Eli Broad, the successful business leader who later help transform the arts, culture and architecture of Los Angeles, died Friday afternoon at 87.
The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, where Broad and his wife Edye have served as full-time philanthropists since 1999, announced Broad’s death.
Broad amassed his wealth by creating two successful businesses: Kaufman and Broad Home Corporation, which Broad founded in 1957 at age 23 in Detroit, and later turned a life insurance company that he bought into SunAmerica. He bought the company for $52 million in the 1970s and sold it to AIG for $18 billion in 1999.
Since 1999, Broad and his wife Edye served as full-time philanthropists, committing more than $5 billion with their foundations to support K-12 public education, scientific and medical research, and the visual and performing arts. Much of that work was focused on Los Angeles.
“Eli Broad, simply put, was L.A.’s most influential private citizen of his generation,” Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti wrote on Twitter. “He loved this city as deeply as anyone I have ever known. He was a dreamer, often seeing things that others didn’t or couldn’t. He was a builder –– of homes, the arts, educational opportunity, health breakthroughs that transformed dreams into reality.”
The Broads have given nearly $1 billion to arts and culture institutions in Los Angeles, their adopted home since 1963. Broad was co-founder of The Broad, founding chairman and life trustee of the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), a major donor to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (where his $60 million gift helped create the Broad Contemporary Art Museum in 2008), the LA Opera and The Broad Stage.
Broad helped create and fund the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) in 1979 and served as the founding chairman of MOCA until 1984. In 2015, the Broad museum, home to Eli and Edye Broad’s 2,000-plus-work art collection, opened on Grand Avenue in downtown Los Angeles, revitalizing and driving the area’s transformation into a cultural center along Grand Avenue. Broad was also a supporter of the LA Opera (also located on Grand Avenue) with Edye.
Other institutions Broad helped found include The Broad Center at Yale School of Management, a professional development program for public school system leaders, and the Broad Institute, a interdisciplinary genomic medicine research center created in partnership with Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Broad was also a major donor to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (where his $60 million gift helped create the Broad Contemporary Art Museum in 2008)
“As a businessman Eli saw around corners, as a philanthropist he saw the problems in the world and tried to fix them, as a citizen he saw the possibility in our shared community, and as a husband, father and friend he saw the potential in each of us,” said Gerun Riley, president of The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation.
Broad was born on June 6, 1933 in the Bronx, New York, the only child of Leon and Rebecca Broad, both immigrants from Lithuania. He attended public schools in New York and, after the age of six, in Detroit, where he moved with his parents. He founded his first business at age 13, earning several hundred dollars from dealing postage stamps, and later attended Michigan State University. He studied accounting, eventually becoming Michigan’s youngest certified public accountant. He and Edye Lawson married in 1954.
Kaufman and Broad, headquartered in Los Angeles since 1963, expanded across the country and to Europe, eventually building more than half a million homes to date.
Broad helped bring the Democratic National Convention to Los Angeles in 2000 and made unsuccessful attempts to purchase the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Los Angeles Times. In 2003, after California voters passed a bond measure supporting stem cell research, Broad established three stem cell research centers, with donations totaling more than $100 million, at UCLA, UC San Francisco and the University of Southern California. Broad donated more than $50 million to Michigan State, to establish college and graduate schools of business and to create a contemporary art museum. And the Foundation invested more than $600 million in improving public education.
Most recently, Broad wrote an op-ed published in The New York Times:
“Two decades ago I turned full-time to philanthropy and threw myself into supporting public education, scientific and medical research, and visual and performing arts, believing it was my responsibility to give back some of what had so generously been given to me. But I’ve come to realize that no amount of philanthropic commitment will compensate for the deep inequities preventing most Americans — the factory workers and farmers, entrepreneurs and electricians, teachers, nurses and small-business owners — from the basic prosperity we call the American dream…Our country must do something bigger and more radical, starting with the most unfair area of federal policy: our tax code… The enormous challenges we face as a nation — the climate crisis, the shrinking middle class, skyrocketing housing and health care costs, and many more — are a stark call to action. The old ways aren’t working, and we can’t waste any more time tinkering around the edges.”
Broad is survived by his wife Edye and his two sons, Jeffrey and Gary.