Pair Giving $100 Million to Boost Health, Education

Times Staff Writer

Media mogul Haim Saban and his philanthropist wife, Cheryl, will announce Monday that they have made charitable commitments or gifts of $100 million to health care and education in the United States and Israel, including a $40-million pledge to Childrens Hospital Los Angeles that the facility called unprecedented.

Haim Saban, who made headlines last year with a $7-million gift to the Democratic National Committee, said he hoped his gifts would inspire others in Hollywood to give away more of their wealth.

“This is a call to action,” Saban said, naming a string of prominent Hollywood players he said should give more to charity. “You have some people here who are multibillionaires who can make a difference in this community, and they don’t. All these producers and superstars are amassing huge fortunes. They have too much money. They should give more away.”


Walter W. Noce Jr., president of Childrens Hospital, called the $40-million commitment to the medical center a “gift of transformation.”

He said the money would support ongoing research into cancer and gene therapy and open the door to further research into neuroscience. He said it would also finance the construction of an 88,500-square-foot state-of-the art research facility.

“We believe it is the single largest donation to a children’s hospital to support pediatric research in North America,” he said. “We are extraordinarily grateful.”

Noce said the gift would help explore the relationship between genes and proteins and reveal how this affects metabolism and can create disease. Such research, he said, could be critical to developing individualized treatments for genetic diseases that children suffer from, such as cystic fibrosis and severe combined immune disease.

“In the next 20 years,” he said, “we’re going to see some advances, and hopefully some cures, for diseases that we just treat symptoms of -- a lot of genetic diseases that affect kids that we really end up managing because we can’t cure the underlying cause.”

Noce took note of a seed grant by the David and Lucile Packard Foundation of $100 million to the Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital in Palo Alto. But he said the Sabans’ focus on groundbreaking research makes their gift unique. This type of research, he added, “makes people excited.”


Noce said the hospital started speaking with the Sabans late last year.

“We began talking about where their gift might make the single largest impact and benefit children in a significant way,” he said. “Like many major donors, they’re really looking to make an impact in more than just routine medical care. As we talked about the opportunities of research, they were excited about the possibility of influencing, not just children in Los Angeles, but children worldwide.”

Research Institute

The new facility is to be renamed the Saban Research Institute of Childrens Hospital Los Angeles. Its laboratory facilities are to be named the Saban Research Institute.

Cheryl Saban, who has been on the Childrens Hospital board for seven years, said she is impressed by its pediatric trauma capabilities, its neo-natal pediatric transport program and its tiny heart and lung machines. She said her family personally benefited from strides in scientific research, when new fertility advances made it possible for the Sabans to have their youngest children by having their embryos implanted for surrogate pregnancies.

“I think that all of us have been touched in monumental ways by scientific research that has taken place,” she said. “We think it’s one of the ways we can help people for years to come.”

The remaining $60 million in gifts the Sabans announced will go to a variety of causes.

The couple earmarked $13 million to establish the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution in Washington to support research on U.S. policy in the region, according to Shai Waxman-Abramson, program director of the Saban Family Foundation.

An additional $5 million is pledged to help build a children’s hospital at the Soroka Medical Center in Be’er Sheva, Israel -- a gift that could help as many as 350,000 children, Waxman-Abramson said.


Such gifts reflect a personal interest in Israel on the part of Saban, the chairman and chief executive officer of Saban Capitol Group Inc., who was previously co-owner of Fox Family Worldwide Inc. He also founded Saban Entertainment, which produced such children’s television programs as the “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.”

Saban was born in Alexandria, Egypt, and moved to Israel when he was 12. He said he now holds both Israeli and U.S. citizenship, quipping: “In case of a hijacking, I’d be the first on a plane to go.”

Other gifts to concerns in Israel include an additional $5.2-million pledge earmarked for the creation of a Beit Halochem Center for disabled veterans and civilian victims of terror, to provide survivors with long-term physical and psychological rehabilitation, Waxman-Abramson said. An additional $1.6 million will be given as higher education scholarships to qualifying Israeli combat veterans who lack the means to attend university, Waxman-Abramson said.

The Sabans will also give $10 million to the Motion Picture and Television Country House and Hospital in Woodland Hills to help support the construction of the Cheryl and Haim Saban Therapy and Wellness Center, Waxman-Abramson said.

Jeffrey Katzenberg, who is on the board of the Motion Picture and Television Fund Foundation, said he was “deeply touched by Haim and Cheryl’s support” and welcomes “their future leadership.”

“Cheryl and Haim have always been among the most generous givers in our community,” he said.


Clinton Library

Other donations include $5 million to the William J. Clinton Library Foundation, $3 million to the Jewish Community Foundation and a number of smaller gifts: $151,000 to the Rape Foundation, $100,000 to the Geffen Playhouse and $25,000 to Human Rights Watch.

Saban said he and his wife agreed to go public with their gifts in the hopes of inspiring others to part with some of their fortunes, adding, “Once you turn into dust, it’s bye-bye.”

“There’s come a point in life when something clicks and you sit down and see what life’s about and how blessed you have been and you