In 1977, 20th Century Fox had so little faith in the "Star Wars" franchise that they gave away all of the movie licensing and merchandising rights to George Lucas in exchange for his $500,000 directorial fee.

Fox executives years later: "Well, we fucked up." 

Lucas should have used all that money for lessons in screenwriting alas he did manage to give us a couple of great films. The franchise is now worth around $37 Billion dollars. 

It all began modestly. After his success with American Graffiti in 1973, Lucas wanted to make a Western set in outer space to refresh the genre. He was turned down by several studios but found a champion in Alan Ladd Jr., then running 20th Century Fox -- even though most of the other Fox executives and the company board didn't agree. Fox let Lucas pass up an additional $500,000 directing fee in return for keeping licensing and merchandising rights for himself -- a decision that would cost the studio billions.

Full THR article HERE