‘I Love Lucy’: CBS Asking Lucille Ball, Desi Arnaz to Take Paycuts Ended Up Making the Couple a Fortune

by Clayton Edwards

I Love Lucy is one of the most influential sitcoms in television history. Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz made some bold decisions when making the show that changed the face of TV forever. For instance, when the show started, most sitcoms were filmed with one kinescope camera. This resulted in grainy and temporary recordings. Arnaz wanted to use three cameras. At the same time, he wanted episodes of the show recorded on film, like movies. This led to the creation of reruns and syndication. The list of things the iconic couple changed could go on forever.

However, I Love Lucy wasn’t just popular and influential. It also made Ball and Arnaz incredibly wealthy. Like the influence of the show, that all started with some smart business decisions on the part of the duo. This is how taking a cut in pay made Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball very rich.

I Love Lucy Creators Get Rich After Taking a Pay Cut

Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz were making $5,000 each for every episode of I Love Lucy. This was getting expensive. So, CBS wanted the couple to take a minor cut in pay. They agreed. However, they had some conditions to their agreement. They would each take a pay cut of $1,000 per episode. But, their production company, Desilu Productions, would maintain the rights to the series, according to Celebrity Networth. CBS signed off on the agreement. Soon, Ball and Arnaz made some intelligent moves to increase their bank accounts.

First, Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz sold the rights of the first 180 episodes of I Love Lucy back to CBS for $5 million. That sounds like a hefty sum of money, even now. However, if you adjust that for inflation, they made a little over $50 million on the sale in today’s money. This was just the first of several powerful moves that made the couple wealthy. Keep that approximate conversion rate in mind. It will make the next couple of moves even more impressive.

Lucille Ball became the first female CEO of a major production company when she bought out Desi Arnaz. She paid him $2.5 million dollars for his share of the company that owned I Love Lucy. This made Arnaz even richer. At the same time, it gave Ball more pull in the entertainment industry. In short, no one really took a loss on that deal.

Then, Lucille Ball ensured that she would have plenty of money to do whatever she wanted in her life. The I Love Lucy star sold her shares of Desilu Productions to Paramount Studios for $17 million. That deal took place in 1967. Adjusted for inflation, that is just over $137 million in 2021 money.

At that point, a $1,000 a week pay cut looked like the best decision Ball and Arnaz had ever made.