Photo: NBC News
Photo: NBC News

Eli Broad is an American entrepreneur and philanthropist who built KB Home, a homebuilding company, and SunAmerica, an insurance corporation, becoming the only person to build two Fortune 500 companies in different industries. Famous for his unconventional ways of conducting business, he has cultivated an image for being “completely unreasonable”. He credits his unreasonable ways for his phenomenal success which he believes he never would have achieved had he chosen to stick with the accepted conventions in business. Born to Lithuanian Jewish immigrant parents in the United States, he was raised in a middle-class home. In spite of his modest upbringing, he harbored ambitious dreams from a young age. A good student, he graduated from Detroit Central High School and went on to study accountancy and economics at the Michigan State University. He had to work very hard to provide for himself while still studying and worked at a number of odd jobs to make ends meet. After working for a couple of years he decided to open his own business and teamed up with a relative to start KB Home which proved to be a highly successful venture. Encouraged by its success, Broad acquired Sun Life Insurance Company of America and transformed it into SunAmerica. More recently he has been devoting more time and energy to philanthropic efforts along with his wife.

Eli Broad: Biography

Photo: Forbes
Photo: Forbes

Broad was born on June 6, 1933, in the Bronx, New York City, the only child of Lithuanian Jewish immigrant parents who met in New York. His father worked as a house painter, and his mother as a dressmaker. His family moved to Detroit, Michigan when he was six years old. In Detroit, his father was a union organizer and owned five-and-dime stores. Broad attended Detroit Public Schools and graduated from Detroit Central High School in 1951.

Broad attended Michigan State University, majoring in accounting with a minor in economics and graduating cum laude in 1954. Among the jobs Broad held in college were selling women's shoes, selling garbage disposals door-to-door, and working as a drill press operator at Packard Motor, where he was a member of United Auto Workers. The same year, 21-year-old Broad married 18-year-old Edythe "Edye" Lawson.

Broad became the youngest Michigan resident to attain the credentials of Certified Public Accountant (CPA), a record he held until 2010. Broad worked as an accountant for two years and taught night classes at the Detroit Institute of Technology as an assistant professor of accounting in 1956. Wanting to work on his own, he founded his own accounting firm and was offered office space by the husband of his wife's cousin, Donald Bruce Kaufman, in return for doing the books for Kaufman's small homebuilding and subcontracting business.

Eli Broad: Career

Photo: New York Times
Photo: New York Times

He started working as an accountant upon the completion of his studies. He also taught night classes at the Detroit Institute of Technology as an assistant professor of accounting in 1956.

After working as an accountant for a while he decided to open his own business—an accounting firm. A relative from his wife’s side, Donald Kaufman, offered him office space and in return Broad promised to do the accounting work at Kaufman’s real estate firm.

Broad and Kaufman got along well and they decided to team up and build homes together in 1957. Broad borrowed some money from his wife’s parents to contribute towards his share of the capital investment and the duo founded the homebuilding company Kaufman & Broad (later shortened to KB Home).

Broad was responsible for land acquisition and materials while Kaufman handled the design. The company soon became successful, designing and building affordable homes for primarily first-time house buyers. Their designs were innovative and cost effective, and within two years Kaufman & Broad had built 600 homes in the Detroit suburbs.

In 1962, the company expanded to Arizona, and a year later to California. Their growing success propelled them to venture into international markets and in 1967 they became the first U.S. homebuilder to expand into France.

Broad acquired Sun Life Insurance Company of America, a family-owned insurance company, in 1971. He transformed Sun Life into SunAmerica and built it into a Fortune 500 company which he sold to the American International Group (AIG) for $18 billion in 1999. He continued as CEO of SunAmerica until 2000.

Major Works

Along with Donald Kaufman, Eli Broad founded the homebuilding company Kaufman & Broad in Detroit which has since built over 550,000 homes. The company was a Fortune 500 company from 2000 through 2008 and was named "Most Admired Homebuilder" by ‘Fortune Magazine’ in 2006, 2008, 2009, and 2011.

Awards & Achievements

He was named Chevalier in the National Order of the Legion of Honor by the Republic of France in 1994.

He received the Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy in 2007.

In 2009, he was honored with the David Rockefeller Award by the Museum of Modern Art.

Personal Life & Legacy

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images

He met and fell in love with Edythe "Edye" Lawson while both were at the Michigan State University. The couple got married in 1954 and had two children. They have been happily married for over six decades now.

Philanthropic Works

Eli Broad, along with his wife Edythe created the Broad Foundations –which include The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation and The Broad Art Foundation—to advance entrepreneurship for the public good in education, science and the arts.

The Broad Foundation’s major education initiatives include the $1 million Broad Prize for Urban Education. The Broad Prize has awarded $12 million in college scholarships to high school seniors since 2002.

Eli Broad is a life trustee of The Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, to which The Broad Foundation gave a $30 million challenge grant in December 2008.

The Broads are members of "The Giving Pledge" and have personally committed to give 75 % of their wealth away.

Net Worth

As of 2015, Eli Broad has an estimated net worth of US$7.1 billion.

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Eli Broad passed away at 87

Eli Broad, who amassed a multi-billion-dollar fortune from his home-building and insurance businesses, and used his wealth to fund cultural improvements throughout his adopted hometown of Los Angeles, died Friday at age 87.

Broad passed away at Cedars-Sinai medical centre in Los Angeles following a long illness, said Suzi Emmerling, a spokeswoman for the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, according to the Guardian.

An accountant by trade who made his fortune in real estate and insurance, Broad championed and helped finance the Broad museum of contemporary art, which opened in 2015.

He also secured the art that would become the museum’s first major acquisition, the collection of Italian Count Guiseppe Biumo di Panza, now said to be worth $1bn, according to a biography of Broad on the foundation’s website.

Broad contributed heavily to the construction of the nearby Walt Disney concert hall as well as an art centre at the University of California, Los Angeles.

His donations also helped open the Broad Center at Yale School of Management, and the Broad Institute, a genomic medicine research center created in partnership with Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

“As a businessman Eli saw around corners, as a philanthropist he saw the problems in the world and tried to fix them, as a citizen he saw the possibility in our shared community, and as a husband, father and friend he saw the potential in each of us,” Gerun Riley, president of the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, said in a statement.

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