Origin Stories: A Cheat Sheet For Six of L.A.’s Biggest Benefactors

The Broads. The Tapers. The Annenbergs. You know their buildings, but do you know their family trees?
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It’s strange. For more than 100 years generations of Los Angeles dynasties have played civic Santa, gifting our city’s landscape with theaters, museums, and monuments in their names. Yet few of these billionaires are considered on a par with the last-name-only legacies of the Rockefellers and the Carnegies.

Every Angeleno knows where the Getty Center is and that the Mark Taper Forum is “the round one” downtown, but few of us can rattle off a passable Wikipedia entry about the (largely) self-made figures whose fortunes helped fuel L.A.’s creation. Paul Thomas Anderson was inspired by oil tycoon Edward L. Doheny for his film There Will Be Blood, but there are enough dynasties here to fill a Ken Burns documentary.

The Broads

family_broadsNet Worth
 $7.2 billion

Best-Known Buildings
The Broad Contemporary Art Museum and the Broad museum (set to open in 2015)

Founding Fortune
The Bronx-born son of Lithuanian immigrants, Eli Broad founded the home-building company Kaufman & Broad in 1957, then bought Sun Life Insurance (which was later sold to AIG) in 1971. He and Edythe, his wife of 57 years, established the Broad Foundation in the 1960s and have lived in L.A. since 1963.

Family Legacy
Eli, 81 and retired, plans to dedicate 75 percent of his income to various causes during his lifetime—maybe not the best news to his two grown kids. He’s well past the halfway mark, having donated $3.9 billion as of 2014.


The Annenbergs

Net Worth
 $2 billion

Best-Known Buildings
The Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts and the Annenberg Space for Photography

Founding Fortune 
Prussian immigrant Moses Annenberg built a newspaper empire with Triangle Publications in 1930s Philadelphia before his death in 1942. Son Walter expanded his father’s holdings into radio and magazines, launching TV Guide in 1953. He died in 2002.

Family Legacy
In 1971, Walter funded the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern California. Daughter Wallis, who moved to Los Angeles in the 1960s, has for decades been an active philanthropist, supporting media and the arts through the Annenberg Foundation. Artist Lauren Bon, one of Wallis’s four children, is spearheading the re-creation of an 1850s waterwheel along the L.A. River near downtown.


The Ahmansons

family_AHMANSONsNet Worth
$2 billion

Best-Known Buildings
The Ahmanson Theatre and the Ahmanson Building at LACMA

Founding Fortune
The family made its money in 1927 with the founding of H.F. Ahmanson & Co., which became parent company to the Home Savings juggernaut. Throughout his lifetime Howard F. Ahmanson donated mightily to venues devoted to the arts and sciences.

Family Legacy
Today the Ahmanson Foundation is run by Ahmanson’s nephew William, who is active on many boards. Son Howard Jr. sold his father’s loan companies in 1998 to focus on evangelical Christian causes with his wife, Roberta. A lifelong conservative Republican (he donated $1,395,000 to support 2008’s Proposition 8 ballot measure), Howard recently switched to the Democratic Party.


The Tapers

family_tapersNet Worth
$97 million

Best-Known Building
The Mark Taper Forum

Founding Fortune
Born in what is now Poland, S. Mark Taper began his career when he acquired a shoe store in England in the 1920s and quickly expanded it into a franchise. With a booming real estate development business, he and his wife, Amelia, moved to Long Beach in the 1930s. Over his lifetime he gave $1.5 million toward the construction of the Music Center and supported many health-related causes, including the S. Mark Taper Foundation Children’s Clinic Family Health Center.

Family Legacy
The Tapers have been lauded as staggeringly good samaritans, responsible for saving hundreds of Jews by ferrying them from Nazi Germany to England and the United States. The S. Mark Taper Foundation, which was formed five years before Taper’s death in 1994, supports Southern California-based nonprofit organizations. His daughter, Janice Taper Lazarof, is president of the charity.


 The Chandlers

family_chandlersNet Worth
$4 billion

Best-Known Building
The Dorothy Chandler Pavilion

Founding Fortune
Starting in 1944, the Los Angeles Times waspassed from father to son for three generations. After Norman Chandler handed the reins to his son, Otis, in 1960, the Times gained a national reputation and helped bolster the family’s billions until the paper was sold to the Tribune Company in 2000.

Family Legacy
A cultural leader of her generation, Otis’s mother, Dorothy, raised funds for the Music Center, which turns 50 this month (see page 90). The surviving family members, including Otis’s son Harry Brant Chandler, a media executive turned author, avoid the limelight.


 The Gettys

gettysNet Worth
 $5 billion

Best-Known Buildings
The Getty Center and the Getty Villa

Founding Fortune
Once the richest man in America, the notoriously tightfisted Jean Paul Getty grew up in L.A. and established Getty Oil in 1967, amassing the bulk of the family’s riches in the ’60s and ’70s. After he died in 1976, his children sold the company to Texaco for $10 billion.

Family Legacy
Most of J. Paul Getty’s estate went to the Getty Foundation and the Getty Museum, among other projects. Granddaughter Aileen is an advocate for the homeless in Los Angeles; great-grandson Balthazar is an actor known for his roles on the TV series Alias and Brothers & Sisters.

Crest illustrations by Brown Bird Design

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