Jerrold "Jerry" Perenchio isn't a household name in philanthropy, but perhaps this is by design. The billionaire media mogul reportedly ascribes to a list of 20 “rules of the road” that include: "Stay out of the spotlight—it fades your suit" and "No interviews, no panels, no speeches, no comments." Well, Perenchio recently made an exception to his rule and stepped into the spotlight in a huge way when he announced that he would be donating most of his massive art collection—at least 47 pieces of art valued at $500 million—to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) upon his death.
Perenchio has been amassing art for 50 years and has in his collection works of the greatest painters of the 19th and 20th centuries, including Degas, Monet, Picasso, and Cezanne. Perenchio has been giving to LACMA for a while now too, but most of these gifts have come with little fanfare because—surprise—they were made anonymously.
So why did Perenchio go public with his philanthropy this time around? Why now and why at LACMA?
First, we should note that arts bequests are fairly common in philanthropy. We've written about the $5 million a year that David Rockefeller has been giving to MoMA since 2005, and the $100 million waiting in the wings upon his death.
In Perenchio's case, however, his bequest comes with one significant caveat: LACMA must first complete construction of its new building, a $600 million endeavor planned for the next decade. As Perenchio puts it: “I decided to go public because I believe it’s important for Los Angeles County and LACMA to help make this new building possible.” And $500 million worth of art would seem like quite the motivator.
Provided that everything goes to plan, this will be a big boon for LACMA, which over the years has lost several significant art bids, according to the Los Angeles Times. The museum has lost out on collections built by Walter and Louise Arensberg and Norton Simon. It also failed to secure an African art collection by Katherine White and paintings and works by a French satirist that were held by Armand Hammer. In other words, Perenchio's offer could be just the stroke of good luck LACMA brass have been waiting for.
A few other words about Perenchio. Before becoming chairman and CEO of Univision, he got his start in entertainment as a talent agent, working with a British actor who had a penchant for art himself. This is how Perenchio caught the art bug. Perenchio also runs a foundation with his wife Margaret called the Chartwell Charitable Foundation, which gives away around $6.6 million a year, much of it in Los Angeles and in the arts specifically.
Despite all of Perenchio's anonymous gifts, he's also given to LACMA through Chartwell. In recent years, Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, Los Angeles Opera, The Los Angeles Music Center Spotlight Awards, Ballet Hispanico in New York and the Los Angeles Philharmonic have also been supported through the couple's foundation. Oh, and Margaret is a painter who has painted the likes of Les Moonves and Luciano Pavarotti.