Donald Bren, Chairman of the Board of the Irvine Company, has been deeply involved in California real estate as a master planner, master builder, and long-term investor for 50 years.
Born in Los Angeles, Bren earned a degree in economics and business administration from the University of Washington. Following his education, he served for three years as an officer in the U.S. Marine Corps.
Bren joined the Mission Viejo Company in 1963 as president and began the master planning and master development of the 11,000-acre new community of Mission Viejo, California. In 1967, Bren sold his interest in the Mission Viejo Company to expand his statewide building and development activities, including the Irvine Ranch.
In 1977, Bren was a member of an investment group to purchase Irvine Company from the Irvine Foundation. Bren was elected Chairman of the Board in 1983 and he became the principal shareholder. In 1996, he became sole shareholder.
The historical Irvine Company dates back to 1864, and has been the master planner and master builder of the 93,000 acre Irvine Ranch since 1960.
Irvine Company’s property portfolio exceeds 120 million square feet and includes 500 office buildings, 43 retail centers, 160 apartment communities, five marinas, three hotels, and three golf courses, primarily in Orange County, Calif., with one-third of the investment properties in West Los Angeles, San Diego, Silicon Valley, Chicago and New York City.
Bren has led Irvine Company to set aside 57,000 acres of the original 93,000-acre Irvine Ranch as permanently protected open space and parklands. In 2006, much of this land was designated as a National Natural Landmark by the U.S. Department of the interior and the National Park Service. In 2008, it was also designated as the first California Natural Landmark by the State of California.
As an involved community entrepreneur, Bren focuses his charitable contributions on regional land preservation and conservation, as well as education, bioscience and technology research. Business week magazine has estimated that he has given more than $1.3 billion during his lifetime.
He also has made significant contributions to local K-12 public schools, and endowed 50 chairs for distinguished professors and researchers at universities and research institutions.
Bren is a member of the board of directors and a life trustee of the California Institute of Technology and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. He is trustee emeritus of the boards of the Orange County Museum of Art and the University of California, Irvine Foundation.
In 2003, Bren was awarded the General Leonard F. Chapman Jr. Medal from the U.S. Marine Corps University Foundation.
During 2004, Bren was awarded the University of California Presidential Medal, the UC system’s highest honor in recognition of his significant leadership in higher education.
In 2016 Caltech awarded Bren the Institute’s highest honor, the Robert A. Millikan Medal.
He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences.