Donald Bren



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.

UC Presidential Medal
In 2004, Bren was awarded the University of California Presidential Medal

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. The company is a private corporation governed by an independent Board of Directors.

Irvine Company’s property portfolio includes more than 550 office buildings, 125 apartment communities, 40 retail centers, one coastal resort, two hotels, three golf courses and five marinas primarily in Orange County, California, 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 57,500 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.

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.

“What’s remarkable about him is that he brings a new, fresh vision to every community that he approaches. It’s not the same; he’s always willing to do it differently and to do it better.” — Stephen Scarborough, former CEO, Standard Pacific Corp.
“Not often do conservationists find opportunities to thank developers. But now is such a time ... Mr. Bren’s conservation vision is generous and bold ... Thank you, Donald Bren and the Irvine Company, for your monumental gift to the public. It is truly a lasting legacy.” — Gloria Sefton, co-founder of the Saddleback Canyons Conservancy

Milestone Events

A Legacy That Will Last Forever

Mr. Bren has overseen the permanent preservation of vast amounts of the beautiful and scientifically important lands on The Irvine Ranch in Orange County, California. In fact, under his leadership, more than 57,000 acres – nearly 60 percent of the entire ranch – has been preserved. The result is a remarkable legacy of parks, trails and natural open spaces available for discovery and enjoyment by Californians today, tomorrow and forever.

‘Children are Our Future’

With those words as his inspiration, Mr. Bren has donated more than $220 million to schools and universities to enhance children’s academic opportunities. A special focus of Mr. Bren’s has been enrichment programs in music, art and science for fourth- through sixth-graders. He passionately believes exposure to these subjects adds immeasurably to students’ overall educations and success in life.

A Champion of Research
and Higher Education

Mr. Bren’s educational and research philanthropy includes funding endowed distinguished professor chairs at Caltech, the University of California, Chapman University and Marine Corps University. At the University of California, his support has created more endowed chairs than any other single donor in UC history. In recognition of his wide-ranging support for the UC system, Mr. Bren received the University of California Presidential Medal.

Irvine California

Steward of the Master Plan

For nearly 40 years, Mr. Bren has been the champion and steward of The Irvine Ranch Master Plan, which has created the world’s most acclaimed master-planned community environment. His steady hand in guiding the Master Plan has resulted in immeasurable benefits for those who live, work, play and go to school in the communities the Irvine Company has developed. The City of Irvine, for instance, is known as America’s safest big city, its public schools rank No. 1 in California, and large swaths of land in and around the city have been permanently preserved as open space.