November 6, 2014; Los Angeles Times

The Los Angeles Times reports that former entertainment mogul and long-time Los Angeles resident Jerry Perenchio will be giving almost all of his extensive art collection, with at least 47 works valued at $500 million, including ones by Monet, Leger and Magritte, to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA).

“L.A. is my home, and I wanted to leave it to a museum here,” he told the Times.

It’s a refreshing change of pace for Southern California, whose entertainment community is notorious for bestowing its considerable largess on global issues and institutions, ignoring their hometown.

The bequest, which would go into effect after his death, would only be made after the museum completes construction of its new building, planned for 2023. The County approved this past week a plan providing public financing and $125 million toward the $600-million project. The new building features a bold and dramatic design—an undulating blob spanning Wilshire Blvd., the main thoroughfare on which it’s located, by “starchitect” Peter Zumthor.

The Times’ own art critic said Perenchio’s bequest of works from the 19th and 20th centuries would be a significant addition to the museum’s holdings. LACMA has acquired dozens of collections over the years, but it has a history of losing significant art holdings that it was expected to get to other museums. This bequest is considered somewhat of a coup.

Perenchio grew up in Fresno and graduated from UCLA. He began his career in show business as an agent at Lew Wasserman’s MCA and later started his own talent agency. In 1981, Perenchio and TV producer Norman Lear bought Avco Embassy Pictures and sold it four years later for 20 times what they originally paid, but his gold mine was yet to be discovered, says the Times story:

“He hit the big time with Spanish-language TV network Univision. Perenchio and two partners bought Univision from Hallmark for $550 million in 1992. Their timing could not have been better; advertisers were looking for a way to reach millions of Latino consumers, and Univision was the pipeline into their homes. In 2007, Perenchio and his partners closed the sale of Univision to an investment group led by Los Angeles billionaire Haim Saban for $12.3 billion. Perenchio collected $1.3 billion for his stake in the company.”

Perenchio rarely talks to reporters and keeps a low public profile. His interview with the paper at his home, with its walls adorned with many of the works he will be donating, was unusual for him. He told the paper that he wants to now focus attention on LACMA’s campaign to build a new museum to replace the four deteriorating structures built in the 1960s and 1980s.

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LACMA is the largest art museum in the West, but it has seen some “high-profile defections” over the years: In the late 1930s, it lost a large donated collection to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. In the 1970s, Norton Simon bolted from LACMA and opened his own museum in nearby Pasadena—Armand Hammer, also a LACMA trustee, did the same thing a few years later—and it lost Walter Annenberg’s collection to New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art in the early 1990s.

The Times said “the French Impressionist works being donated by Perenchio will add breadth and depth to the museum’s relatively weak holdings in a popular—and largely unaffordable—area.” Perenchio told the paper that he almost never sold one of his works of art.—Larry Kaplan