Jeffrey Skoll

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Jeffrey Skoll

Jeff Skoll 2013 (5576999744).jpg
Skoll in 2013
Born (1965-01-16) January 16, 1965 (age 56)
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Alma materUniversity of Toronto
Stanford University
  • President of eBay (1996–1998)
  • Founder and chairman of Participant Media
  • Founder and chairman of the Skoll Foundation
Stephanie Swedlove
(m. 2014; div. 2019)
Partner(s)US$6.1 billion (March 2021)[1]

Jeffrey Stuart Skoll, OC (born January 16, 1965)[2] is a Canadian engineer, billionaire internet entrepreneur and film producer. He was the first president of eBay, eventually using the wealth this gave him to become a philanthropist, particularly through the Skoll Foundation, and his media company Participant Media. He founded an investment firm, Capricorn Investment Group, soon after and currently serves as its chairman. Born in Montreal, Quebec, he graduated from University of Toronto in 1987 and left Canada to attend Stanford University's business school in 1993.

Shortly after graduating from business school, he began his career at eBay where he wrote the business plan that the company followed from its emergence as a start-up to a larger company. While at the company, he began the eBay Foundation which was allocated pre-IPO stock now worth $32 million. Once eBay's second largest stockholder, behind Omidyar, he subsequently cashed out a portion of his company holdings, yielding him around $2 billion.[3][4] With an estimated net worth of US$4 billion (as of December 2016), Skoll was ranked by Forbes as the 7th wealthiest Canadian and 134th in the United States.[5]

Through his film production company, Participant Media–of which he is founder, owner, and chairman–he has produced numerous critically acclaimed films. His first films Syriana (2005), Good Night, and Good Luck (2005), and North Country (2005), along with the documentary Murderball (2005), accounted for 11 Oscar nominations in 2006. His subsequent films have included An Inconvenient Truth (2006), Fast Food Nation (2006), The World According to Sesame Street (2006), Waiting for "Superman" (2010), Lincoln (2012), and his latest, Spotlight (2015) won the Academy Award for Best Picture in 2016.[6]

Early life[]

Jeff Skoll was born to a Jewish family in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.[7][8][9] His mother was a teacher[3] and his father was a chemical company owner who sold industrial chemicals.[10] The family settled in Toronto in the late seventies. When Skoll was fourteen, his father was diagnosed with cancer which prompted him to discuss with his son how much he regretted not having had the time to do everything he had planned in life. His first job was pumping gas at a York Mills gas station.

He graduated with a BASc with honours in 1987 from the University of Toronto's electrical engineering program. While an undergraduate student, he co-edited the engineering students' satirical newspaper The Toike Oike. He paid his way through college by pumping gas in North York, Ontario. After graduating he backpacked around the world for several months before returning and founding two businesses in Toronto: Skoll Engineering, an information technology consulting firm and Micros on the Move Ltd., a computer rental firm. He left Canada in 1993 to earn a Master of Business Administration degree at Stanford Business School, graduating in 1995. After Stanford he went to work at Knight-Ridder where he was working on internet projects for the publishing company.[11]

Skoll's eBay era[]

In 1996 Skoll met eBay's founder Pierre Omidyar, who hired him as the company's first president and first full-time employee. While eBay was already profitable at the time Skoll joined, he wrote the business plan that eBay followed in subsequent years. He remained President until the arrival of Meg Whitman in January 1998 when he became Vice President, Strategic Planning and Analysis until back problems necessitated his departure from full-time employment at the company. In 1998, he championed the creation of the eBay Foundation, which was allocated pre-IPO stock now worth $32 million. Once eBay's second largest stockholder, behind Omidyar, he subsequently cashed out a portion of his company holdings, yielding him around $2 billion.[3][4]


In 2004, Skoll founded the company Participant to create films that increase public awareness of critical social issues and give audiences opportunities to get involved through education and social action campaigns.[12][13] In 2005, Skoll's first Participant productions were released, with Syriana; Good Night, and Good Luck; North Country; and Murderball, together garnering 11 Oscar nominations.[14] A year later, Skoll financed and played a key role in the creation of the environmental documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, which grew out of a slideshow developed by former U.S. Vice President Al Gore on the climate crisis. The film won the 2006 Academy Award for Best Feature Documentary. “[15] I would never have predicted that a film like An Inconvenient Truth would impact so many people,” Skoll told Philanthropy Roundtable.[14]

The Financial Times reported in 2009 that Participant allows Skoll to "pursue social and political causes through a mass medium. From modest beginnings, the company (which Skoll chairs, supported by a team of executives) is now a serious player."[16] Fortune wrote the next year that Skoll's films are not typical Hollywood fare, "they tackle weighty subjects such as eco-Armageddon, petro-terrorism, education reform, and women’s rights. In short they tend to reflect Skoll’s progressive, and ultimately optimistic, worldview that shining a light on the world’s problems will inspire people to band together to bring about change on a large scale. (Indeed, the name 'Participant' evokes a call to action.)"[17]

Skoll has served as Executive Producer or Producer on nearly 100 Participant films, including Spotlight, Roma, and American Factory,[18][19] and as of 2019 Participant has won 18 Oscars and received 73 Academy Award nominations.[20] In 2020, the company received another Academy Award nomination and win for best documentary feature for American Factory.[21]

According to The Hollywood Reporter, in 2014 Skoll funded the creation of the Skoll Center for Social Impact Entertainment at the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television, saying at the time: "I founded Participant Media in the belief that a story well told has the power to ignite positive social change. This new center at UCLA TFT is an extension of that vision, with the goal of empowering a new generation and elevating storytelling as a tool to create impact and empower people to connect to the social issues that can have a profound impact on our world."[22] In March, 2019, Participant and the Skoll Center for Social Impact Entertainment released a report, "The State of Social Impact Entertainment," that said: "social impact entertainment — narrative and documentary film, television, theater, and emerging forms that engage audiences in solving real-world challenges — is not a fad but the future of the entertainment industry."[23]

In 2019, on behalf of Participant, Skoll and Participant CEO David Linde accepted the newly created TIFF Impact Award from the Toronto International Film Festival;[24] in 2020 the award was renamed the Jeff Skoll Award in Impact Media and was awarded to Mira Nair.[25]


Skoll is a noted philanthropist; he is a recipient of the Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy, and a Giving Pledge signatory.[26][27] He has given the eponymous Skoll Foundation approximately $1 billion of eBay stock since its formation in 1999. The Foundation supports "social entrepreneurship".[28] Skoll chairs the Foundation and as of 2020 makes grants in excess of $80 million per year. The Skoll Foundation's assets rank it as the largest foundation for social entrepreneurship in the world.[29]

As of 2020, Skoll has been working for over ten years to help prevent pandemics and other global threats.[30] In 2009, Skoll donated $100 million to create the Skoll Global Threats Fund to confront threats including climate change, water security, pandemics, nuclear proliferation, and Middle East conflict.[31] The Fund created and spun off a stand-alone non-profit entity, Ending Pandemics, that focuses on pandemic detection and response.[32] In 2011, Skoll's film company Participant co-produced the film Contagion to raise awareness about the dangers posed by pandemics. Skoll wanted the film be scientifically sound and encourage funding of medical experts; In 2020, following the COVID-19 pandemic media coverage noted it was "shocking in its accuracy".[33]

In January 2020, Skoll donated $20 million, and an additional $100 million in April, to the Skoll Foundation to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.[32][34] The funds were used to assist with testing, contact tracing, and provide respiratory devices and other medical equipment to countries that couldn't afford it.[31]

In addition to fighting pandemics, Skoll has made addressing climate change a top priority for his filmmaking and philanthropy and a key focus of the Skoll Foundation, which in addition to its own efforts, joined other foundations to create Climate Nexus, a "rapid response team" on the climate crisis.[26][35]

Skoll is active in "collaborative philanthropy" and has joined with other philanthropists and foundations to pool resources that then flow to non-profits focused on addressing specific issues at scale.[36] In 2017, Skoll, joined with philanthropists Richard Chandler, Bill Gates, Melinda Gates, Romesh Wadhwani, Kathy Wadhwani, The Rockefeller Foundation, and Olivia Leland, to create Co-Impact, a philanthropic funding collaborative seeded with $500 million,[37] whose "specific aim is to fund organizations that are addressing health, education and economic opportunity in low-to-middle income countries".[36]

Similarly in 2018, Skoll, Chris Anderson, Virgin Unite, among others launched The Audacious Project, a philanthropic funding collaborative with an initial investment of $250 million for "audacious ideas" that deliver "impact at scale". Some of the first recipients of funding from The Audacious Project included the Environmental Defense Fund, Sight Savers, and The Bail Project.[38]

Skoll has funded the creation of academic centers at two universities. In 2003, Skoll funded the creation of the Skoll Center for Social Entrepreneurship at Oxford University's Said Business School. The center is a research center, hub for innovators, and host of the annual Skoll World Forum on Social Entrepreneurship.[39] Called the “Davos for the nonprofit set” by Forbes,[40] Skoll World Forum participants have included leading thinkers from South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu to former U.S. Vice President Al Gore.[27] In 2019, Skoll also funded the creation of the Skoll Center for Social Impact Entertainment at the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television. The center is dedicated to promoting social change through entertainment and the arts.[41]

In 2005, Skoll financed The Gandhi Project in partnership with Relief International which created a dubbed version in Arabic of the film Gandhi.[42] They used Palestinian voice actors and artists to make the film particularly relevant to Palestinians. With Skoll's support, it was screened throughout Palestine to promote non-violence, self-reliance, economic development, and empowerment.

Skoll is a member of the Berggruen Institute's 21st Century Council.[43]

Impact investing[]

Skoll was one of the earliest proponents of socially responsible investing, called "impact investing", through which he invests in for-profit companies whose mission is to deliver both social impact and financial returns.[44] In 2001, Skoll created Capricorn Investment Group "on the premise of socially responsible investing" and the firm now oversees more than $5 billion in client assets and another $3.5 billion in partnership with other organizations.[45] According to Forbes, a "significant portion" of Capricorn's assets "has been put to work backing mostly private companies that are in some way aiming to help the environment and combat climate change".[44] Capricorn's early investments included electric carmaker Tesla, Inc., battery technology developer QuantumScape, and air taxi developer Joby Aviation.[44] Other investments include private equity fund Encourage Solar Finance to promote rooftop solar installations in India.[46]

In 2016, Skoll, along with Bono and investment firm TPG, co-founded The Rise Fund, a $2 billion social-impact fund with "a series of strict metrics by which to measure social impact".[47] Rise's investments fall across seven sectors, including agriculture, education, and healthcare, and since 2017, "Rise has invested in more than 25 growth-stage companies that are making a measurable positive social and/or environmental impact".[48]

Personal life[]

In 2014, Skoll married television executive Stephanie Swedlove.[49] In January 2019, it was announced Skoll had filed for divorce from Swedlove.[50]

Honours and awards[]

  • Bloomberg Business Week's list of most innovative philanthropists (2002–present)[2]
  • National Leadership Award for Commonwealth Club Silicon Valley (2004)[2]
  • Outstanding Philanthropist Award from the International Association of Fundraising Professionals (2003)[2]
  • Outstanding Philanthropist Award from the Silicon Valley chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (2002)[2]
  • Honorary Doctor of Laws degree from the University of Toronto (2003)[2]
  • Time Magazine's 100 People of the Year (2006)[2]
  • Wired Magazine's Rave Award (2006)[2]
  • He was made an Officer of the Order of Canada "for his generous commitment to social causes and for his innovative practice of philanthropy."[51] (2011)[2]



Year Title Notes
2004 House of D executive producer
2005 Good Night, and Good Luck executive producer
North Country executive producer
Syriana executive producer
American Gun executive producer
2006 The World According to Sesame Street executive producer
An Inconvenient Truth executive producer
Fast Food Nation executive producer
2007 Chicago 10 executive producer
Angels in the Dust executive producer
Man from Plains executive producer
Darfur Now executive producer
The Kite Runner executive producer
Charlie Wilson's War executive producer
The Visitor executive producer
Man from Plains executive producer
2008 Standard Operating Procedure executive producer
Pressure Cooker executive producer
Food, Inc. executive producer
2009 The Soloist executive producer
The Informant! executive producer
2010 The Crazies executive producer
Furry Vengeance executive producer
Waiting for "Superman" executive producer
Fair Game executive producer
Countdown to Zero executive producer
Cane Toads: The Conquest executive producer
Casino Jack and the United States of Money executive producer
2011 The Beaver executive producer
The Help executive producer
Contagion executive producer
Last Call at the Oasis executive producer
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel executive producer
2012 A Place at the Table executive producer
State 194 executive producer
Lincoln executive producer
Promised Land executive producer
No executive producer
2013 Snitch executive producer
Made in America executive producer
The Fifth Estate executive producer
The Square executive producer
The Unknown Known executive producer
2014 Ceaser Chavez executive producer
The Great Invisible executive producer
Misconception executive producer
The Prophet executive producer
The Ardor executive producer
The Hundred-Foot Journey executive producer
Out of the Dark executive producer
Merchants of Doubt executive producer
Citizenfour executive producer
A Most Violent Year executive producer
2015 3 1/2 Minutes, 10 Bullets executive producer
The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel executive producer
He Named Me Malala executive producer
Bridge of Spies executive producer
Beasts of No Nation executive producer
Our Brand Is Crisis executive producer
Spotlight executive producer
2016 Zero Days executive producer
The Music of Strangers executive producer
Death by a Thousand Cuts executive producer
Neruda producer
The Light Between Oceans executive producer
Denial executive producer
Deepwater Horizon executive producer
Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life executive producer
A Monster Calls executive producer
Midsommer in Newtown executive producer
2017 An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power producer
Melting Ice executive producer
A Fantastic Woman executive producer
Shot Caller executive producer
Human Flow executive producer
Far From the Tree executive producer
Wonder executive producer
2018 The Price of Free executive producer
7 Days in Entebbe executive producer
Foster executive producer
This is Climate Change executive producer
Roma executive producer
Aquarela executive producer
Green Book executive producer
On the Basis of Sex executive producer
2019 The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind executive producer
American Factory executive producer
Captive State executive producer
Watson executive producer
Slay the Dragon executive producer
Just Mercy executive producer
Sing Me a Song executive producer
Dark Waters executive producer
2020 John Lewis: Good Trouble executive producer
Final Account executive producer
American Utopia executive producer
Totally Under Control executive producer
2021 My Name is Pauli Murray executive producer
Judas and the Black Messiah executive producer
Unseen Skies executive producer
White Coat Rebels executive producer
Stillwater executive producer
2022 White Bird: A Wonder Story executive producer
TBA ¡Viva Maestro! executive producer[52]

TV series[]

Year Title Notes
2013 Jersey Strong executive producer
2013 Teach executive producer
2014 HitRecord on TV executive producer
2014 Human Resources executive producer
2014-2016 Please Like Me executive producer
2015-2016 Angry Planet executive producer
2015 Secret Lives of Americans executive producer
2016 Truth to Power executive producer
2018 America to Me executive producer
2019 When They See Us executive producer
2020 Noughts + Crosses executive producer
2020 City So Real executive producer

See also[]


  1. ^ "Forbes profile: Jeff Skoll". Forbes. Retrieved 11 March 2021.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Stocks". Retrieved 2016-12-26.
  3. ^ a b c "The thinking man's movie mogul", Telegraph Magazine 26 August 2006
  4. ^ a b Malone, Michael S., "The indie movie mogul", Wired magazine, February 2006.
  5. ^ "Jeffrey Skoll". Forbes. Retrieved 2016-12-28.
  6. ^ "Oscar nominations are not the goal: Participant Media CEO", Marketplace, February 21, 2013. Interview by Kai Ryssdal with Participant CEO Jim Berk. Retrieved 2012-02-21.
  7. ^
  8. ^ Biography, ,The History of Computing Project
  9. ^ Times of Israel: "Who said Jews run Hollywood? -Inaugural list of 100 prominent players in Tinseltown shows a lack of diversity -- and a whole lot of MOTs" by Lisa Klug 23 June 2016
  10. ^ Cohen, Adam, The Perfect Store: Inside Ebay Archived 2006-06-30 at the Wayback Machine, ISBN 0-316-16493-3
  11. ^ "Skoll | Meet Jeff Skoll". Retrieved 2016-12-26.
  12. ^ Chong, Rachael (September 23, 2013). "Jeff Skoll On How He Uses The Power Of Storytelling To Push For Change". Fast Company. Retrieved September 24, 2020.
  13. ^ Rainey, James (2015-03-31). "Jeff Skoll Aims to Fix Participant's 'Broken' Parts". Variety. Retrieved 2020-11-19.
  14. ^ a b Matthew Bishop, Michael Green; Fall 2013. "Changing the World Through Storytelling". Philanthropy Roundtable. Retrieved 2020-11-19.
  15. ^ "'An Inconvenient Truth,' 10 Years Later: Al Gore, Jeff Skoll and More Dish in THR's Oral History | Hollywood Reporter". 19 May 2016. Retrieved 2020-11-19.
  16. ^ "Subscribe to read | Financial Times". Retrieved 2020-11-19. Cite uses generic title (help)
  17. ^ "How this Canadian Billionaire Superhero Backs Heady Causes and Finances Serious Films". Fortune. Retrieved 2020-11-19.
  18. ^ "How Participant Media Tries to Spark Social Change Through Film". Retrieved 2020-11-19.
  19. ^ Ramos, Dino-Ray (2020-01-13). "The Obamas Congratulate 'American Factory' Filmmakers On Oscar Nomination, Say Docu Is What They "Hope To Achieve With Higher Ground"". Deadline. Retrieved 2020-11-19.
  20. ^ "18. Jeffrey Skoll | Los Angeles Business Journal". Retrieved 2020-11-19.
  21. ^ Carey, Matthew (2020-02-10). "'American Factory' Reaches Highest Ground With Oscar Documentary Feature Win". Deadline. Retrieved 2020-11-19.
  22. ^ Weinstein, Shelli (2014-11-12). "Jeff Skoll, UCLA Launch Skoll Center for Social Impact Entertainment". Variety. Retrieved 2020-11-19.
  23. ^ Candid. "Report Offers Guidance on Social Impact Entertainment". Philanthropy News Digest (PND). Retrieved 2020-11-19.
  24. ^ "Participant's Jeff Skoll, David Linde to Receive Toronto Fest Tribute | Hollywood Reporter". 27 June 2019. Retrieved 2020-11-19.
  25. ^ Yap, Audrey Cleo (2020-09-11). "Director Mira Nair Addresses 'A Suitable Boy' White Writer Controversy". Variety. Retrieved 2020-11-19.
  26. ^ a b Paynter, Ben (2017-06-27). "Meet The Winners Of The Carnegie Medal Of Philanthropy". Fast Company. Retrieved 2020-07-17.
  27. ^ a b "Meet the Canadian billionaire who's giving it all away". Retrieved 2020-07-17.
  28. ^ "An Open Letter To Jeff Skoll". Open Letter. Retrieved 2020-07-17.
  29. ^ "Explorer 2 | Social Entrepreneurship Hub". Retrieved 2020-07-17.
  30. ^ Dolan, Kerry A. "How The Billionaire Behind The Movie 'Contagion' Is Working To Stop This Pandemic—And The Next One". Forbes. Retrieved 2020-07-17.
  31. ^ a b "Jeff Skoll Adds $100 Million to His Efforts to Fight the Pandemic". Retrieved 2020-07-17.
  32. ^ a b Schultz, Abby. "Jeff Skoll's $100M for Covid-19 Builds on Legacy Fighting Pandemics". Retrieved 2020-07-17.
  33. ^ Farr, Christina (2020-04-14). "The medical advisors for the movie 'Contagion' saw a pandemic coming, but got one big thing wrong". CNBC. Retrieved 2020-07-17.
  34. ^ Dolan, Kerry A. "The Billionaire Behind The Movie 'Contagion' Just Gave $100 Million To Fight Coronavirus". Forbes. Retrieved 2020-07-17.
  35. ^ Bishop, Matthew; Green, Michael (Fall 2013). "Changing the World Through Storytelling". Philanthropy Magazine. Retrieved September 16, 2020.
  36. ^ a b Schultz, Abby (June 20, 2019). "How Co-Impact Collaborates for Change". Barron's. Retrieved July 31, 2020.
  37. ^ Bach, Natasha (November 15, 2017). "Some of the World's Top Billionaires Are Pooling Their Fortunes for a New Philanthropic Venture". Fortune. Retrieved September 16, 2020.
  38. ^ Cheney, Catherine (April 11, 2018). "New $250M Audacious Project from TED announces first recipients". Devex. Retrieved September 16, 2020.
  39. ^ Stern, Stefan (June 12, 2009). "Lunch with the FT: Jeff Skoll". Financial Times. Retrieved July 31, 2020.
  40. ^ Dolan, Kerry A. (April 16, 2019). "Questioning Big Philanthropy At The Skoll World Forum: Is It Too Powerful And Out Of Touch?". Forbes. Retrieved September 16, 2020.
  41. ^ Weinstein, Shelli (November 12, 2014). "Jeff Skoll, UCLA Launch Skoll Center for Social Impact Entertainment". Variety. Retrieved July 31, 2020.
  42. ^ Harris, Dana (2005-04-06). "'Gandhi' in Mideast". Variety. Retrieved 2020-07-17.
  43. ^ "Berggruen Institute". Archived from the original on 2017-01-20. Retrieved 2017-01-17.
  44. ^ a b c Dolan, Kerry (October 3, 2018). "One Of Impact Investing's Earliest Proponents, Jeff Skoll Invests Big Money To Combat Climate Change". Forbes. Retrieved July 31, 2020.
  45. ^ "Capricorn Investment Group Pours Billions Into Impact Investing". The Software Report. May 6, 2019. Retrieved September 16, 2020.
  46. ^ "Impact 50". Forbes. October 2, 2019. Retrieved July 31, 2020.
  47. ^ Sorkin, Andrew Ross (December 19, 2016). "A New Fund Seeks Both Financial and Social Returns". The New York Times. Retrieved September 16, 2020.
  48. ^ Schultz, Abby (October 1, 2019). "Future Returns: How TPG's Rise Fund Invests in Energy". Barron's. Retrieved September 16, 2020.
  49. ^ Rainey, James (May 31, 2015). "Jeff Skoll Aims to Fix Participant's 'Broken' Parts". Variety. Retrieved November 23, 2020.
  50. ^ "'ROMA' Producer, Billionaire Jeff Skoll Files for Divorce". The Blast. January 16, 2019. Retrieved November 23, 2020.
  51. ^ "Meet the Canadian billionaire who's giving it all away". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 2016-12-26.
  52. ^ D'Alessandro, Anthony (March 1, 2021). "Greenwich Entertainment Takes U.S. On Gustavo Dudamel Participant Documentary 'Viva Maestro'". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved March 2, 2021.

External links[]

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Chief Executive Officer of eBay
Succeeded by
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