Gary Barber is the former MGM executive who got ousted from the entertainment giant in controversial circumstances in 2018. Since then, he's bounced back to re-form Spyglass Media Group, an American film production company first launched under the banner of Spyglass Entertainment in 1998. A Hollywood mogul with a love for thoroughbred racehorses and a very impressive property portfolio, the 63-year-old South African-born Barber has proved you can't keep a good producer down for long. Find out more as we take you through 10 things you didn't know about Gary Barber.
1. He was born in South Africa
Barber was born in Johannesburg, South Africa, in 1957. After completing his education at King David School, Linksfield, he studied accounting at the University of the Witwatersrand. After graduating, he put his accounting degree to good use by working as an Accountant and Certified Public Accountant with Price Waterhouse.
2. He's been a US citizen since the mid-1980s
Had it not been for horses, Barber might still be working as an accountant in South Africa. In 1982, the lifetime racing devotee entered a completion to win a trip to the Arlington Million horse race in Illinois. He won. After becoming entranced with the US during his trip, he decided to pack up and move there permanently. Fortunately, he already had family ties to the country - his older brother Cecil had been living the American Dream since 1979. After finding the lifestyle suited him just as much as it did his brother, Barber decided to cement his commitment to his new home in the mid-1980s by applying for citizenship.
3. He's a thoroughbred racehorse owner
If there's one thing that Barber knows more about than films, it's thoroughbred racehorses. According to americasbestracing.net, Barber has owned horses both alone and in partnership with his brother Cecil. But this is no amateur hobby: over the past year alone, his earnings from racing amount to a hugely impressive $3,962,348. His lifetime earnings of $28,989,570 are even more impressive. Some of his most notable wins include the Breeders' Cup Mile in 2016, the Grade II Santa Catalina Stakes in 2006, the Lecomte Stakes and Risen Star Stakes in 2019, and the Queen's Plate in 2014. He also scored two Canadian classic races in 2018 with his filly, Wonder Gadot, who he named after "Wonder Woman" actress Gail Gadot.
4. He's an advocate for the Water Hay Oats Alliance
This year, Barber came out as the first major contender in thoroughbred racing to support the Water Hay Oats Alliance (WHOA), an organization that aims to clean up U.S sports racing. In a statement via paulickreport.com, Barber commented: “This is a critical time in our industry where we need to be united in our quest for uniformity and ensure a level playing field for all. I stand in solidarity with the Water Hay Oats Alliance in leading the charge for the passage of the Horseracing Integrity Act. It is vitally important for the health and safety of the horses and jockeys that we vocally show our collective support toward this urgent effort.”
5. He's the founder of Spyglass Entertainment
In 1996, Barber and his business associate Roger Birnbaum launched the LA-based production company, Spyglass Entertainment. They were bankrolled by Disney, who signed them up for a five-year distribution agreement in return for an equity stake. The first movie produced by the company was M. Night Shyamalan's 1999 runaway hit, "The Sixth Sense." The film ended up grossing $661 million at the box office worldwide.
6. He reversed MGM's fortunes
In 2010, both Barber and Birnbaum were appointed co-chairs and CEOS of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, a company that was just emerging from a very shaky few years that had pushed it to the verge of bankruptcy. Originally, it had been planned that Spyglass Entertainment's library would be added to MGM, but the plan was dropped shortly after. During Barber's tenure with MGM, he reinvigorated the previously struggling company with successes such as the billion-dollar hit "Skyfall" (2012), "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" (2012), "21 Jump Street" (2012), "Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters" (2013), "RoboCop" (2014), and "Poltergeist" (2015).
7. He was ousted from MGM in 2018
In November 2017, Barber signed a contract renewal with MGM that took him to 2022. Just 5 months later, he was out. According to sources at hollywoodreporter.com, MGM board chairman Kevin Ulrich believed that Barber "has done a good job of stabilizing the situation financially and getting the place downsized, but he is not creative. He's not the guy to take the place to the next level." In return for giving their ousted CEO his marching orders, MGM was forced to award Barber the very nice settlement package of $260 million.
8. He's produced over 50 films
Barber's history as a film producer stretches all the way back to 1988's "Midnight Crossing." Since then, he's been credited as a producer on over 50 feature films. Some of his most notable credits include "Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves" (1991), "Ace Ventura: Pet Detective" (1993), "The King and I" (1991), "Shanghai Noon" (2000), "Bruce Almighty" (2003), "Seabiscuit" (2003), "Evan Almighty" (2007), "Invictus" (2009), "The Tourist" (2010), "RoboCop" (2014), and "Glass" (2019).
9. He's made a killing on property
In 2003, Barber bought a two-story penthouse in Westwood for about $3.5 million. Earlier this year, he more than doubled his investment when he listed the property for $6.495 million. According to the LA Times, the property consists of 4300 square feet of space and boasts a two-story living room, a dining room, an office/den, and an eat-in kitchen with sliding doors that open to city views in two directions. The complex in which the apartment is housed boasts a library, wine storage, a heated lap pool, and an English garden. Even after losing the Westwood property, Barber's property portfolio is still significant. In 2018, he dropped $14 million on half-an-acre in Beverly Hills that, according to the listing, came with plans and permits for an 11,000 square foot villa. He also owns a spectacular oceanside property in the seaside town of La Jolla near San Diego.
10. He re-launched Spyglass Media Group in 2019
After MGM showed him the door, it didn't take Barber long to find his next project. In March 2019, he and Lantern Entertainment co-presidents Andy Mitchell and Milos Brajovic resurrected his old production company Spyglass Entertainment under the new moniker, Spyglass Media Group. Since its re-launch, the company has produced "Scream" and is currently working on numerous other hotly anticipated projects, including "Hellraiser", "Perfect Strangers", and "The Vow."
Written by Allen Lee
Read more posts by Allen Lee