Eli Broad might best be known to the average Angeleno as being the second name in Kaufman and Broad Home Corp. a Westwood-based company that has grown into one of the nation's biggest home builders by selling affordable houses to first-time buyers.

But these days, Broad, who also is chairman, chief executive and founder of SunAmerica Inc., a financial services giant and one of the city's fastest growing public companies, has become a preeminent business leader in Los Angeles. He is currently heading up the fund-raising effort for the $220 million Walt Disney Concert Hall, to be built in downtown Los Angeles.

Broad recently met with Business Journal editors and reporters to discuss Los Angeles' business environment, the revitalization of downtown L.A. and arts and culture in the city.

Question: The national business magazines have been all agog about the Silicon Valley lately, and virtually ignoring Los Angeles. What's your take on that?

Answer: My take is perceptions lag reality, and if you think about how people view Los Angeles and Southern California image-wise, one, they don't recognize we've regained all the jobs we lost in defense and aerospace. Two, they think in terms of civil disturbances, the O.J. Simpson trial, earthquakes, fires and so on.

The fact is that we really have our unemployment down. We've had a vast recovery from a recession that hit us harder than other parts of the country. It's hard for people to comprehend today's realities.

If you look at the growth here in the entertainment industry, multimedia and other sectors, this is a vibrant place. Now, is it is as exciting as Seattle or the Silicon Valley today? It's a different ball game. I mean, we're talking about a region here with 25-some-odd million people. What are we talking about in the Silicon Valley? Two million, maybe, between San Jose and the surrounding area.

Q: The multimedia industry is still fairly new. Does that bode well for L.A.'s future growth prospects, compared with that of other metro areas?

A: One of the advantages we have as a horizontal city is that it lends itself to these technologies, communications and such, which would not happen when you're across the street from one another in highrise buildings in Chicago. I'm convinced this is the city of the 21st century. We did have setbacks. We lost the two major banks that we had here, as you're well aware. I think there's a big void there. We're going to find someone to come here, whether it's a Citicorp or a NationsBank or God knows who to plant their flag and move their headquarters.

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