Saturday, May 1, 2021


Eli Broad, who died on Friday, was the only billionaire I ever knew in person. I interviewed him in his home, many years ago. He invited Ellie and myself to join him and his wife, Edythe, for dinner at a posh Italian restaurant. In person, he was courteous, charming, at once himself interesting and interested in others--an important quality in my book. I'm well aware of his reputation as an autocratic philanthropist whose ego matched the scale of his ambitions; and even though many of those ambitions were for the city that he genuinely loved, they were perhaps, as Shakespeare's Mark Antony famously said of Caesar's, "a grievous fault." Certainly, they were held against him by many critics and many who matched wills with him and came off the worse for it. As for Broad, he brushed off such criticism, cheerfully calling himself "unreasonable" and attributing his success to that very quality. "The evil that men do lives after them" continued Mark Antony in his funeral oration. "The good is oft interred within their bones. So let it be with Caesar." In Broad's case it is perhaps the opposite: would we have Disney Hall, for example, without his sometimes bullying efforts? It's in part his philanthropy that turned the once widely mocked Los Angeles into a world cultural center to be reckoned with. May the emperor that was surely a good part of him be buried with his bones.

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