NET WORTH: $1.81 billion
SOURCE of WEALTH: Cofounder, Alpha Investment Management
FUNDING AREAS: Arts, Governance
OVERVIEW: Though Berggruen has endowed his charitable foundation with some $30 million in assets, it has made very few grants, amounting to no more than a few hundred thousand dollars a year. But this Giving Pledge signatory is very involved in several arts institutions and cares deeply about governance challenges.
BACKGROUND: Berggruen, a dual citizen of the United States and Germany, was born in Paris, the son of an art dealer and an actress. He attended several schools in Europe before studying finance and international business at NYU. He worked at several investment companies before founding Berggruen Holdings with a $250,000 trust fund, and cofounding Alpha Investment Management four years later. Before he recently bought a home in West Hollywood, he was known as “the homeless billionaire,” preferring to live in hotels rather than at a permanent address.
FINE ART: Berggruen’s father was a well-known art collector and dealer for a number of 20th century masters, including Pablo Picasso, so it’s not surprising that Berggruen is a major benefactor for the arts. He’s also on the board of Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and a member of the internation council of Berggruen Museum in Berlin, where the bulk of his father’s collection, worth an estimated $450 million, is now housed. In addition to making acquisitions for these organizations and helping organization fundraising drives, he also contributes smaller amounts through the Nicolas Berggruen Charitable Foundation to organizations such as the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, the Portland Art Museum, and the National Museum Association. Berggruen also recently opened the Berggruen Philosophy and Culture Center, and contributed to a $1 million award, for the center's "idea contest."
GOVERNANCE: In 2010, Berggruen created the Berggruen Institute on Governance to develop and implement more effective systems of government. He has launched several programs through the Institute, including the 21st Century Council, which is focused on global governance, the Council for the Future of Europe, and the Think Long Committee for California. The organization does occasionally make grants to organizations like Institute for Good Governance, focusing on ballot initiatives in California, or the Clinton Global Initiative, usually for amounts of $10,000-$25,000, but the bulk of the $6 million or so Berggruen has put into the organization has been used to fund advisory councils, and various consulting work.
LOOKING FORWARD: Berggruen certainly has his hands full with all the different museum boards he chairs, not to mention his business career, so look for major contributions to these organizations in the years to come. Other museums in mid-major cities could see smaller grants if the Portland Art Museum is any indication, but Berggruen still has over a billion dollars to give away to fulfill his giving pledge, so perhaps we will see his foundation expand to areas like arts education programs. When it comes to governance, look for Berggruen to support elite-level efforts.
Nicolas Berggruen Charitable Foundation
℅ Berggruen Holdings
1114 Avenue of the Americas 41st Floor
New York, NY 10036
Berggruen Institute on Governance
100 Wilshire Blvd. Suite 1200
Santa Monica, CA 90401