John Wayne, the Duke, the charismatic sharp-shooting Western hero that defined an era and an entire genre of movies. With fame came all of the trappings of starhood, including vast net worth and portfolio of investments and assets, where did these go when he died?
Wayne had a net worth of several million, all of which was spread across friends and family. The majority of the estate was divided amongst his children.
Wayne had a sizable chunk of assets to divvy up upon his death, the bulk of which he fairly distributed amongst his seven children. Other than his children, there were a few more key people in his life that he left provisions for.
Wayne’s Net Worth
Although the figure is fairly accurate, saying that Wayne’s net worth is in the region of $7 million is slightly misleading. The figures mentioned when discussing how his estate was divided are taken from the 70s.
When taking inflation into account, we reach a number that’s far more in line with the kind of net worth that we would expect out of today’s celebrities and actors. That number is around $50 million, a significant sum.
Wayne’s wealth was built up over a long and storied career in the film industry. Saying that Wayne was a legend of film doesn’t quite do his status justice, nor does it truly capture or fully explain the cultural impact he had.
He was the star, the leading man, in over 150 movies, with a laundry list of beloved classics to his name. Both in his movies and his public life he spoke with an unapologetically pro-American attitude, which was well-received during a period where there were growing fears about the “evils of communism”.
The fact that he was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, and endorsed by a variety of public figures from all across the political spectrum, should go some way in illuminating the influence that the man had.
Divvying up the Wealth
If it was anyone else who wasn’t as much of a public figure as Wayne was, some of these numbers might have been hard to come by. In the case of Wayne, however, shortly following his death a 1979 publication of The New York Times.
The article detailed much of what was done with Wayne’s assets, who received what and who was left out. The headline immediately offers up a piece of information on the latter topic, “Third Wife Is Left Out of the Will”.
A little bit of a misleading title, as the article goes on to explain that his third wife, Pilar Pallete, despite being left out of the will in an official capacity, did have arrangements made for her that would provide for her.
The only true exclusion ended up being the husband of his eldest daughter, the reason for which was never stated. Not only was he excluded from the will, but he was also specifically targeted to not be a recipient of his daughter’s share in the event of her death.
Outside of his immediate family, two recipients of some of his money were his two secretaries. Both Mary St.John and Pat Stacy, the former who had previously been his secretary and the latter who was his secretary before he passed away.
The two secretaries received a total of $40,000 between them. Even by today’s standards that is a significant amount of cash, let alone back then when it was probably regarded as being a small fortune.
The largest chunk of money was left to her children, with Wayne setting up a system of release to determine how much and when they should receive the funds. With the stipulations he had put in place, Michael, his eldest son at the time, would be set to get a boost to his bank balance of $115,000.
The way the rest of the estate was handled isn’t entirely clear. A lot of the property and holdings were left in the care of the estate administrators, Mr. Warren, Mr. Johnson, and Michael who was also on the administration team.
Something happened between then and now, however, as there was eventually a dispute about exactly what was worth what, and who owned it. The issues arose when one of Wayne’s daughters decided she wanted to sell her holdings in the estate.
Whatever the case may be with the result of the estate dispute, considering Wayne’s wealth, everyone involved likely came out relatively no worse for wear.