There’s one question Eli Broad is often asked: “What is the secret to your success?”
And his answer is the same: “I’ve always been curious, and I’ve always looked at the status quo, and asked a lot of questions about why it has to be that way,” said the 78-year-old L.A. billionaire who’s built two Fortune 500 companies.
Now, Broad has finally decided to write about the secret to his success – along with all manner of other things – in a book to be published next month by John Wiley & Sons called “The Art of Being Unreasonable: Lessons in Unconventional Thinking.”
The 208-page tome, written with assistance of two former Los Angeles Times writers, traces his business career from when he was a 13-year-old boy in Detroit selling collectable postage stamps to his later success with homebuilder Kaufman & Broad and financial services company SunAmerica.
In wry and often humorous prose, Broad recalls how he became bored with his first career as a certified public accountant and explains how his questioning nature, combined with a voracious appetite for research and a willingness to ruffle feathers, led to his success.
For example, he knew nothing about homebuilding when he joined with partner Donald Kaufman in 1956 to create the company now known as KB Home. His research led him to eliminate little-used basements but add carports as auto sales exploded in the postwar era. The cheaper homes sold quickly.
Then, in 1971, he surprised Wall Street when he decided to buy Sun Life Insurance Co., which he turned into a retirement powerhouse that he sold off for $18 billion.
“People kid around and say I’m a sore winner. Whenever you win, you want something more. (But) when I’d reach one plateau I was never satisfied. I’d say ‘Where do we go from here?’” said Broad, who is preparing for a bicoastal promotional tour next month that will include an appearance on one of Charlie Rose’s talk shows.
Broad’s share of profits from book sales will go into the Broad Foundations, which support public education, scientific and medical research, and contemporary art.