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MOCA Poker

Will Eli Broad attempt to stop the Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s (LACMA) proposed takeover of the L.A. Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA)?

Eli Broad / Getty

/By Orna Taub /

One person, investment mogul and philanthropist Eli Broad, can stop the possible mega merger between LACMA and MOCA, a move that would combine the largest art collection west of the Mississippi with one of the most prestigious treasures of contemporary art.

LACMA’s proposed buyout of MOCA makes both financial and artistic sense. Financially, it would end the long standing concerns over MOCA’s viability, while artistically it would strengthen LACMA’s weakness in contemporary art, and create one of the largest and most significant museums in the U.S. Museum attendance is big business in Los Angeles, bringing an estimated 1 million tourist to L.A. annually.

So how can Eli Broad jeopardize the deal? Broad, a life trustee on the boards of both museums, financed construction of a new art building bearing his name on the LACMA campus in 2008, while at the same time donating $30 million to MOCA to bail it out of its financial troubles. However, Broad’s gift came with strings. A condition of MOCA’s acceptance of the Broad bailout as Broad stated in 2008 was “to keep MOCA independent. Being merged into another institution would destroy the fabric of a great museum and would sacrifice the independent curatorial vision that has created an extraordinary collection and many unparalleled exhibitions.” Under said condition, MOCA cannot be acquired by another regional museum until 2018.

Five years later, as MOCA’s independent vision seems to have been compromised by key staff and trustee defections, many of those who once opposed the merger are now open to the idea as the best solution to MOCA’s endless problem. A spokeswoman for Broad said that he would make no comment about waiving his condition and allowing the merger.

Broad and his wife Edythe, are themselves avid art collectors. In 1984, they created the Broad Art Foundation, which now owns over $2.4 billion in contemporary art, which they lend to institutions all over the world. They are currently building a new contemporary art museum and headquarters for their foundation in Los Angeles, scheduled to open in 2014.

Broad, a self-made man was born in 1933 in the Bronx, the only son of Lithuanian Jewish immigrants, and raised in Detroit. He bought his first real estate at the age of twenty, and four years later, with $25, 000 borrowed from his in-laws, founded Kaufman and Broad, one of the largest home builders in the U.S. In 1971, Broad acquired Sun Life insurance, later to become Sun America, which he sold to AIG in 1998 for $18 billion. Today, his net worth is an estimated $6.3 billion, making him 191 on Forbes lists of billionaires, and no. 59 in the U.S. A member of The Giving Pledge devotes most of his time to philanthropic work, giving an estimated $3.5 billion to charity, including $600 million to fund the Broad Institute for Biomedical Research at Harvard and MIT.

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