Eli Broad, one of Los Angeles’ most prominent philanthropists, died on April 30, 2021. He was 87. Broad, who said his name rhymed with ‘road,’ was an American businessman, investor, philanthropist, and writer.
I first learned of Broad when I visited the Broad Museum in early January 2018. I read how he founded two Fortune 500 companies (Kaufman & Broad and SunAmerica) in different industries — the only person to have done so. Beyond his business acumen, what impressed me more was what he (with his wife, Edythe) did with their money. He was known for his philanthropic commitment to public K–12 education, scientific and medical research and the visual and performing arts. His own collection of extraordinary contemporary art was the foundation of the wonderful Broad Museum. Broad amassed a fortune of more than $6 billion, building houses and selling insurance and then, perceiving a need for civic transformation not only in LA, but all of Southern California, he and Edythe began to collect art as the makers themselves created it.
In 2010, Eli and Edythe Broad created The Broad Foundations, which include The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation and The Broad Art Foundation. They signed The Giving Pledge, a commitment for wealthy individuals to give at least half their wealth to charity; the Broads personally committed to 75 percent. He wrote a wonderful book, The Art of Being Unreasonable: Lessons in Unconventional Thinking, published by Wiley & Sons in 2012.
Broad was the founding chairman of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, in 1979 and chaired the board until 1984. He recruited the museum’s founding director, Joanne Heyler, and negotiated the acquisition of the Panza Collection for the museum. In 2008, The Broad Foundation donated $30 million to MOCA. That bestowal was contingent on the museum’s remaining independent, not merging with Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), of which Broad was a life trustee. In 2003, The Broad Foundation gave $60 million to that museum as part of its renovation campaign, creating the Broad Contemporary Art Museum as well as an art acquisition fund.
The Broads donated $6 million to the Los Angeles Opera to stage Richard Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen for the 2009–’10 season. In June 2013, the Broads gave $7 million to continue funding the Eli and Edythe Broad general director position at L.A. Opera, occupied by Plácido Domingo until his resignation in 2019. The Broads committed $10 million in 2008 for a programming endowment for a music and performing arts center at Santa Monica College, The Eli and Edythe Broad Stage, and an adjacent black box performance space, The Edye. In total, the Broads have pledged roughly $1 billion to art institutions throughout the Los Angeles area. Broad called Los Angeles a “cultural capital of the world.”
In August 2010, Eli Broad announced he would build a contemporary art museum in Los Angeles. The firm, Diller Scoﬁdio + Renfro was chosen through an architectural competition to design the
approximately 120,000-square-foot museum, which encompasses an exhibition space, offices, and a parking garage. In February 2015, a public preview of a special installation attracted 3,500 visitors, even though the museum was under construction. The Broad was opened by the Broads on Sunday, Sept. 20, 2015. To date, it has received more than 2.5 million visitors.
In 2000, Broad founded the Grand Avenue Committee, which coordinated and oversaw further development of LA’s Grand Avenue, a major thoroughfare. He was involved in the fundraising campaign to build Walt Disney Concert Hall, which opened in October 2003. Broad was instrumental in securing a $50 million deposit from project developer Related Companies, opening Grand Park in summer 2012.
Eli Broad was drawn into the art world by his wife Edye’s interest in collecting. Their ﬁrst major purchase was made in 1973, when he and Edye acquired a Van Gogh drawing, “Cabanes a Saintes-Maries, 1888.” Art collector and MCA executive Taft Schreiber became their mentor. In time, the pair began to concentrate on post–World War II art.
Eli and Edythe Broad established The Broad Art Foundation in 1984 with the goal of making their extensive contemporary collection more accessible to the public. The Broads have two collections focusing on postwar and contemporary art — an assemblage with nearly 600 works and The Broad Art Foundation’s collection, which has around 1,500 works.
Michigan State University (Eli Broad’s alma mater) has also been the recipient of nearly $100 million in donations from Eli and Edye Broad to build an art museum and expand the Eli Broad College of Business.
The philanthropic duo gave $100 million, the founding gift for the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, with the goal to improve health using genomics. The Eli and Edythe Broad Center for Regenerative Medicine & Stem Cell Research at the University of Southern California is part of a public-private partnership between the voter-created California Institute of Regenerative Medicine, the Keck School of Medicine of USC, and The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, which donated $30 million in 2006.
Most of this information about Broad is from Wikipedia, abridged, edited and rewritten by Marlene Dryden. Personal information by George Farkas.