NET WORTH: $1.8 billion
SOURCE of WEALTH: Cofounder, Alpha Investment Management
FUNDING AREAS: Ideas, Arts,
OVERVIEW: While Berggruen has given to the arts, his main passion is the Berggruen Institute, a think tank in Los Angeles that he's committed a good portion of his fortune to developing and endowing. Berggruen is part of the Giving Pledge.
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.
IDEAS: The centerpiece of Berggruen's philanthropy is the Berggruen Institute, an independent think tank based in Los Angeles. Its mission "is to develop foundational ideas and, through them, shape political, economic and social institutions for the 21st century." Berggruen has explained this undertaking to the Wall Street Journal by saying that philosophy and ideas are all important. “We’re still shaped by ideas and by the people that created them thousands of years ago.” Among other things, the institute offers a $1 million annual prize to recognize top humanistic thinkers. When fully developed, the institute will offer a home to several dozen scholars and host regular convenings in its headquarters in the Santa Monica Mountains. Berggruen reportedly has committed at least $1 billion to permanently endow the organization.
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.
GOVERNANCE: Governance was an early focus of the Berrgruen Institute and remains an important part of its work. Initiatives have included the 21st Century Council, focused on global governance, the Council for the Future of Europe, and the Think Long Committee for California. These have all been elite-level efforts.
LOOKING FORWARD: It remains to be seen whether Berggruen engages in significant ongoing philanthropic giving in addition to his main work on the Berggruen Institute.