Friday, April 8, 2022

Billionaire Building Community for Think Tankers to Work, Live

Billionaire Nicolas Berggruen, a German-American investor and philanthropist, is creating a new type of community for the think tank world.  Here is more from the New York Times:

[Near the Getty Center] Berggruen plans to construct what he half-jokingly describes as a “secular monastery,” a campus where scholars affiliated with the think tank that he founded, the Berggruen Institute, will live, work, cogitate. The 450-acre property, known informally to Berggruen and his staff as Monteverdi (they haven’t decided on an official name), will be centered around a building designed by a group that includes the Swiss architectural firm Herzog & de Meuron, famed for the Bird’s Nest Olympic venue in Beijing. According to Berggruen, he purchased the land in 2014 for $15 million. But he has yet to break ground on the project, which has drawn resistance from nearby residents. If completed, this spot overlooking Los Angeles will become the de facto seat of what might be called an empire of the mind.

The son of the late Heinz Berggruen, one of postwar Europe’s most celebrated art dealers and collectors, the 60-year-old Berggruen grew up in France and made his fortune in America. For a time, he was known as the “homeless billionaire” because he didn’t have a fixed address and lived out of luxury hotels. In the late 2000s, dissatisfied with his career in finance, Berggruen began privately studying philosophy and political theory with a couple of U.C.L.A. professors. Soon after that, he established the Berggruen Institute. A prolific networker, Berggruen has recruited so many prominent names to the institute’s roster of supporters and advisers — Eric Schmidt, Reid Hoffman, Arianna Huffington and Fareed Zakaria are among those listed on the organization’s website — that it has been described as his own personal Davos.

The institute employs around 30 people, has some 40 fellows worldwide and maintains offices in Los Angeles, Beijing and Venice. It publishes a magazine, Noema (ancient Greek for “thinking”), that covers politics, technology, climate change, culture and much else. In addition to the institute, Berggruen recently bought through his charitable trust a palace in Venice that he plans to turn into a center for the arts. His name also appears on the institute’s annual $1 million Berggruen Prize for Philosophy and Culture. Last year’s recipient was Peter Singer, the moral philosopher and bioethicist.


Here is a previous Think Tank Watch post about the Berggruen Institute, which was founded in 2010.  According to Forbes, Berggruen's current net worth is $2.9 billion.