Eli Broad, Who Helped Reshape Los Angeles, Dies at 87

Eli Broad, a businessman and philanthropist whose vast fortune, extensive art collection and zeal for civic improvement helped reshape t...


Eli Broad, a businessman and philanthropist whose vast fortune, extensive art collection and zeal for civic improvement helped reshape the cultural landscape of Los Angeles, died on Friday at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. He was 87.

Suzi Emmerling, a spokeswoman for the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, confirmed his death, which, she said, came after a long illness.

Mr. Broad (pronounced Brode) made billions in the home-building and insurance businesses and spent a significant part of his wealth trying to make Los Angeles one of the world’s pre-eminent cultural capitals.

He played a pivotal role in creating the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art, and brokered the deal that brought it Count Giuseppe Panza di Biumo’s important collection of Abstract Expressionist and Pop Art. When the museum teetered on the verge of financial collapse in 2008, he bailed it out with a $30 million rescue package.

He gave $50 million to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art to build the Broad Contemporary Art Museum and led the fund-raising campaign to finish the Walt Disney Concert Hall when the project was dead in the water.

The museums, medical research centers and cultural institutions emblazoned with the names of Mr. Broad and his wife, Edythe, include the Broad Art Center at the University of California at Los Angeles, the Broad Center for the Biological Sciences at the California Institute of Technology, and centers for regenerative medicine and stem-cell research at three California universities.

Working with civic leaders and developers, he helped shape a far-reaching plan to transform Grand Avenue, in Los Angeles’s neglected downtown, into a cultural and civic hub, with restaurants, hotels, a large park and a museum, the Broad, that would house Mr. Broad’s collection of more than 2,000 contemporary works.

Along with his art, he collected enemies. Hard-driving, curt and impatient, Mr. Broad was a polarizing figure.

“I’m not the most popular person in Los Angeles,” he wrote in “The Art of Being Unreasonable: Lessons in Unconventional Thinking,” a memoir and business-advice book published in 2012.

No one disputed the claim. Museum directors and trustees often found him meddlesome and impossible to please, determined to run the show and loath to share credit. He hired star architects and then feuded with them, notably Frank Gehry, and kept museums in a lather vying for his collection, which, in the end, he decided to lend rather than donate, and exhibit in his own museum.

Even his critics had to concede, however, that he was probably the most effective civic leader Los Angeles had seen since Dorothy Chandler, a remarkable achievement for a transplanted Midwesterner with no family ties to his adopted city.

“There’s no curtain you can’t get through in Los Angeles — no religious curtain, no curtain about where you came from,” Mr. Broad told The New York Times in 2001. “It’s a meritocracy, unlike some other cities. If you have ideas here, if you have energy, you’ll be accepted. I love L.A.”

Christopher Mele contributed reporting.

A full obituary is forthcoming.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Eli Broad, Who Helped Reshape Los Angeles, Dies at 87
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