Eli Broad's bid to save the Los Angeles Times from Tribune's culture of declining ambitions and his quest to create a new center of civic life downtown get big play in a new U.S. News profile. There are warnings from analysts and unnamed friends about his likely acumen as a media mogul, but the piece amasses an impressive list of recent good deeds:
In the past year alone, the former CEO of tract-home giant KB Home and annuities empire SunAmerica (now part of AIG) sank $100 million more into the recently established Eli and Edythe Broad Institute for Biomedical Research in Cambridge, Mass. He also pledged $25 million to the University of Southern California for new stem cell research laboratories and nearly $9 million to establish the Broad Fellows Program in Brain Circuitry at the California Institute of Technology. Furthering his efforts to reform public education, he gave $10.5 million to open 21 small charter high schools in L.A. and bestowed the annual $500,000 Broad Prize for Urban Education on the Boston public schools. On the cultural front, Broad donated $6 million to the Los Angeles Opera to stage Wagner's Ring cycle; christened the $23 million Eli and Edythe Broad Art Center at UCLA, and broke ground on the $60 million (all from Broad) Broad Contemporary Art Museum at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. When it is completed, it will be a home for Broad's $1 billion-plus collection of contemporary art.
About the Grand Avenue project, Broad says "Los Angeles is divided culturally and geographically, and it needs a vibrant center where everyone can come together." Author Joel Kotkin replies in the piece, "Eli has this notion that a great city must have a dynamic downtown, and that's what a city lives by. Yet he has been living in one of the greatest cities in the world, and it's the exact opposite. L.A. is a multipolar city, and the notion that you can create New York in the middle of it without understanding the context is a mistake. He's in denial."
From the weekend: The Grand Avenue project needs at least $66 million in tax breaks from the city to pencil out.
Photo of Broad, Mayor Villaraigosa and Frank Gehry: Nick Ut/Associated Press