Dan Loeb Got ‘American Sniper’ Made, Missed Out on Profits

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Billionaire Daniel Loeb helped former Navy SEAL marksman Chris Kyle make a movie of his life but passed on a chance to invest in “American Sniper” and missed out on the profit flowing from the top U.S. film so far this year.

The hedge-fund titan’s involvement provides insight into the genesis of one of the year’s most successful -- and controversial -- movies. His support, including the introduction to an eventual producer of the Warner Bros. film, played a key role in getting the picture made.

Loeb declined an early offer to put $250,000 into “American Sniper,” said a person who asked not to be named because the matter was private. The founder of New York-based Third Point LLC did invest in Craft International LLC, Kyle’s security-training business. That company filed for bankruptcy-court protection last year, leaving Loeb little to show for his $25,000.

“Even though we lost our cash investment in Craft, we got paid back multiple times over by having the privilege to know Chris and helping out an American hero,” Loeb said in a statement.

He could have made it up on “American Sniper,” had he decided to invest in the film, not just help to get it made.

Box Office

The biopic, about the most lethal marksman in U.S. history, with 160 confirmed kills, has taken in $252 million worldwide since its Dec. 25 release, according to Box Office Mojo. It was made for an estimated $58.8 million, suggesting the runaway hit will be profitable for its investors.

“American Sniper,” directed by Clint Eastwood, has been nominated for six Academy Awards, including best picture and best actor for Bradley Cooper in the title role. Some Hollywood figures including filmmaker Michael Moore have criticized the movie for glorifying snipers.

Loeb was introduced to Kyle by J. Kyle Bass, a hedge-fund manager who has known the New York-based financier for two decades. Bass sits on the board of Feherty’s Troops First Foundation, a nonprofit group based in Laurel, Maryland, that helps wounded veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Kyle lived at Bass’s home for several months and taught marksmanship at his ranch. Bass, who runs Dallas-based Hayman Capital Management LP, didn’t return calls seeking comment.

Shooting Lessons

At the Barefoot Economic Summit, an investor conference Bass hosts at the ranch in Larue, Texas, Kyle taught Loeb to shoot.

Loeb encouraged Kyle to pursue a movie version of his 2012 book, “American Sniper.” Loeb also introduced Kyle to Peter Morgan, a prep-school friend of the hedge-fund manager who went on to produce the film. Loeb introduced the veteran to Hollywood agents, who helped him negotiate movie rights, as well.

Shooting Range

Kyle was killed on a shooting range in Texas, allegedly by a troubled veteran the marksman was helping. The defendant’s lawyer, J. Warren St. John, said in an e-mail that his client would plead not guilty by reason of insanity.

Loeb and Bass helped Kyle in his transition to civilian life, according to Scott McEwen, a co-author of Kyle’s book with Jim DeFelice.

“People get it,” McEwen said of the movie’s success. “We’ve been at war for 13 years, and this tells the warrior’s point of view.”