LOS ANGELES — Philanthropist Eli Broad, whose contributions to Los Angeles arts, culture and overall development have left an indelible impression on the city — and whose vocal support of charter schools has earned him the derision of the L.A. teacher’s union — announced his retirement last week.
In an exclusive interview with the New York Times at the Broad Foundation office in Century City Oct. 12, the 84-year-old Broad said he is retiring “now, right now.”
“I am just tired,” he said. “I want to spend more time with my family. Catch up on my reading.”
A spokeswoman with the Broad Foundation did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Broad told the paper he made the decision in consultation with his wife, Edythe, who has long urged him to retire.
He said health was not a factor in his decision, although he was diagnosed with prostate cancer a decade ago, and it’s in remission.
“We have been thinking about this for a long time,” he said. “The time has come.”
The paper noted that Broad has lived in Los Angeles for 52 years, and he has given away about $4 billion of the $7.3 billion fortune he built in insurance and construction. The Broad Foundation endowment is $2.5 billion.
Broad has given extensively to political movements, politicians, medical research, education initiatives and other causes, and also funded a $140 million art museum called The Broad in downtown Los Angeles which opened in 2015.
Eli and Edythe established the stem cell research center at USC in February 2006 with a $30 million gift to the Keck School of Medicine.
Broad has also financially supported a number of projects along the Grand Avenue area in downtown Los Angeles where The Broad is located, including the Museum of Contemporary Art, the Walt Disney Concert Hall and the Los Angeles Opera.
Broad has also been a top supporter of charter schools, which are publicly financed but privately operated schools.
While many point to charters as innovative and successful models, it has made him an enemy of teacher unions because most charters in L.A. are not unionized. Funding for schools is done on a per-pupil basis, and charters drain students and budget money away from school districts.
The Broad Foundation has given over $590 million to education initiatives since 1999, according to its website, including $144 million for charters.
“We’re very concerned that Eli Broad is part of a network of foundations and billionaires who are actually behind a plan to undermine public education by opening unregulated schools, unregulated charter schools that don’t serve civil rights and that don’t serve kids,” said Alex Caputo Pearl, president of United Teachers Los Angeles, in 2015, according to EdSource. UTLA is the teachers union for the Los Angeles Unified School District.
But the criticism is not universal, and charter school advocates point to some test scores and other metrics that show charter schools at LAUSD perform better than district schools.
Broad is also a longtime supporter of Bill and Hillary Clinton, and Bill Clinton was at the second opening night of the Broad Museum in downtown Los Angeles in 2015.
Bill Clinton said that he had been friends with Broad since the 1980s when Hillary was his lawyer.
“I looked up one day and Eli was in my living room, and my life has never been the same,” Clinton said at The Broad opening, according to the Los Angeles Times.