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Billionaire developer Eli Broad, patron of L.A. arts, dies at 87

Broad helped put Los Angeles on the high-culture map, donating more than a billion dollars to the arts, science and education.
Image: Eli Broad at his Century City offices on Aug. 3, 2000.
Eli Broad at his Century City offices in Los Angeles on Aug. 3, 2000.Anacleto Rapping / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Billionaire developer and arts patron Eli Broad, who helped put Los Angeles on the high-culture map, died Friday, a spokeswoman said. He was 87.

He died Friday at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center after a long illness, said Suzi Emmerling, spokeswoman for the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation.

Broad founded homebuilder KB Home in 1957 and acquired life insurance and financial services company SunAmerica Inc. two decades later. Both became Fortune 500 companies, feeding his estimated $6.9 billion net worth and helping to make him a power player in L.A. culture and politics.

Eli Broad and Edythe Broad
Eli Broad and his wife, Edythe, at the civic dedication and ribbon cutting ceremony to celebrate the opening of the Broad museum in downtown Los Angeles on Sept. 18, 2015.Nick Ut / AP

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said in a statement that the death of Broad, a friend for more than 30 years, "is a great loss for Los Angeles and for the nation."

"Eli, together with his beloved wife Edye, made it his life’s work to expand opportunity in America," she said. "Our entire nation is particularly indebted to the Broads for their commitment to supporting the arts, which they knew to be an essential, unifying force in the world."

With his wife, Broad made donations that were legendary: $1.1 billion to establish the Broad Institute at Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; $60 million to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; $30 million to "rescue" the city's Museum of Contemporary Art; $20 million for stem cell research at UCLA; millions for public schools; and $225 million, raised with the help of others, to save the development of Frank Gehry-designed Disney Hall, which opened in Los Angeles in 2003.

Broad was part of an unsuccessful attempt in 2007, along with Southern California grocery store magnate Ron Burkle, to purchase the Tribune Co. newspaper chain, which at the time owned his hometown publication, the Los Angeles Times.

The paper's owner, biomedical billionaire Patrick Soon-Shiong, and his wife, Michele, said in a statement published by the Times on Friday that they joined "the city of Los Angeles in mourning the loss of Eli Broad. The city and the nation have lost an icon."

In 2020, according to the Broad Foundation, the couple became unhappy with the state of politics and "doubled down" on political donations to progressive candidates.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti tweeted Friday that Broad "was L.A.'s most influential private citizen of his generation."

"He loved this city as deeply as anyone I have ever known," he said.

Broad was born in 1933 in the New York City borough of the Bronx to Lithuanian immigrants; went to Michigan State University, where he met Edythe; and moved to Los Angeles in 1963.⁦

Edythe Broad's passion for arts put the couple on a path collecting artists ranging from Vincent van Gogh to Willem de Kooning.

In 2011 Broad told CBS' "60 Minutes" that he enjoyed seeing his name on buildings that were beneficiaries of his largesse. "I don't keep it a secret," he said.

"I'm here to make things better or different," Broad said.

His pièce de résistance was downtown L.A.'s $140 million Broad museum, which opened in 2015 and features 2,000 works of art from the Broads' $1.6 billion art collection.

He retired in 2017 from The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation and its $2.5 billion endowment, passing on responsibility for running it to its president, Gerun Riley.

Broad told "60 Minutes" his philanthropy was not about charity: "We don't give it away; we invest it."

He is survived by his wife and two grown sons.