Interesting Angelenos

Eli Broad retiring from public life 'right now'

eli-edythe-broad.jpgEli and Edythe Broad.

Updated post

The philanthropist, arts patron and Los Angeles civic leader Eli Broad summoned the New York Times bureau chief in LA to his office on Thursday to announce that he was stepping away from his longtime public role. “Now. Right now," Broad told the NYT's Adam Nagourney and Adam Popescu. "I am just tired. I want to spend more time with my family. Catch up on my reading.”

Broad is 84. "We have been thinking about this for a long time,” he said. “The time has come.”

More than once in recent years, Broad has made it known that his role as behind-the-scenes power broker, counselor and financier on any number of Los Angeles issues and causes would not go on forever and that the city needed to develop new leaders. In the NYT interview, Broad suggested the names of some other wealthy men who might step in to fill his place in Los Angeles civic affairs. They included, per the NYT, Clippers owner Steve Ballmer, Disney chief executive Bob Iger, Hollywood mogul Jeffrey Katzenberg and Nicolas Berggruen, the philanthropist and investor who is building a home for his think tank in Sepulveda Pass.

The NYT reporters had gone to Broad's office on another matter when he gave them the news. From the NYT story:

It is difficult to overstate Mr. Broad’s importance to Los Angeles. His vast fortune has shaped the city, from its arts and medical worlds to its reinvigorated downtown. He has lived here for 52 years, since coming from Detroit as a young entrepreneur. He has been a confidant of mayors and governors, an aggressive advocate for charter schools and a heavy contributor to medical causes, particularly stem-cell research. He has given away or pledged $4 billion in his life. The endowment for the Broad Foundations, his main philanthropic arm, is $2.5 billion. His current net worth is $7.3 billion, which he made in construction and insurance.

Mr. Broad has promised to give away 75 percent of his fortune. He has, at times, been a polarizing figure, fighting with teachers unions over charter schools and at one point feuding with the Los Angeles County Museum of Art over construction costs for a wing built there in his name.

Although Mr. Broad said he considered the money given to education and medical research his biggest accomplishment, his contributions to the city’s art and cultural world may well prove the most enduring legacy — particularly for Los Angeles’s now-thriving downtown.

Mr. Broad said he reached the decision in recent weeks after long discussions with his wife, Edythe, who he said has long urged him to retire. Mr. Broad has prostate cancer, diagnosed more than a decade ago, which is in remission, and he undergoes daily physical therapy for intense back pain, though he said his health was not a factor in his decision.

The NYT said that the "practical ramifications of Mr. Broad’s decision may be limited," citing his naming last year of Gerun Riley to oversee his investments in art, science and educational causes. Four new members to the board of directors of the Broad Museum have also been named recently. The museum on Bunker Hill is going strong, "having drawn 1.5 million visitors since the doors opened" in Sept. 2015.

During Tribune Company ownership of the Los Angeles Times, Broad engaged in discussions about being part of an ownership group that would attempt to buy the paper or move it under local non-profit ownership. Nothing ever came of the talks, and it was notable that for his big announcement on Thursday he went to the New York Times, not his hometown paper. (Though he certainly has been active in New York and other cities, the Broads live in Brentwood and his offices are in Century City.)

LA Times assistant managing editor Shelby Grad tweeted the news about Broad with a link to the NYT.

Later in the day, the LAT also posted a story that cited the New York paper and was forced to include this sentence: "Broad was not available for an interview Thursday." The lede:

Billionaire philanthropist Eli Broad has been a driving force in the intellectual and cultural life of Los Angeles, pouring money into its universities, championing charter schools, and helping to reshape its downtown.

Now he is stepping back from day-to-day operations at the foundation that bears his name.

The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation posted a release with the news as well.

Eli Broad announced today that he is retiring from The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation and handing over day-to-day operations to the foundation’s president, Gerun Riley.

Broad, who co-founded the foundation with his wife Edythe, will remain a trustee of the foundation. He will also continue to serve on the board of directors of The Broad museum in downtown Los Angeles.

“At age 84, I have decided the time has come for me to step back,” Broad said. “Though I’m in great health, I am eager to spend more time with my family.”

Broad appointed Riley, formerly the foundation’s senior vice president and a 14-year member of its team, as his successor last year.

“Edye and I have the utmost confidence in Gerun’s vision, leadership and ability to carry the foundation’s work forward.,” Broad said.

In 1999, after merging SunAmerica with AIG, the Broads dedicated themselves fulltime to philanthropy. Over the course of their lifetimes, they have given more than $4 billion to support K-12 public schools, advance scientific and medical research and bring contemporary art to as wide an audience as possible.

The Broad Foundations, which include The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation and The Broad Art Foundation, were established to advance entrepreneurship for the public good in education, science and the arts.For more information, visit

“His imagination, tenacity and generosity have helped shape our city, from the arts to education to architecture,” Mayor Eric Garcetti said in a statement. “Eli is only retiring, which means we'll have him in our midst for many years to come. I'll be calling on him often."

More by Kevin Roderick:
'In on merit' at USC
Read the memo: LA Times hires again
Read the memo: LA Times losing big on search traffic
Google taking over LA's deadest shopping mall
Gustavo Arellano, many others join LA Times staff
Recent Interesting Angelenos stories on LA Observed:
Jonathan Gold, LA's preeminent food writer, has died at 57
Hockney stops at LACMA for a new exhibition
Eli Broad retiring from public life 'right now'
Cardinal Mahony still walks the walk on refugees and migrants
Friends with books: Two men of Mars
Scully, Abdul-Jabbar, Gehry and more to get White House honor
Josh Kun, 4 other Angelenos win MacArthur grants
Stanley Sheinbaum, 96, LA liberal leader