Donald Bren

Age 90, Donald Leroy Bren was born on May 11, 1932. He’s an American businessman who is the chairman and owner of Irvine Company, a U.S. real estate development company. Bren’s net worth is $16.2 billion, making him number 112 on the 2022 Forbes Billionaires List.

Early life

Donald Bren is the son of Marion Newbert and Milton Bren. His father, Milton, was a naval officer, talent agent, and successful movie producer. His mother, Marion, was a prominent civic leader. His mother was of Irish descent. His parents, however, would, unfortunately, divorce in 1948. Bren’s father went on to remarry in 1948 to Academy Award-winning actress Claire Trevor. His mother remarried in 1953 to a steel businessman named Earl M. Jorgensen.

Bren graduated from the University of Washington where he earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration and economics. He was a member of the Beta Theta PI fraternity. He tried out for the 1956 Olympic ski team but was unable to qualify due to an injury. After college, he served as an officer in the United States Marine Corps.


Bren built his very first house in Newport Beach with a $10,000 loan in 1958. He began his business career in 1958 when he founded the Bren Company, which built homes in Orange County, California. By 1963, he and two others started the Mission Viejo Company (or MVC) and purchased 10,0000 acres to plan development in the city of Mission Viejo, California. He was president of MVC from 1963 to 1967. International Paper bought the Bren Company for $34 million back in 1970 before selling it back to Bren for $22 million in 1972, following the recession. Bren took the proceeds and in 1977, he joined a group of investors to purchase the 146-year-old Irvine Company. Bren would be the largest shareholder of the resulting consortium, owning 34.3% of the company. He also received the title of Vice Chair of the board. By 1983, he was the majority owner of the firm and would be elected chairman of the board. By 1996, he bought out all outstanding shares and became the sole owner of the company.

In 2005, OC Weekly reported that Bren: “wields more power than Howard Hughes ever did, probably as much as any man in America over a concentrated region—determining not only how people live and shop but who governs them.”

In 2006, the Los Angeles Times wrote: “Simply put, Orange Country looks like Orange County because of the influence of [Donald Bren].” In an interview in 2011, Bren summarized his real estate investment strategy: “What I learned was that when you hold property over the long term, you’re able to create better values and you have something tangible to show for it.”

In 2019, Forbes in its edition of “The 400 Richest Americans”, Bren was ranked the wealthiest real estate developer in the US and the 32nd “Richest American” with an estimated net worth of $17 billion.

It is reported that Irvine Company owns more than 120 million feet of real estate, the majority of which is located in Southern California. The company’s holdings include several hotels, marinas, golf courses, office buildings, apartment complexes, and more than 40 shopping centres. He currently owns a 97% stake in the MetLife Building in Manhattan.

Bren has donated more than $200 million to support programs in K-12 schools and other higher education institutions in Southern California. Many of Bren’s contributions have benefited universities in California, including the University of California, Irvine, the University of California, Santa Barbara, and Chapman University.

Bren keeps a low public profile, and as he has explained in the past: “I’m not a public official. I’m a businessman. I’m a builder. I’m a planner… and if I feel that I’ve done the job well, that’s the satisfaction I get, not from doing interviews or being more public.” OC Weekly described Bren in 2005 as “one of the nation’s least public billionaires”, who guards his privacy “jealously.”

Net Worth

$16.2 billion


In 2008, Businessweek named Bren one of the top ten philanthropists in the nation, with his overall contributions to various causes (including education, conservation, and research) exceeding $1 billion.
In 2010, Bren was honoured with the National Philanthropy Day of Orange County.