Nicolas Berggruen scuffs along a dirt road overgrown with foxtails, high in the Santa Monica Mountains. The Los Angeles basin falls at his feet.
The skyscrapers of downtown, the gantry cranes at the port and the peaks of Catalina are diminished by a vast panorama stretching from Saddleback Mountain in the east to the blue of Santa Monica Bay below, from Mt. Baldy in the haze and a slice of the San Fernando Valley at his back.
"Watch out for rattlesnakes," he says, stopping on the brow of a small knoll.
Upon this stretch of undeveloped dirt, one-time landfill for the city, Berggruen is hoping to build the headquarters for a think tank that bears his name. He...