×

Why Haim and Cheryl Saban’s $50 Million Donation to Academy Museum Almost Didn’t Happen

Haim and Cheryl Saban’s $50 million donation has landed them their name on the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures building on Miracle Mile in Los Angeles, but the billionaire philanthropists’ contribution to the project almost didn’t happen.

During Tuesday’s unveiling of the restored exterior of the new Saban Building (formerly the historic May Company department store flagship store) on Wilshire Boulevard, Haim recalled how Netflix boss Ted Sarandos invited him to dinner one night. The chairman-CEO of Saban Capital Group suspected that the Netflix boss was probably going to hit him up for a donation of some sort because he told him he was going to sit him next to Leonardo DiCaprio for the meal.

“I said, ‘How much?’” Haim said, before joking, “I knew this was not going well.'”

When Sarandos explained he was looking for funding for the museum, Haim quickly dismissed the idea, saying that he and Cheryl’s philanthropy was aimed at more personal issues, including health care and children’s hunger. “I said, ‘We don’t know from museums,’ so please don’t sit me next to Leonardo DiCaprio,'” Haim said. “He didn’t, so I thought, ‘I’m safe. I’m out.'”

And that was that. At least that’s what Haim thought.

But then Bob Iger called and asked Haim to breakfast, where the Disney chief said the Sabans could have their name on the museum’s main building for a $60 million donation. Haim went home to debrief with Cheryl. “She goes, ‘We’re doing this,’” he recalled. “I knew right there and then we were doing this. There was no way around this one. I love saying, ‘Yes, dear’ to my wife.’” (The donation ended up being $50 million.)

Haim has no regrets, especially when because the building also reminds him of his late mother, who he said always insisted on going shopping at the May Company when she would visit Los Angeles from Israel. “She supported the Los Angeles economy in a very significant way,” he cracked.

Haim also quipped, “Ted, I’m sorry I said no to you and yes to Bob, but Bob bought my company for $5.2 billion.”

The Academy has raised $281 million of its goal of $388 million for the museum, which has been under construction since early 2016. It’s scheduled to open in late 2019.

Tuesday night’s event took place across the street from the museum at the Petersen Automotive Museum. Tom Hanks was on hand to host the lighting of the Saban Building after he announced that Barbra Streisand and NBCUniversal vice chairman Ron Meyer and his family recently made significant contributions to the museum.

L.A. council member David Ryu presented proclamations to the museum as well as to the Los Angeles Conservancy.

Also seen at the event were Sarandos, Meyer, “Roma” star Yalitza Aparicio, Nia Vardalos, Rita Wilson, Diane Keaton, George Takei, Diane Lane, Diane Warren, Fox Searchlight’s Nancy Utley and Steve Gilula, and Robert Forster.

Diane Warren, Diane Keaton and Diane Lane Academy Museum Unveils Fully Restored Saban Building, Los Angeles, USA - 04 Dec 2018

More Film

  • Berlin: The Match Factory Boards New

    Berlin: The Match Factory Boards Competition Titles From Fatih Akin, Emin Alper (EXCLUSIVE)

    German indie powerhouse The Match Factory will handle world sales on two Berlin Film Festival competition titles: German director Fatih Akin’s serial-killer chiller “The Golden Glove” and Turkish director Emin Alper’s family drama “A Tale of Three Sisters.”  Akin, a Hamburg native whose “Head-On” won the Golden Bear in 2004, is returning to the Berlinale [...]

  • First-Look Image Revealed for ‘Monday,’ Starring

    First-Look Image Revealed for ‘Monday,’ Starring ‘Captain America’s’ Sebastian Stan

    The first-look image from Greek director Argyris Papadimitropoulos’ “Monday,” starring Sebastian Stan – best known for “I, Tonya” and the “Captain America” movies – and “Colette’s” Denise Gough, has been released. Protagonist Pictures will launch international sales on the pic in Berlin. “Monday” follows the story of Mickey (Stan) and Chloe (Gough), two Americans in [...]

  • The Wedding

    Film Review: 'The Wedding'

    Two considerations need to exist side by side when discussing “The Wedding,” the debut feature of Egyptian-American multihyphenate Sam Abbas. One involves the film itself, a dull slice of Lower Manhattan mumblecore about a heterosexual New York couple fitfully planning their wedding until she discovers his gay dalliance. The other, getting the lion’s share of [...]

  • The Best Gifts For Film Buffs

    Holiday Gift Guide: The Best Gifts For Film Buffs

    Whether you know a film buff who needs to upgrade their collection, or you just want to upgrade your movie nights at home, here are eight gifts that will cast your favorite flicks in a whole new light. 1. Ingmar Bergman’s Cinema: The Criterion Collection Thirty-nine films from the legendary Swedish filmmaker are collected in [...]

  • Ansel Elgort The Great High School

    Film News Roundup: Ansel Elgort to Star in 'The Great High School Imposter'

    In today’s film news roundup, Ansel Elgort is going to high school, “Rockaway” gets a release, and “Suspiria” producer Bradley Fischer is honored. CASTING Ansel Elgort has come aboard to star in the drama “The Great High School Imposter” for Participant Media and Condé Nast Entertainment. The project is based on a Daniel Riley GQ [...]

  • Oscars Oscar Academy Awards Placeholder

    Oscars: Film Academy Narrows the List of Contenders in Nine Categories

    The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has announced shortlists of semi-finalists in nine separate categories. From here, the organization’s separate respective branches will vote to determine nominees, which will be announced along with all other Oscar categories next month. This year marks the first year since 1979 that shortlists have been revealed in [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content