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Eli Broad, billionaire entrepreneur who transformed LA, died 87 years old

Eli Broad, the billionaire philanthropist, contemporary art collector and entrepreneur who co-founded Pioneer Kaufman and Broad Inc. for residential construction and launched the giant SunAmerica Inc. in financial services, died Friday in Los Angeles. He was 87.

Suzi Emmerling, a spokeswoman for Eli and the Edythe Broad Foundation, confirmed her death to The Associated Press. Emmerling said Broad died at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center after a long illness. No services have been advertised.

The New York Times first reported on his death.

“As a businessman, Eli looked around corners, as a philanthropist he saw the problems in the world and tried to solve them, as a citizen he saw the opportunity in our common society, and as a husband, father and friend he saw the potential in each of us,”

; said Gerun Riley, president of The Eli and the Edythe Broad Foundation, in a statement Friday.


Billionaire Eli Broad, who died Friday, is seen in Los Angeles on January 6, 2011. (Associated Press)

Billionaire Eli Broad, who died Friday, is seen in Los Angeles on January 6, 2011. (Associated Press)

It was broad (pronounced brohd) that provided much of the money and willpower used to transform Los Angeles’ once dying center into a burgeoning area with expensive ceilings, fancy eateries and civic structures like the landmark Walt Disney Concert Hall. He opened his own eponymous contemporary art museum and art lending library, The Broad, in 2015 in the city center next to Disney Hall.

“Eli Broad, simply put, was LA’s most influential private citizen of his generation,” Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said on Twitter. “He loved this city as deeply as anyone I have ever known.”

As a young accountant in the 1950s, Broad saw opportunity in the booming real estate market. He quit his job and collaborated with developer Donald Kaufman and began building startups for first-time buyers eager to claim their slice of the American dream. The company eventually became KB Home, one of the most successful home developers in the country.

Nearly 30 years later, Broad once again spread the opportunity, transforming the company’s insurance arm into a retirement conglomerate to meet the financial needs of aging baby boomers.

In the process, Broad became one of the nation’s richest men with a financial net worth estimated by Forbes magazine on Friday at $ 6.9 billion.

Eli Broad, founder of The Broad museum, arrives with his wife Edythe at the museum's opening in Los Angeles, September 17, 2015. (Associated Press)

Eli Broad, founder of The Broad museum, arrives with his wife Edythe at the museum’s opening in Los Angeles, September 17, 2015. (Associated Press)

He also gained a reputation for being a driven, tough dealmaker.

“If you play it safe all the time, you will not get very far,” Broad told Investors Business Daily in 2005.

Outside of work, Broad used his wealth and status to create civic, educational, scientific, and cultural improvement projects, particularly in Los Angeles. New York natives had moved to the city’s Tony Brentwood section in 1963. His charitable foundations donated millions to such projects, especially those aimed at improving public education, and established scholarships at several universities across the country.

In the 1990s, Broad led the campaign to help raise money to build the Frank Gehry-designed Walt Disney Concert Hall and was a major underwriter of Los Angeles’ Museum of Contemporary Art, among other institutions. An avid art dog since the 1960s, Broad had a collection estimated to be worth $ 500 million in 2003.

In 1984, he created the Broad Art Foundation to lend works from his collection to public display.

A decade later, he famously bought Roy Lichtenstein’s “I … sorry” for $ 2.5 million at a credit card auction and donated the more than 2 million frequent flyers he collected for students at the California Institute of Art. In 2008, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art opened its new Broad Contemporary Art Museum with works from Broad’s collection with its money.

Broad also exercised significant political muscle. A Democrat, he led the pressure to lure the party’s national convention in 2000 to Los Angeles. He sometimes split with his party, especially in 1972, when he disillusioned with Senator George McGovern’s campaign served as co-chairman of Democrats for Nixon.

Years after Nixon resigned from the presidency in disgrace, Broad Los Angeles Magazine reported that his efforts on behalf of Nixon were something “I hate to admit to.” But that was not the last time he supported a Republican. He also supported his close friend, former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan, with whom he shared a mutual vision of public school reform.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) praised Broad and his wife, Edythe, for their philanthropic efforts.

“Their leadership to support our schools, promote scientific and medical research and ensure that everyone has access to the arts leaves a lasting and remarkable legacy,” Pelosi said in a statement. “Our entire nation is particularly grateful to the general public for their commitment to supporting the arts, which they knew were a significant, unifying force in the world.”

Son of Lithuanian immigrants, Broad, was born June 6, 1933 in New York City but grew up in Detroit. His father was a house painter and owner of small businesses.

Broad received his bachelor’s degree from Michigan State University in 1954. In 1991, he earned the university’s Eli Broad College of Business and Eli Broad Graduate School of Management.

At 8 p.m., he passed Michigan’s certified public accountant’s exam and became the youngest person at the time to do so. The following year, he married his girlfriend Edythe in his hometown. The couple had two sons, Jeffrey and Gary. His wife and sons survive him, according to The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation.

Broad was eager to leave school and start his career and began working for several clients, including Kaufman. Soon, Broad took note of the real estate market and began studying the area, reading industry journals and using his accounting knowledge to analyze the business. He gradually became convinced that there was money to be made.

In 1957, at the age of 23, he went into business with Kaufman and sold homes in the suburbs of Detroit. The first homes sold for about $ 12,000, approx. 10 percent smaller than the competition because they were built without the usual basements and about half the time.

Kaufman and Broad took their approach west, first to Arizona and then California. They moved the company’s headquarters to Los Angeles in 1963, two years after it became the first homebuilder to be announced.

In 1971, Broad bought an insurance company as a hedge against boom and bust cycles in the housing market. As he had done before entering real estate, Broad began researching the insurance market and saw financial planning for retirees as a better business. He began shifting the subsidiary’s focus toward selling annuities and other retirement savings products.

The company was renamed SunAmerica in 1989 with Broad as chairman and CEO. In 1998, New York-based American International Group acquired SunAmerica for $ 16.5 billion.

Two years later, Broad stepped down as chief, but retained the title of chairman.

“I want to do the things that I like to do and things that I could have the most value with instead of doing the daily things,” Broad told the Associated Press at the time. “I like working. Right now I probably work 80 hours a week … I still see myself working close to 40 hours at SunAmerica / AIG and maybe 40 hours on other things.”

In recent years, Broad has spent much of his time on philanthropic work through his foundations, advocating for public education reform, promoting the rebirth of downtown Los Angeles as a commercial and residential center, and other causes.

In 1999, Broads founded the Broad Education Foundation with the aim of improving urban public education. The fund committed over $ 500 million to the cause in the first five years.

Broad took a CEO approach and believed that troubled schools could often be greatly improved if they were better managed by their principals.


“These are huge companies,” Broad said of city school districts in an interview with Forbes magazine in 2003. “You don’t start at the bottom. You start at the top. ”

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