Out of the News, But Quietly Giving: A Look At Gary Winnick's Philanthropy

We sometimes write about Michael Milken and Steve Cohen with respect to the legal controversies in which they were once mired. While both men were involved in philanthropy prior to their legal troubles, Milken went from high-profile white collar criminal to major philanthropist over the course of a few decades. And though Cohen's old hedge fund is no more, his Steven and Alexandra Cohen Foundation has really been ramping up.

This brings us to West Coast financier Gary Winnick, who used to work junk bonds at Drexel Burnham alongside Milken. Winnick founded telecom company Global Crossing in 1997, and quickly amassed great wealth. He was named Los Angeles Business Journal's richest person in the city and was considered a billionaire. Winnick took the company public the following year and then sold shares worth $734 million before the company crumbled amid allegations of malfeasance. "Gary Winnick should go to jail," fumed one editorial. While Winnick was absolved by federal regulators, in addition to a $25 million payment to pension holders, he also contributed $55 million to a $324 million settlement with shareholders and former employees, according to the Los Angeles Times.

After that, Winnick largely disappeared from public sight. Last time he made news, it was for putting his Bel-Air estate up for sale for a record $225 million.

These days, Winnick is at the helm of Winnick & Company, a Los Angeles-based investment firm he founded. Like Milken, Winnick turned to philanthropy years ago and established the Winnick Family Foundation all the way back in 1983. Via the foundation, in recent years, the Winnicks have given in the neighborhood of $1 million annually. The family's philanthropy focuses on New York and Los Angeles, with an international component, too. 

The foundation has several key interests, some of which are fueled in part by Winnick's wife, Karen, a children's book author with a passion for literacy and animal rights. Other interests include healthcare and Jewish causes.

The Winnicks have strongly supported Winnick's alma mater Long Island University, including with a $10 million gift last decade. The school is home to the Winnick House and Arnold S. Winnick Student Center. They've also given Karen's alma mater Syracuse millions, and have supported Stanford and Brown, as well. In terms of literacy, they've supported Wonder of Reading and helped create the Arnold & Blanche Winnick Popular Library and Karen Winnick Children’s Gallery at the Los Angeles Central Library.

Winnick is a member of the boards of the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) and the Simon Wiesenthal Center. These two outfits have received especially strong support from the family. The Simon Wiesenthal Center (SWC) in Los Angeles is a museum which focuses on racism in America and the history of the Holocaust. In 2000, Winnick contributed $40 million for a peace and tolerance institute being built by the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Jerusalem. The Winnick Family Foundation has continued to support SWC and other Jewish outfits in the United States as well as in Israel.

For a complete overview of this funder's philanthropy, click the links below.