Businessman, philanthropist and art collector Eli Broad, who left an indelible imprint on Los Angeles’ cultural scene, died today at age 87.
Broad died at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center following a long illness, according to Suzi Emmerling, spokeswoman for the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation.
Broad made his fortune building single-family homes. A New York native, he parlayed a loan from his in-laws into a homebuilding empire. He and Donald Bruce Kaufman founded KB (Kaufman & Broad) Homes in Detroit in 1956 when Broad was barely 20 years old. The firm went on to become the largest independent builder of single-family homes in the United States. It built more than 600,000 homes in the postwar boom, many of them in Southern California. He later bought Sun Life Insurance, morphing it into annuities giant SunAmerica. He sold it for $18 billion in stock in 1998. He was the first person to develop two Fortune 500 companies in different industries.
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According to the Los Angeles Times, Broad attempted to buy the paper and San Diego Union-Tribune in 2015, “saying he believed the papers should be owned by a Californian,” but the effort failed.
Forbes listed his wealth in its 2021 ranking of the world’s billionaires at $6.9 billion.
For decades, Broad and his wife Edythe have maintained foundations which have $3 billion in combined assets. The foundations support medical research, public education and the visual and performing arts and have disbursed more than $4 billion in donations. Broad stepped back from running the foundations in 2017.
According to the New York Times, Broad’s interest in collecting began when Edythe began buying works from the galleries on La Cienega. He quickly joined her.
One of his most lasting contributions to Los Angeles is, of course, The Broad downtown that houses his art and charges no admission to the public.
Broad was a force in the redevelopment of Downtown L.A., specifically Grand Avenue, the nexus of which is his museum, the Walt Disney Concert Hall, the Museum of Contemporary Art and Grand Park. Broad was instrumental in helping open the park in 2012.
Even before The Broad, he was one of the country’s most prominent collectors and owned works by Van Gogh, Picasso, Matisse, and countless strong examples of contemporary art.
Broad was the founding chairman of MOCA and chaired the board until 1984. He led a $135 million fundraising campaign that helped build Disney Hall. He was a major benefactor of the LA Opera and The Broad Stage, a life trustee of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and liked to call L.A. a “cultural capital of the world.”
Broad is survived by his wife Edye, and his two sons Jeffrey and Gary.
City News Service contributed to this report.
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