Posted: January 27, 2017 by Eli Randel, Director of Business Development


While east coasters may not be as familiar with Donald Bren, Bren has amassed an approximate $17B fortune through development and investment in Southern California and beyond. The OC Weekly once wrote the Bren “wields more power than Howard Hughes ever did, probably as much as any man in America over a concentrated region – determining not only how people live and shop but who governs them.” In 2015, Bren was recognized as the wealthiest real estate developer in the US, while also being considered one of the top philanthropists in the nation with total charitable contributions exceeding $1.3B.

Following his graduation from the University of Washington and his service as an officer in the US Marine Corps, Bren would form the Bren Company in 1958 and build his first house in Newport Beach with a $10,000 loan. By 1963 he would help form the Mission Viejo Company (MVC) which Bren would also preside over. The MVC would acquire 11,000 acres of land in Mission Viejo for eventual development. In 1970 the firm sold to International Paper for $34MM. Bren would eventually buy the firm back for $22MM following the recession. In 1977, Bren would join a syndicate of investors to purchase the 146-year old Irvine Company which Bren now chairs and is the sole owner of after having bought out his other partners in 1996. While still focused primarily on Southern California, the Irvine Company’s property portfolio exceeds 115 million square feet and includes 500 office buildings, 43 retail centers, 160 apartment communities, five marinas, three hotels, and three golf courses, with one-third of the investment properties residing in West Los Angeles, San Diego, Silicon Valley, Chicago and New York City. The Irvine Company has also donated 57,000 acres of land – more than half of the original ranch size – to be permanently preserved.

Donald Bren Quotes:

“I really don’t think in the past. I sit down with many friends at dinner, and they like to talk about the good old days. I’m respectful of the good old days, but I find myself spending very little time reminiscing. I’m really looking forward.”

“I’m not a public official. I’m a businessman, I’m a builder, I’m a planner.”

“It’s my view that solar energy may be the ultimate solution for energy for most of the world. I believe, based on what little I know about it, that there is a possibility of a breakthrough.”

“In my opinion, education is the finest gift an individual can give a young person.”

“I get great satisfaction from both business and philanthropy.”

“I do limit my exposure to the public. You only have so much time.”


Image Source: OC Register Sept. 29, 2015