The name Thomas Tull may not be well known outside Hollywood circles but his movies certainly are.
For the past decade, the 44-year-old native of Upstate New York has produced some of the biggest action and comedy blockbusters to play at the theater – “The Dark Knight,” “300,” “The Hangover” and “Man of Steel” among them.
Yet Tull, chief executive of Legendary Entertainment in Burbank, is not the typical industry big shot – despite a net worth pegged at $870 million by one estimate.
Premieres and red carpet appearances are less his thing than hanging with his family – and not at a glitzy Beverly Hills mansion but at a 30-acre compound he assembled in the very suburban town of Thousand Oaks.
And his second home is in the most un-Hollywood of locales: Pittsburgh, where he likes to watch Steelers games – a team with a gritty blue-collar heritage he has followed since a youth and now has a stake in.
His hobbies are similarly down to earth: He collects not priceless art or snazzy sports cars but comic books, baseball memorabilia and movie character figurines. Legendary’s offices in The Pointe office building are decorated with props from its films.
But he’s an unabashed movie fan who discovered his passion and entrepreneurial skills early in life and grew that into the $3 billion behemoth that Legendary is today.
People who have worked with Tull said his success isn’t really all that surprising. They call him a humble, unassuming businessman, but one who has a real flair in making deals, which brought him early success in private equity.
And when he finally made it to Hollywood, he found a formula to make private equity work, rather than losing his shirt, like so many outsiders who tried their hand at the movie game before him.
First, there was a $500 million distribution agreement with Warner Bros. Entertainment, followed by his current deal with Universal Pictures. And most recently, Japanese telecom company Softbank Corp. decided to invest $250 million in Legendary. The deal, announced in October, will have Tull produce content for Softbank’s mobile networks.
Tull does not give many interviews and when he does it’s often to promote a particular project. He declined to speak with the Business Journal, but in those interviews he has given, he emphasized his down-to-earth personality that has not lost focus on the medium he came to love as a child.