Bren, Donald L.

Bren, Donald L. (Leroy)

(1932–  ) real estate developer, art collector, philanthropist; born in Los Angeles. Son of movie producer Milton Bren (and stepson of actress Claire Trevor), he attended the University of Washington and served in the U.S. Marine Corps. His father had already made a small fortune with his real estate investments, and after leaving the service Donald founded the Donald Bren Co., and became a billionaire from his real estate empire, most of it located in Orange County, Calif. His first major project was the Mission Viejo Co., a planned community. In 1977 he took over the Irvine Co., with other investors, to operate the great Irvine property on which they built essentially a new, privately owned city, Irvine, Calif. In 1983 Bren bought out the other investors and then found himself involved for many years in a costly legal dispute with Joan Irvine Smith, the heiress of this property. Although active in supporting the Republican Party, he was generally a private person and lived relatively modestly at Newport Beach, Calif.; twice divorced, he was known to have a major modern art collection, and to be a generous philanthropist.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.