Beverly Hills billionaires give UC Davis $50 million to build agricultural research hub
A $50 million donation to UC Davis by real estate magnate and Democratic donor Donald Bren, who reportedly earned more than $2 billion for himself and his businesses last year through his investment firm, The Bren Group, was approved by the School of Medicine’s governing board Tuesday.
Bren is one of Hollywood’s most powerful and infamous millionaires, with a net worth estimated at more than $3 billion, thanks to high-flying property investments and a growing real estate empire. He’s the chairman of The Bren Group and a longtime friend and donor to Democratic causes.
But what was perhaps most surprising was that Bren didn’t buy his way into the school, which has just begun a $750 million expansion that includes a new medical campus on the north side of Sacramento.
Instead, he donated the entire $50 million (plus a $5 million matching grant from the Bren Group) to be matched by the university and donated from his own pocket, according to the California Medical Writers Association’s news release announcing his gift.
“I’ve had a long and rich history in health, education and business, and I have been committed to creating opportunities for underserved communities throughout the state,” he said in the release.
Bren is also a member of the board of directors of the California Medical Association and the California Academy of Sciences.
While he’s donated hundreds of millions of dollars to various politicians and charitable causes, including $17.8 million to his alma mater’s namesake, the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism, he didn’t publicly disclose the Bren Group, which was founded in 1972 by Bren, according to a source familiar with the group.
In the past, Bren has donated money and support to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Meat Animal Research Center in Benicia and a large number of California’s top universities, including the University of California at Berkeley, University of California at Los Angeles, University of California at Davis and Stanford University.
“The California Academy of Sciences Foundation continues to lead the university’s efforts to provide an outstanding education in science, technology, engineering and medicine to both graduate and undergraduate students,” said UC Davis Chancellor Linda P. B. Katehi, in a statement. “It was a pleasure to work with Dr. Bren and his wife, Mary, to support this important university mission.”
But the new donation came in large part thanks