story was not an overnight rise to fame and success, although his eventual achievements came at a much younger age than most. Fresh out of college, he cut his teeth in the financial industry where he learned valuable lessons and skills that would go on to serve him well in his professional and personal life. At this time in his career, he founded and operated a small venture capital firm that won backing by Hollywood A-listers such as Jerry Bruckheimer, Michael J. Fox, Brian Grazer, Chuck Roven, Terry Semel, kirk Kerkorian, Jon Peters any many others.  He was one of the first few to focus on Technology, Fintech and Biotech.

One of his first investments was in Noventus, a fintech/payment technology platform (akin to PayPal) that recently sold for nearly $400 million (USD), and another was in a medical technology company named Juno that sold for nearly 80 times the original investor stake at $2.4 Billion (USD).

For those of you who aren't familiar with this type of business, venture capital (VC) firms make their money by investing in start-up companies and making a return on them. For a guy who would go on to become a film financier, you can see how learning how to scout good investment opportunities was a valuable skill set that would serve him later on.

Making the Jump to the Film Industry and the Founding of Relativity Media

The shrewd financial mind of Ryan Kavanaugh would become part of the foundation that would make himself and his companies successful. After his stint in the VC world, he now turned his attention to the entertainment industry by forming Relativity Media. The main goal of Relativity Media was to take a more mathematical approach to film financing which has been dubbed the money ball approach to investing. The company was launched at a time when studios were cutting budgets on anything that wasn't a superhero blockbuster, and here, Kavanaugh had forged a new path for films to get made.

We'll pause here for a quick moment to explain this reference as I am aware that not all of you will immediately get it. Money ball is a term that was coined for the famous new approach to team building by the general manager of the Major League Baseball Team the Oakland Athletics, Billy Beane. For those not familiar with baseball, there is a tough financial disparity between the wealthy and the less wealthy teams. In a league with no Salary Cap, teams like the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox could spend far more than a team like the Oakland Athletics. Beane's strategy was based on the idea that four singles were as good as a homerun. His approach was all about finding value, and it was this same approach that Ryan Kavanaugh would make famous in the film world. He wasn't looking for the home run, he just wanted to get and stack up base hits.

With this vision at the heart of Relativity Media, Ryan Kavanaugh would go on to create "the model" which is a computer and algorithm model that would predict the chances of success for movies. This model would go on to help Relativity Media produce over 200 films which would result in generating over $17 billion at the box office all around the globe. These films would also have a tremendous amount of success as they would go on to tally over 60 Oscar Nominations. By 2011, Relativity is believed to have been approximately half the size of Universal, and was outperforming Lionsgate at the box office; the company was valued at more than $2 Billion (USD).

During this time, Ryan Kavanaugh would also broker or be apart of some major financial and business deals. These would include being a key figure in an innovative finance deal for Marvel Studios that allowed them to create the Marvel Cinematic Universe. He would also work on major deals with other entertainment powerhouses like Sony, Universal, and Warner Brothers. Additionally, he would purchase assets like acquiring the marketing and distribution arms of Overture Films which was a part of John Malone's Liberty Media/Starz. He also was a part of major deals with Netflix, Virgin Mobile, and Clear Channel Radio. 

Ryan Kavanaugh Career Achievements 

 The Life & Career of Ryan Kavanaugh
(Photo : The Life & Career of Ryan Kavanaugh)

At this point, it should be more than evident that Kavanaugh has built a reputation as a very smart and savvy investor. This is clear through the success and major deals he's been apart of. Let's now take a few moments and look at the list of the films he's produced and financed as well as some of the more notable achievements in his career. 

I think a good place start here is to look at the films that he has had a hand in getting made. Most of us are fans of movies in some way, shape, or form, and Ryan Kavanaugh has an impressive resume in this arena. Here's a list of some of the most successful movies he has been apart of (in no specific order). 

  • 300

  • Fast &Furious #3-7

  • Talladega Nights

  • Meet the Fockers

  • The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo 

  • Mamma Mia!

  • The Social Network 

  • Limitless

  • The Fighter

  • 3:10 to Yuma

  • Grown Ups

  • Dear John

  • Immortals

  • Safe Haven

  • Brothers

  • Death Race

  • Zombie Land

  • Limitless

You do not have to be a movie savant or film buff to understand that this is quite the impressive lineup of movies to be a part of. However, the highlights of his resume do not stop here. Kavanaugh is also known for launching a sports agency in 2008 which later became the 2nd largest in the United States, and a television company in 2009 which later became one of the largest non-scripted television production companies in the world. Now let's look at the awards and big achievements of his career.

For a guy who is often behind the scenes of one of the world's most famous industries, Kavanaugh has still found himself in the headlines at times. His biggest achievements to date include; winning Producer of the Year at the 2009 Annual Hollywood Awards Gala, winning the Leadership Award in 2010 from the Hollywood Reporter, being named on Forbes 40 under 40 Most Influential People in Business in 2010, named Variety's Showman of the Year in 2011, and dubbed by Hollywood Reporter as the first "Billion Dollar Producer" shortly after. You could certainly say that Kavanaugh's "non-conformity" in his approach to business has served him well.

Ryan Kavanaugh Charity

On top of a busy list of companies to run, Kavanaugh still finds time for active participation in charities, including: The Art of Elysium, the Sheriff's Youth Foundation in Los Angeles, and the Anti-Defamation League. He also served as a Member of the Board at Cedar Sinai. His efforts and financial contributions add up to over $100 million (USD) raised for various charities.


Ryan Kavanaugh Today

For a guy who has achieved so much already, he could easily take his foot off of the gas, but he only knows one gear, full speed. Relativity Media filed bankruptcy in 2015 and he stepped down as CEO and moved on to the next step in his career. 

Currently, he is the Principal of Proxima and he has continued to have his hand in a lot of business dealings. He has continued to be involved in investing and founding various businesses but some of note include Critical Content a television company that he built and sold, and Independent Sports & Entertainment which is a sports agency that he built up to the second largest in the US.

A Career to Emulate

The Ryan Kavanaugh story is a testament to the idea that taking a calculated approach to investing and your career can be a successful formula. Across the board, Ryan Kavanaugh has continued to build his portfolio on finding smart investments where he can make money. As the old adage goes, you never go break making a profit. This is a wonderful lesson for our lives both personal and professional. For those looking for inspiration and models to follow in their careers, Ryan Kavanaugh is an exceptional example to look at.

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